No matter how calm and peaceful you feel, we all have moments of anger. Of course, this is not always a bad thing. Sometimes, anger is a normal reaction to a situation. You were hurt, let down, disrespected, or you weren’t heard or acknowledged. Maybe you were passed over for a promotion or blamed for something you didn’t do.
However, often this anger (justified or not) comes back to haunt you. It sucks, and it can make you bitter or disempowered or vindictive. This is especially true when you don’t know how to deal with it. Because, unfortunately, we don’t live in a society that encourages healthy, safe displays of anger. You either see people blowing their tops or bottling it up.
Therefore, read on if you are interested in learning more about why anger can be so problematic and how to deal with it in the most efficient and healthy ways.
What are the three main effects of anger?
1: Anger has a negative effect on your mood
No matter how well you can control your anger, there is a chance that it will have a negative effect on you. Have you ever been so angry that you couldn’t shake the feeling? The longer you struggle with your anger, the higher the chance that every little thing will trigger it.
Harboring anger will also make you more vulnerable to losing focus. It is hard to focus on tasks and goals when you are consumed by anger. Did you ever try to get some work done when you were boiling with rage? It’s not easy.
2: Anger negatively affects your health
Anger can even physically affect you in the form of headaches, chest pains, and increase your cortisol (stress hormone).
When your anger leads to stress, it can be hard to control. You will be more likely to perceive benign actions as threats. This triggers more anger, which again triggers more stress. You will be trapped in an emotional cycle that is hard to break.
Anger has even been shown to affect our healing! According to a study from Ohio State University, people who can’t control their anger tended to heal more slowly. Another study from Harvard showed that high rates of anger lead to breathing problems and higher rates of decline as they aged.
3: Anger has a negative effect on others
There are few things more unpleasant and uncomfortable than being around an angry person. Even if other people are not the target of your anger, you will probably still be small or hostile towards them.
Have you ever attacked someone without (or with little) reason? If so, your anger will hurt the people around you.
Anger is not a valve that we can simply turn off, but it is something that we can manage. If your anger is harming you, then it is time for you to sit down and think about how you can handle it.
What are the four types of anger and how to manage each?
You may not realize it, but there are different types of anger. The cliché of an angry person is that someone blows themselves up, maybe gets out of control, even violent. But it is essential to be able to recognize what kind of anger you are dealing with and how you deal with it. Experts have identified the most common types of anger. See how many you recognize.
1. The volcano
This is the most easily recognized anger. It’s volcanic and explodes over everywhere. Irritation and frustration build up until there’s one thing that tips you over the edge. It’s scary, hurtful, and potentially damaging as this type of anger can lead you to say something in the moment that you regret later.
Solution: Count to ten, allow the moment of fury to pass, and you’re likely to react at a much lower level. Don’t be afraid to say (not shout) how you feel. It’s okay to say, “I’m feeling really upset about…”
Particularly if you’re a woman, you may have been ‘trained’ to hold your anger in and take the blame upon yourself. The bad news is that this is a very damaging and corrosive behavior and erodes your self-esteem fast. You set yourself up for powerlessness and even depression.
Solution: When you catch yourself sliding into self-blame, turn it around and question that assumption. Who said it was your fault? It probably doesn’t need to be anyone’s fault at all. Bolster your self-esteem and get help if you need to.
People can usually pick up when you’re angry, so saying you’re fine isn’t going to cut it. This is another type common among women who are not encouraged to express negative emotions like anger. Instead, you bury the negative feelings, and they fester and come out in other ways.
Solution: Forget being nice. Learn to identify when you’re angry and safe ways for you to express it. You are allowed to say something is not okay.
Sarcasm and its close relation, passive aggression, are toxic and another way of avoiding owning and communicating your true feelings. Sarcastic remarks and gaslighting are destructive to relationships and can entrench a bitter, cynical world view in your soul.
