We all get angry from time to time. Anger can even have a positive influence on our lives. It shows us that something is wrong, something is making us unhappy, and it can motivate us to make the necessary changes. However, when it’s poorly handled, it can cause problems with our relationships and even our health. We might lash out, say things we regret, scream at family members or co-workers, send rash e-mails, or resort to physical violence.
If you tend to get angry easily and frequently, the constant flood of stress hormones triggered by the fight-or-flight response can lead to high blood pressure, headaches, digestive issues, insomnia, skin conditions like eczema, anxiety, and depression.
Many people did not have good role models for dealing with anger while growing up and, as adults, it’s hard for them to figure out what to do with such an intense and destructive emotion. Many of the actions we regret were, in fact, misguided attempts at calming down. Although anger management strategies won’t prevent you from getting angry ever again, they can help you express your anger in healthy and constructive ways.
Look for the Source of Your Anger
It’s a lot easier to deal with your anger when you know why you got angry in the first place. Sometimes, stress or lack of sleep can make us more irritable, but our anger often has a specific source. Everyone has triggers. It could be a personal problem you can’t find a solution to; maybe someone said something that made you feel disrespected, or maybe you’re angry at a situation you perceive as unfair.
You can keep a journal in which you take notes of moments when you felt angry, and this will help you identify your triggers. Once you know your triggers, you can try to find strategies to desensitize yourself to them.
Don’t Obsess Over Your Triggers
Although tempting, ruminating over your triggers won’t help. You’re naturally going to start thinking about why some people seem so set on being as annoying as possible or how some situations should simply not happen. You want to do something about it. Something needs to be done! You feel your anger rising; it’s energizing. You need to do something about this!
Studies indicate that people who tend to ruminate over situations that have triggered their anger in the past are at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease due to the stress hormones that elevate blood pressure. It’s good to want to solve a problem that’s creating so much frustration in your life, but stewing in your anger won’t accomplish that. One technique that helps when you’re tempted to ruminate is to play some music for guided meditations and focus on your breathing for a few minutes.
Express Your Anger Constructively
Research shows that expressing your anger through writing can reduce its intensity, especially if it leads to analyzing the causes and why they have such a strong emotional impact. Writing about your anger allows you to actively do something with it rather than holding it in. The process of writing itself makes you slow down since you have to put the words on paper. You’re still expressing your anger, but you have to slow down your thoughts to be able to write them down.
Alternatively, if the last thing you want to do when you’re angry is to write, you can record yourself on your phone. You can say what’s bothering you, how you feel, how you wish things were. Describing your emotions aloud helps take away some of their power. You’ll feel less of a need to “do something.” Afterward, you can listen to the recording again when you feel calmer to gain some insight, or you can just delete it. It’s your choice.
Talk It Over but Don’t Over-Talk It
Talking to someone about your anger can be very therapeutic, but it’s tricky. For example, when you and several of your friends are angry about the same thing, and you start a ranting session. This will most likely not calm you down. You will feed off each other’s anger. Constructive conversations are those that help us understand our feelings better and come up with new problem-solving strategies.
If you’ve noticed that you keep venting to your friends about the same subject and you feel calmer only momentarily or not at all, it means that your friends cannot offer you the insight you need. Instead, you can try talking to a therapist who is better equipped to give you the kind of feedback you’re looking for.
Speak up on Important Issues but Not While the Iron Is Hot
Your anger is trying to tell you something. There are no anger management strategies that will make you perpetually calm, so nothing will bother you. You need to listen to your anger and speak up when something really matters to you.
We’re not saying to start a debate over every little irritation that comes along. Some things you will gradually learn to let go. You need to pick your battles. When something is important to you, you may try to stay silent, but this will make you feel bitter and resentful.
If you’ve written it down or talked it through with someone and you know what this means to you and why, don’t stay silent. Speak up for yourself. Again, we need to emphasize that you first need to process it. Don’t address an issue while you’re seething with rage, no matter how important it is. It will not have the desired result. Maybe a big fight with your partner or your boss will feel good in the moment, but it will not lead to the changes you want.
Recognize That People Are Different and They’re Each Responsible for Their Own Actions
Each person is different, with their own ways of looking at the world, their own values, and opinions shaped by their experiences. We often get angry because we feel that our opinion is right and they should see this. We start having fights about the “Truth.” Sometimes we even try to tell the other person how they “should” be feeling, what the “right” reaction is. They will feel however they feel, and their thoughts, reactions, opinions have been shaped over the course of their entire lives. You won’t change them during one heated debate.
They are responsible for their behavior and decisions, and so are you. This means you are also responsible for finding ways to approach all these different people so that you can get on with it.