Top 7 Tips for Managing Anger
Anger is a powerful emotion that many individuals struggle with. When we are angry, we disconnect from the caring part of ourselves that is able to show empathy and understanding for another person. The result is often saying or doing things that are damaging to ourselves or to those closest to us.
The good news is that anger doesn’t have to control your life – there are very specific skills that can be learned and implemented with practice. My top 7 tips for managing anger are below to help get you started on a more peaceful path.
- Recognize it early. This is a process that takes time and self-awareness, however once you get better at recognizing the early signs of anger, you can take steps to reduce the likelihood that you will end up in a full blown rage. Pay attention to physical sensations, such as an increased heart rate, jaw clenching, or more aggressive, defensive, or exaggerated thinking. You may for example start to notice that you’re blaming others for what’s going on – “how dare she!” or “I don’t deserve this!” rather than taking responsibility for your own reaction.
- Know your triggers. Are there certain people or situations that really set you off? If yes, you can find ways to reduce the amount you are exposed to them. Do you find that road rage tends to take over? Is it connected to you feeling stressed or pressed for time? Understanding this allows you to take proactive steps and gain more control over your emotions. You can start by keeping a journal or writing down your daily emotional reactions to situations, and eventually you will start to see a pattern.
- Keep it in perspective. Sometimes people become angry in response to insignificant situations, at least in the grand scheme of things. When your mind is tempted to jump straight to anger, first ask yourself whether this situation will matter in a day, a week, or a year. This can help let everyday annoyances or frustration roll off of our shoulders a little easier.
- Set boundaries. True anger management doesn’t come from avoiding things that make you angry, but rather being able to remain relatively calm despite exposure to them. After all, life is inherently unpredictable and it is an essential skill to learn how to set boundaries and deal with difficult situations (and people). Often anger results when our boundaries are crossed and we don’t know what else to do, so the default reaction with some people is anger. By setting boundaries and sticking with them, you are less likely to feel that you are being taken advantage of. This assertiveness is a skill in and of itself.
- Find appropriate outlets. Do you feel much better after going for a walk, a run, or going to a yoga class? The driving range? Cooking? Finding stress-relieving activities that you know works for you can be a key to preventing your anxiety from creeping up or anger from taking over at a moment’s notice by keeping your baseline low. This can be a process of trial and error but is well worth it.
- Take care of yourself. This is a good idea regardless of what you are trying to change, but certainly make sure you are eating well, getting exercise, not drinking excessive alcohol or caffeine, and getting enough sleep. Everything tends to run smoother in life when you take care of yourself. In addition, you also feel better and less overall anxiety, so are less likely to be irritable, on edge, or easily triggered.
- Use it for constructive purposes. Anger gets a bad reputation – but it can be a positive emotion, moving people towards action and fueling change. For example it can be an indicator, as discussed above, that our boundaries have been crossed and can provide an opportunity to make adjustments to our life and relationships. Ask yourself what is going on under the anger and what it is telling you about your current situation. For example, are you grieving? Embarrassed? Feel powerless or guilty? Once you know the primary emotion, you are given insight into what needs to change.
Through counselling, you can begin to recognize your triggers and what may be going on underneath your anger. Relaxation-skills are often taught so that people can gain a sense of control over their physical and psychological responses.
For more information on local anger management programs and groups, see Moose Anger Management: www.angerman.ca
To help determine how well you are handling your anger, take the FREE online Personal Anger Assessment prepared by Dr. Chapman: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/anger/