At the heart of every human being lie some basic emotions, including the feeling we all know as anger. Though it’s not usually pleasant, feeling angry about something is ok – but it’s how we respond to, and express that anger that can cause problems.
It is never ok to express or let out your anger in a way that’s abusive or violent. Rather, the key to dealing with anger is not to supress it, but to learn how to manage it in a way that acknowledges the feeling but doesn’t harm others. This is what is meant by anger management.
Questions to ask if you think you often feel angry
- Do you sometimes have trouble controlling your temper?
- Have you ever become angry and regretted it later?
- Have you ever lost control of your anger to the point where you became violent or abusive?
- Has anyone ever commented on your anger?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the questions, here are some initial ideas to help take the strength out of anger.
Anger warning signs
To control your anger, you first need to be able to recognise the signs that you are getting angry:
- Muscles tightening, especially around the jaw and arms.
- A feeling of pressure building in the head.
- The sensation of heat and flushing in the face.
- Increased heart rate, breathing or sweating.
These physical signs are all indications that your body is preparing for fight or flight, our primitive response to a threat. Once you recognise that you are getting angry, you have the opportunity to do something to diffuse the situation before it gets out of control. Here are some techniques you can try.
Take time out
Stepping away from a situation when you are starting to feel angry gives you space to think clearly and calm down. If things start to get heated, try saying something to the other person like: “Listen, I think I need to take a break for a bit. I’ll come back, and we can sort this out in half an hour.”
Control your breathing
Slowing and deepening your breath can help diffuse the anger. Try taking five long, slow breaths. Focus on relaxing the muscles in your arms and face.
Talk yourself down not up
Self-talk can influence whether you get more or less angry in an exchange.
Saying things to yourself like, “This person is an idiot!” or “How dare this person talk to me like that?” is likely to increase your feelings of anger. Instead, try calming self-statements such as:
- “Cool it. You can handle this.”
- “No point flying off the handle. Let’s just take a few breaths.”
- “I’m not going to let this get to me.”
How to not get angry in the first place
While these anger management techniques can help you calm down in a crisis, they don’t address the causes of excessive anger. Conflict is inevitable in relationships, but this doesn’t mean that every disagreement needs to lead to an angry fight.
Anger can be the result of built up, unresolved distress, or it may be masking underlying emotions such as sadness. Learning relaxation skills can help you release the physical tension in your body which can contribute to anger problems.
Changing how you feel about things that make you angry
Some anger problems are related to underlying belief systems about how the world should be. If you have a belief that the world should conform to your expectations, you may experience a lot of frustration and anger when it doesn’t.
Need help? You can find support services in northern Queensland or complete a self-administered K10 test for depression and anxiety. You can also join the online social and mental health forum to talk with like-minded people.