Solution: Permit yourself to be openly angry, be honest, and straightforward about how you feel. You don’t need to cloak your feelings in clever digs or superior cutting remarks. Turn that aggression into calm assertiveness and take control of your anger to get what you need.
Three steps to controlling your anger triggers
Everyone has their own little quirks. Things that make them irritated, frustrating, or downright angry. You could probably list your own triggers right now—small stuff like clutter or having to wait around. Maybe you can’t stand a particular word or phrase, or you find it impossible to work if there’s noise. The thing about triggers is that they’re often small things that tip you over the edge, and before you know it, you’ve lost your temper over something that in the scheme of things, doesn’t really matter.
Here are four steps you can take to manage your anger triggers better.
Step 1 – Take control
The first thing is to realize that you are totally in control of how you react. Work out what your triggers are, and you can take your power back. You can anticipate and plan for situations where you know you’re likely to blow your top.
Step 2 – Learn to read your body
Be conscious of how your anger manifests in your body. Likely your heart rate will go up, or your hands and jaw will clench. You might feel breathless or even get a stomachache. Tune in to what your body is telling you, and you’ll learn to be able to stop the process of reacting. And remember the feelings themselves aren’t ‘bad’ but how you choose to respond to those feelings can be harmful, even destructive.
Instead of sweeping the papers off your desk onto the floor, or yelling, take a deep breath or go for a walk. Feeling triggered is often a result of low blood sugar, fatigue, or dehydration. Taking care of your physical needs can help you manage your emotional needs as well and make you more resilient to stresses and triggers.
Step 3 – Identify what triggered you
Once you can interrupt the trigger response, you can start to work out what it was that set it off in the first place. Did you feel disrespected? Unheard? Were you mistreated or misunderstood? If someone pushed in front of you in the coffee line, what did that signal to you? That your needs aren’t important?
What about if someone talks over you or interrupts in a meeting? As well as being rude, you could feel sidelined, humiliated even.
How to handle anger in a healthy way?
Not all anger is the same. Did you know that there are healthy and unhealthy ways to manage your anger? Sometimes it’s good and right to get mad at something. Positive change can come from being angry at injustice or inequality. Righteous or justified anger from being mistreated can be an excellent motivator for change.
But if you’ve had bad experiences of anger, say lousy role models in your childhood, you might only see anger as destructive and scary. But learning anger management so you can be in control of angry feelings can have a positive effect on your relationships. Here are some expert strategies to help you manage your anger.
Know what you’re dealing with
Understanding why you’re angry and where it’s coming from is vital. Maybe you’re stressed and grumpy, fatigued, or unwell. Or perhaps the reason for your anger is apparent. Once you understand your anger and its sources, you can start to deal with it.
Often the incident that triggered your anger is only superficial. The real reason you are angry is that you are buried under it and waiting for a trigger. Perhaps a random comment or an inappropriate joke reminds you of an incident from your childhood or how your ex treated you. All that primal pain and anger is rising in the present. The good news is that it came up to be processed.
Pause and breathe
Before you react with angry words, simply count to ten. Practice your mindful breathing and consciously let go of the angry feelings. Tell yourself that you will not give energy to this anger. Keep doing this until the intense sensations subside.
Write it down
Writing down why you’re angry is very powerful. It takes all those angry and irritated thoughts out of your head and into the world where you can handle them. Chances are they might not even seem so significant or insurmountable. You might even begin to see patterns, so you can understand what triggers your angry feelings.
Just write whatever comes into your head, even if it doesn’t make sense. You can also write a letter to the person who hurt you. Scream on paper, curse them, tell them exactly what you think. Write until you cry; write until everything is out. Then you can tear it up, burn it, trample on it or press the delete button.
Take some action (or delay action)
Once you know what’s making you angry, you can plan workarounds for it. Be aware of your triggers and minimize them. That can mean making sure you eat properly to avoid blood sugar crises, get enough sleep, and exercise and take time out for self-care.
