Managing Your Anger
Anger is a powerful emotion. Many people have trouble managing their anger. If it isn’t managed appropriately, it may have destructive results for both you and others around you.
Uncontrolled anger can lead to arguments, physical fights, physical abuse, assault and self harm. On the positive side, well-managed anger can be useful to motivate you to make positive changes. All great social movements had their beginning in someone feeling angry. Anger is a powerful tool for social change on a personal and societal level. We can find ways to help with managing our anger, and use our anger as a tool for change.
Is it always bad to feel Angry?
Anger is an emotion, not an action. Anger is a natural response to feeling attacked, injured or violated. Anger can help us survive, giving us the strength to fight back or run away when attacked or faced with injustice. In itself, it’s neither good nor bad, but it can be frightening. People fear anger because they associate it with violence.
Anger is not violence. Violence is an action. Anger is an emotion. When we make this distinction clearly, we can develop a much better attitude about anger. Angry feelings can lead to destructive and violent behaviour, and so we tend to be frightened of anger. The way we are brought up, and our cultural background, will influence how we might feel about expressing anger. You may have been punished for expressing it when you were small, or you may have witnessed your parents’ or other adults’ anger when it was out of control, destructive and terrifying. Or you may have been frightened by the strength of your own bad temper. All of this might encourage you to suppress anger.
It Is what we do with anger that is important
We can use anger to lash out at others and intimidate them
We can turn it inward and beat ourselves up
We can use it to speak out with firmness and increase our self esteem
We can use it to correct a situation that is wrong
Anger triggers the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response. Other emotions that trigger this response include fear, excitement and anxiety. The adrenal glands flood the body with stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. Heart rate, blood pressure and respiration increase, the body temperature rises and the skin perspires. The mind is sharpened and focused. As long as the build-up of tension is usually released in action or words, you should be able to cope with feeling frustrated occasionally. But if, as a rule, you bottle up feelings, they may turn inwards and contribute to problems – physically and mentally.
• Depression (when the anger is turned inwards)
• Addictions (to alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs)
• Compulsions (eating disorders, such as excessive dieting or binge-eating, overworking,
unnecessary cleaning, etc)
• Bullying behaviour (especially expressing racist, sexist or homophobic views)
The constant flood of stress chemicals and associated metabolic changes that accompany recurrent unmanaged anger can eventually cause harm to many different systems of the body.
Some of the short and long term health problems may include:
• Digestion (contributing to development of heartburn, ulcers, colitis, gastritis or
irritable bowel syndrome)
• Heart / circulatory system (blocked arteries)
• Blood pressure (high)
• Joints and muscles (inflammations, such as arthritis)
• Immune system (more likely to catch ‘flu and other bugs, less able to recover)
• Pain threshold (more sensitive to pain).
Unhelpful ways to deal with Anger
Many people express their anger in inappropriate and harmful ways including:
• Anger explosions – some people have very little control over their anger and tend to explode in
• Raging anger may lead to physical abuse or violence. A person can isolate themselves from family
• Anger repression – some people consider that anger is an inappropriate or ‘bad’ emotion, and choose to suppress it. However, bottled anger often turns into depression and anxiety.
Some people vent their bottled anger at inappropriate times or events.
We encourage you to be in touch with your angry emotions. Learn to recognise the signals of tension and thoughts your body will give you. Anger may only be the top layer: what other emotions lie beneath your anger? Fear, hurt, guilt, sadness, confusion, overwhelmed, startled, restlessness, envy, hate. If anger isn’t managed appropriately, it may have destructive results for both you and others around you. On the positive side, well managed anger can be useful to motivate you to make positive changes.
Expressing Anger in Healthy Ways
- Learn to become more aware of what you are feeling, and recognise your anger when it occurs. Notice your particular signs that anger is building (e.g. becoming tense, short with others, developing a headache, )
- Ask yourself ‘What is really bothering me?’ Notice whether it is an interaction with someone else or something inside
- Avoid displacing your anger toward individuals who are not the cause of your
- Keep an anger log to identify the kinds of situations that provoke Learn to identify what triggers anger (e.g. authority figures, jealousy), what behaviours you do that are problematic (e.g. yelling, criticising, name-calling, cursing, throwing things, avoiding) and the consequences of your behaviour (e.g. others avoid you, disciplinary action, etc.). Learn what underlying emotions might lead you to get angry.
- De-escalate with a ‘time out’ when you recognise the signs of Let significant others know that you may need to walk away to calm down when you’re really angry. Take a deep breath. Go to a quiet place, and continue to use deep breathing to calm down.
- Examine your options for behaving when you are angry, and visualise how you might
- Recognise that you are responsible for your Situations may contribute to your feeling angry, but you are responsible for how you behave
You may be legitimately and appropriately frustrated with something, but you don’t have to be inappropriately hostile or hurtful to others. You can make choices about how you respond. Work on developing more positive behaviours to replace the negative ones.
- Learn how to assert yourself, and talk to the person who is triggering your anger. Use the physical and mental energy that is generated from feeling angry to channel your response to the situation. Help the person to see how their behaviour is affecting you in a way that they can hear and is not Use ‘I statements’ that describe how you feel, rather than accusing the other person.
- Recognise that it’s your responsibility to express yourself appropriately to others, but their responsibility to deal with their own feelings in
- Seek support from others when you are struggling with
- Develop activities that help you cope with Exercise can help to diminish feelings of agitation and frustration. Practicing relaxation techniques on a daily basis can also help in coping with anger.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs if you have anger
- If you feel out of control, walk away from the situation temporarily, until you cool down.
Suggestions for Long Term Anger Management
It may take some time to modify the way you typically express anger
- Keep a diary of your anger outbursts, to try and understand how and why you get angry, for example particular situations, people, moods, drugs or alcohol
- Consider assertiveness training, or learning about techniques of conflict resolution
- Learn relaxation techniques, such as meditation or Relaxation can help put things in perspective. It is easy to forget to make time to relax. It can be helpful to try and put time aside each day to do something relaxing. Try writing a list of activities that you find relaxing
- Take regular exercise. People who are stressed are more likely to experience anger. Numerous worldwide studies have documented that regular exercise can improve mood and reduce stress The effect may be twofold: physical exertion burns up stress chemicals, and it also boosts production of mood-regulating neurotransmitters in the brain, including endorphins and catecholamines
- If you are struggling with managing anger and angry emotions you can still contact your GP.