Quick tips for managing anger

What is anger?

Anger is a normal human emotion, and everybody should experience some of it when a situation is not to our liking. Physical symptoms may include rapid breathing, increased heart rate, muscle tension, sweating and flushing. These are all associated with your survival response, and would be useful to you if you needed to subdue a current physical threat. Anger becomes a problem when it is out of proportion to the current circumstance, or is difficult to control.

What is causing your anger?

A key to managing anger is to understand where it comes from. Consider the following questions:

  • Are you struggling with overwhelming past experiences? If so, it may be wise to seek the assistance of a trauma informed therapist. Working through trauma on your own may further overwhelm you.
  • Are your stress levels too high? Is there anything you can do to manage them better?
  • Are you taking the time to relax and spend time unwinding? If you’re not, what would it take to fit in some rest and relaxation?
  • Are you feeling fulfilled and supported in your life goals? If not, are there changes that you can make to improve this?
  • Are your close relationships fair and reciprocal? Are you getting your needs met by supportive people around you? Everybody needs some social support, and unmet needs in your social environment can generate feelings of anger.

Things that can maintain anger

Given that anger is a sign from our body that things are not to our liking, it follows that if your current situation is not to your liking, this may maintain anger. If you are not happy with your current life circumstances, is it time you thought about how you might make some changes?

Exercises to reduce anger

There are a few exercises that have been shown to help with anger management:

  • Abdominal Breathing: many people find that taking a few slow, deep breaths with a long exhale helps to decrease anger in the moment.
  • Acting Opposite: if anger makes you clench your fists or your jaw, try opening your fists and moving your jaw, as this can provide a physical signal to decrease the anger in your body.
  • Giving yourself some space before acting or speaking. If you notice yourself getting angry, try taking a bit of space and time before you choose your response. This can help you maintain perspective.
  • Many people find that by learning assertiveness skills, they get their needs met much better in their relationships, and this can greatly reduce their feelings of anger. A great self help resource for assertiveness can be found here:

Helpful thoughts to reduce anger

  • Remind yourself that you can be in control of your life, and you can make the changes that you need.
  • Ask yourself if your anger is proportionate to the moment you are in right now, or if some of it comes from somewhere else.