Coping With Anger

Coping With Anger

Just because you are angry does not necessarily mean you have a problem. Most people have been angry at times in their lives. It is after all part of the natural response that helps our survival and helps us to protect others.
Here are some examples of when anger is helpful and healthy:

  • It gives us the courage to defend ourselves or those we love.
  • It motivates us to improve the world by inspiring social action and justice.
  • It confirms our individuality, especially when we are children
  • It warns others not to take advantage of us.

The person who is not able to admit any anger risks depression and low self-esteem.  In our culture it is not uncommon for children to learn from an early age that it is unacceptable to express or show the emotion of anger.

But frequent or excessive anger is not useful; in fact it is likely to have a negative effect on your health, to spoil your relationships with others and to limit your life experiences and ability to achieve happiness.

Managing anger

There are three steps to anger management:

1. Understanding the pay-offs and triggers

Undoubtedly you will get some short-term benefits from your anger such as:

  • I feel so much better afterwards
  • It makes people listen
  • I feel more like myself when I am angry
  • If I didn't get angry about things I'd just cry all the time
  • When I show my anger then people know where they stand and that's good
  • Anger stops me being afraid
  • If I don't show my anger then people will think I am a wimp.

Probably even as you read this you will begin to see that some of these things can be achieved by other more healthy means.

2. Calming yourself down in crisis situations

What can help to calm you down depends on whether you get angry when alone or when in dispute with another. Here are some ways that work:

  • Do something else to distract you.
  • Describe your room to yourself in purely neutral terms.
  • Look at things, not people
  • Think of things you have to do today
  • Count to 10 (it does work!) 
  • Repeat what the other person has said and ask for time to consider what your response will be, as in ‘I need time to think about that.’
  • Leave if you think you might otherwise lose your temper or be violent
  • Take exercise of some form: sit ups, skipping, going for a run or a cycle ride can all help to diffuse the feelings.
  • Alter your breathing, slow it down by holding each breath for 5 seconds
  • Tense and relax muscles; tensing each in turn, holding for 5 seconds then releasing.
  • Change postures and roll shoulders
  • Visualise your anger as an object; what does it look like? What would help to make it smaller, less overwhelming, more manageable?
  • Imagine a relaxing place where you feel safe and free from anxiety and anger. See and feel the details of it.
  • Imagine writing a script of the situation, in which you behave in other ways which worked for you.

3. Learning Strategies to prevent Unhealthy Anger arising in the Future

Experiment to find which of these work for you:

  • Cut down/avoid stimulants such as alcohol or other drugs if you know that you are more likely to respond more angrily when using them.
  • Develop a more relaxed lifestyle and try to manage stress better.
  • Challenge your angry thoughts: why are you really angry? What are you really feeling?
  • Beware of disguised anger such as in sarcasm or cruel jokes
  • Practice ways to say what you want to say more calmly. You could do this on your own or with a friend.

You might decide that it would be helpful to talk about your concerns about your anger with a counsellor.