Just like happiness, fear, and love, etc. anger is an emotion we all have and experience from time to time. Anger is a normal emotion and can even be considered a healthy emotion too. Charles Spielberg a renowned psychologist and a pioneer in the field of anger has defined anger as “an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage.” However, if left unmanaged, anger can have a debilitating impact on your physical and psychological health as well as can ruin your social relationships.
Anger often leads to physiological changes like rise in blood pressure, heart rate, and secretion of hormones like adrenaline and noradrenaline. Anger can originate from internal factors like worrying or ruminating over personal problems as well as from external factors like when you get angry at a particular individual. Keeping in view the widespread impact of anger on the health and social life of an individual it becomes imperative to take measures to keep anger under control.
Pause: In many instances anger is often an impulsive response or like a knee-jerk. Whenever you feel that you are getting angry (look for physiological signs like rise in heart beat, breathing, clenching, etc.), pause for a while, and count to ten or maybe longer, if you feel like. The main idea is to let the moment go. Don’t jump to react on your impulse.
Relaxation: Try relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation. These have been shown to relax the mind and manage anger caused by stress or other internal factors on long term basis as well. Deep breathing especially diaphragmatic breathing has been proven to help. Breathe through your gut, not from chest. While deep breathing you can repeat some calming words like “relax” or “calm down.” You can also incorporate imagery while doing relaxation exercises; imagine a peaceful and calm place; create a mental imagery of any place that helps you stay calm. With repeated practice you can use deep breathing and imagery technique in any situation that calls for anger and thereby manage it.
Exercise/sports: Exercise or engaging in some sort of sports activity is a good way to use up excess energy released during an anger episode. It also helps relieve stress. So, go for a brisk walk, or run, or play some sport whenever you feel your anger escalating. People with chronic anger issue especially benefit if they engage themselves in some regular sporting activity like boxing etc. Exercise and other physical activities have been shown to help release endorphins, the feel-good hormones.
Right communication: One of the worst consequences of anger that can have a long-term impact on our life is how it negatively affects our relationships. It spoils the social life of the individual and in some extreme cases, leaves the person alone without any social support. It hampers marital life as well as work life of the individual. And the main cause is what you communicate to the other person when angry. Anger often makes the person reactive not responsive, so we tend to jump to conclusions that are far from being accurate. It is very important to have the right kind of communication even when you are agitated. So, when angry pause for a while think through the response you are going to give. Don’t just blurt out the word that comes to your mind, think carefully about your response.
Another important tip is to avoid the use of the word “you.” Rather, use “I” statements, these make the other person more responsive than defensive. So avoid sentences like “you never listen to me” use “I feel I am not being heard.” Listening is also a very important part of communication. In order to improve your communication, start working on your listening skills, try to understand what the other person is trying to convey to you. This is especially important if you have anger issues with your spouse or your boss.
Beware of negative self-talk: Be careful of the negative self-talk with words like “never,” “always,” “not fair.” When we use words like these in phrases while being angry, these words tend to justify your anger and do not help in managing anger. Rather, engage in positive self-talk like “this is not the end,” “I can handle it.”
Give your anger an outlet: Keeping anger within can have a long term effect on both your physical as well as psychological health. Suppressing anger can, in fact, worsen the situation. So give your anger a healthy outlet. Start writing journal, give your anger words and write them down, it could be about a situation that really made you mad but you couldn’t get angry, write those feelings in your journal. Whether with your boss or your spouse, journal writing could give a healthy outlet to your anger without damaging your equation with the person concerned. Write down every situation or instance where you wanted to let out your anger but couldn’t.
Humour: Use of humor can help you diffuse that anger bomb. Using imagery with humor can really help ease up the tension. If you have a particular person or situation that triggers anger in you, use of humor can really turn things around. Imagine the coworker at your office that you hate or that brings out the anger, imagine a funny cartoon face e.g., Mickey mouse and put that face over that person, now imagine him sitting in the office doing the work. Use this technique whenever that person’s name comes to your mind. Sometimes make a joke of the situation in your head. Give it a funny turn. But avoid use of sarcasm as it is hurtful and can make the situation worse.
Look after yourself: Eat balanced diet, have good sleep, and avoid alcohol consumption as these factors have been shown to play an important role in anger and its management.
Perspective: Anger, especially when it involves another person, often is the result of perspective. We tend to get in to blame game and thus justify our anger. So it is essential where anger involves another person to take a different perspective on the situation. Place yourself in another person’s situation and try to understand the circumstance from his or her point of view, you might find the solution as well.
Other: Sometimes the best way is to just avoid the situation that triggers your anger. So if you find yourself getting angry while standing in the long line of grocery store then probably you should avoid the time when there’s huge crowd and instead go for shopping when there are less people for shopping. Also, if you feel that you tend to get angry at your kids when you discuss about their day at school during dinner, then avoid the discussion during dinner time.
Seek professional help: If you feel that you are unable to manage your anger on your own, probably it’s time you seek help from a professional counselor or psychologist. Perhaps your anger is deep rooted and results from some underlying issue, or, you might be finding it difficult to stick to the program, so professional help might help with your motivation to stick to the anger management program.