Anger is a natural human emotion that can be experienced in varying degrees at different times in your life. Mild anger is often expressed as irritation or annoyance, however, for some; frequent and intense episodes of anger can seriously affect everyday life, having an impact on health, social life, work and personal relationships. Uncontrolled anger can lead to arguments and physical fights; it can cloud thinking and judgement and lead to actions that are unreasonable or irrational. Learning how to manage feelings of anger can improve the quality of your life. When anger is hidden or buried it can lead to eating disorders, self-injury, and misuse of drugs and/or alcohol and low self-esteem.
People get angry about different things, big and small, such as: sexual frustration, broken relationships or pre-menstrual syndrome. The purpose of anger is to keep the mind and body stimulated and ready for action in stressful situations. The body releases stress hormones which increase heart rate, blood pressure, temperature and breathing. However, when the body has to cope with large amounts of stress hormones it can weaken the immune system and lead to illness.
Moving Out of Anger
It’s important to deal with anger in a healthy way that doesn’t harm you or anyone else. Try to:
- Recognise when you are getting angry noting any physical changes e.g. heart rate rising, tension in the shoulders and think about how you are feeling. If it’s appropriate you might try making a log of the situations which provoke your anger and how frequently they occur.
- Take time to calm down, breathing in and out more deeply and consider how you might deal with a problem. It might be best to remove yourself from a potentially explosive situation if you feel you might not be able to remain in control.
- Reduce some of the general stress levels in your life, which you know might be causing the problem by making small lifestyle changes.
- Be constructive and discuss with others why you are feeling angry, taking ownership of your feelings. Speak slowly and clearly rather than make demands and others will respect you and listen to what you have to say.
- It’s important to try and understand what makes you get angry and perhaps try to resolve some of these issues, as they may be from the past and are unresolved.
Try a visualisation: imagine a set of traffic lights in front of you – whenever you feel yourself starting to get angry, see the lights on red, reminding you to stop what you’re doing, breathe, pause, think, analyse the situation, consider your options, breathe (again), then see the amber flashing as you mindfully choose your course of action (select your metaphoric ‘gear’), then see the traffic light change to green so you can go forward with care and calmness.
Ways of helping you to manage anger in the longer term include:
- Exercise, as this increases positive hormones (such as endorphins) which help to reduce stress. Running, swimming, walking, yoga and meditation are just a few.
- Breathing exercises help to calm and focus the body and mind.
- Relaxation exercises help to reduce stress levels.
- Massage is useful in reducing the stress in the muscles.
- Listening to calming music can help to lower the heart rate, blood pressure and reduce stress hormones.
- Talking and discussing your feelings with a friend or professional can help you get a different perspective on the situation.
- Learning to practice assertive communication can help to prevent anger from building up in some situations: