Do you find that you get angry at the slightest thing? I don’t just mean getting cross when something goes wrong or someone upsets you. I am talking heart pumping, tunnel vision, all consuming rage that you can’t control and which you feel building up inside you until it takes a hold of your entire body. You feel out of control and unstoppable, there is no talking reason to you and in that moment you just can’t focus on anything else but the subject of your anger. If this has never happened to you then fingers crossed it never will but for a growing number of people anger issues are becoming increasingly prevalent. Anger “incidents” are not only destructive to your health and well-being (both physically and mentally) they can also place a huge strain on your relationships and even cause you to under perform at work – or worse receive disciplinary action.
The problem arises where the incidents of anger become more acute and are often related to seemingly benign events which the majority of people would consider as an inconvenience but then proceed with their day.
Let’s start by saying that anger is a completely normal, healthy emotion that we will all experience. A good argument is healthy in all relationships and it is not something that should be repressed. The problem arises where the incidents of anger become more acute and are often related to seemingly benign events which the majority of people would consider as an inconvenience (think problems with transport, bad customer service, or an ill-advised comment made by a colleague at work) but then proceed with their day.
If you can relate to the above then you may have to consider whether you have a problem with managing your anger. Unresolved anger issues have been linked to health problems including high blood pressure, heart attack, depression, anxiety, colds, flu, and problems with digestion. Add to this the upset and distress it can cause yourself and the people around you and it is not difficult to see that it can soon spiral out of control creating an untenable situation.
Tips on Managing Anger
1. Avoid certain situations
The first step in learning to manage your anger is to be aware of situations when your rage levels start to rise. Are you able to avoid them? For example if going to the supermarket on a Saturday morning makes your blood boil before you have even parked the car then perhaps you need to look into getting a home delivery. Whilst not all situations which induce anger can be avoided there will be some which are within your control. Just making a few tweaks to your routine or lifestyle could make all the difference.
2. Count to ten
Once you start to feel your anger levels rising you need to take a step back and evaluate the situation. If it is a situation you are not able to remove yourself from then you are going to have to employ some steps for coping more effectively. It is a cliché but counting to ten really is a great way to think about the situation and what you are going to do. Whilst you count try to breathe normally making sure that you breathe in and out evenly; it is amazing how much calmer this will make you feel.
3. Think before you speak and express your thoughts calmly
Think carefully about what you are going to say and the repercussions that this may have. If you start shouting in the heat of the moment it is likely that you may say something that you regret and sometimes this can have long lasting consequences.
Once you feel you have calmed down you can then express your thoughts and concerns in a constructive manner. Not only will you make more sense but a calmer, non-threatening tone is going to be received much better and is more likely to lead to a resolution being found. You may well have valid points and concerns but if you scream them into someone’s face it is never going to end well. Think about the reaction you would have if you were in their shoes.
4. Change the way you approach the conversation
Next time you find yourself getting angry listen to the way you approach the conversation and the wording that you use. You will most likely find that you focus on using very negative phrases which focus purely on placing blame with the behaviour of another person for example “You never listen to me.” or “I hate it when you do that, you always do that to me.”.
This is an unhelpful way of thinking and will only seek to keep you focused on the source of your anger. Instead try to focus on using “I” statements to describe the problem. They will change the tone of the conversation and will be much more constructive. Think carefully about what point you are trying to get across and then say it calmly and with respect. For example “I’m upset that you didn’t offer to do the dishes after I did the cooking.” is much more constructive and less confrontational than “You never help around the house.”.
5. Get some exercise
It is no secret that there is a correlation between stress levels and anger. The less stressed you are the less likely you are to have unresolved anger issues. An effective way to reduce stress is to make sure that you are getting enough exercise. Whether this is going to the gym or joining a club or class you will start to feel the benefits. Whilst exercise is a great preventative measure it can also be used when you feel that your anger levels are rising. If you are in a position to take yourself out the situation and exercise instead it will give you time to calm down and think about your position with increased clarity.
6. Learn to let go
This is a difficult one for many of us but you really do need to learn to let go. Once something has happened you need to find a resolution and a way for you to let go and move on. Holding onto residual anger is only going lead to bitterness and negative feelings. Try to come to terms with the fact that it is simply unrealistic to expect everyone to behave exactly as we want at all times. Would you expect someone to be able to tell you how to act all of the time?
7. Know when to seek help
Learning to control anger is a challenge for everyone at times. Whilst following the above steps may help to reduce the number of anger incidents you may still find that you struggle to deal with your emotions. If it feels like you are stuck in a rut or a never ending cycle of anger and stress it is likely that your anger is getting out of control. Similarly if you find that your anger causes you to do things you regret or hurts those around you it may be time to seek help. The first step is to go and see your GP. It may be that attending an anger management course or seeking counselling is the best option for you.
Living with anger is destructive and will affect those around you and it is important for your health and relationships that you take control and seek help when needed. We all need a little help every now and again and a life without constant anger and rage could simply be life changing.
- How to control your anger. (3 Janaury 2014). In NHS choices. Retrieved on 7 September 2015 from http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/controlling-anger.aspx