While it is legitimate that what has made you angry deserves some kind of action in response, what you should avoid at all costs is irrational, hasty action. That way, mistakes, overreactions, and possible relationship damage are avoided.
Remember that you are not your feelings. The situation will still be there when you have calmed down enough to deal with it in a thoughtful, appropriate way.
Brooding on the cause of your anger is actively unhelpful. It keeps you stuck in those negative feelings, keeps you stuck in victim mode, and keeps you powerless.
Brooding is also bad for your blood pressure and keeps you stewing in adrenaline and cortisol, the fight or flight stress hormones which are excellent in an emergency by not so great to have all the time.
Don’t rehash your anger
Talking over your problems can be helpful if you share it with a trusted friend. But be careful to keep it focused, or you might end up rehashing your troubles over and over again. Like brooding, complaining can keep you from moving forward and finding solutions to your problems.
6 steps to use mindfulness to control your anger
You’ve probably heard of mindfulness. Maybe you are even following regular mindfulness practices. But did you know that you can use mindfulness to control your anger? Mindfulness experts have identified several key steps you can take to control and manage your negative emotions.
1. Observe your body’s signals
When you’re angry, your body is sending out all sorts of messages from rapid heartbeat to clenched jaw, stomach, and hands muscles. Your breathing may become light and shallow. You’re ready to fight or flight.
2. Use your breath
Breathe into your body’s anger reactions. Close your eyes, focus on the breath going right down into your belly and out again. Count as many breaths as you need to defuse your anger.
3. Connect with your body
Stay aware of how your body is feeling. Scan your body to see how the anger reactions are manifesting and subsiding. What does your anger feel like? Don’t judge, just observe and be kind to yourself.
4. Look at your mind monkeys
When your angry dozens of little mad monkey thoughts are running around your brain like naughty kids yelling things like “It’s not fair,” “It’s not my fault,” even curse words. Notice your angry self-talk and how it runs in circles. Try to detach from the thoughts if you can.
5. Step away
Separate yourself from the thoughts, feelings, and bodily reactions of anger. They are reactions, and they are not you.
6. Reach out
Once you have detached from your reactions, you can communicate with the person you’re angry with. Keep the focus on how you feel, make “I” statements, and avoid blaming.
Stay calm and keep your voice low pitched. Keep your awareness on your reactions in case the anger rises up again.
Tips on handling anger by taking time-outs
One of the most effective techniques for dealing with anger is to remove yourself from the situation. Taking some time out will give you space to let the anger subside and for you to regain control. It is an excellent way of defusing a tense situation, so you can come back later and try to resolve the problem.
Take the following steps to build time-out in your anger management plan.
1. Plan ahead
If you have trouble managing your anger response, the best thing you can do is plan ahead, so you know what to do when you recognize those feelings rising up inside. Think of where you would go and if you want anyone with you to help you. Include your favorite calming down techniques like walking, or deep breathing.
2. Have a time-out script
Work out beforehand exactly what you want to say when you need to take a time-out. Don’t use blaming words, which will add fuel to the fire. Just say something like, “I’m starting to feel upset. I need a break and calm down.” Make sure the other person knows you will come back when you’re calm to resolve the situation.
Make sure you keep it together long enough to deliver your lines. Keep breathing and in control. This is about managing your anger safely.
3. Go into time-out mode
Time-out isn’t about brooding or getting razzed up for a fight. It’s to give you some safe space to calm down. Use your favorite mindfulness techniques to bring down your emotional temperature. Have a glass of water or a healthy snack if you missed lunch; or practice mindful calming breathing.
4. Go back
Your time-out session is literally about buying you time to be able to deal constructively with a conflict situation. Complete the circle by going back and thanking the other person for their understanding and patience. If it’s appropriate, you can work on resolving the situation now or making a time to do so.
Time-out is not THE answer for dealing with anger, but it is a very useful tool to have as part of your anger management strategy. If you decide it’s a good tool for you, talk it through with your boss and your colleagues, maybe your friends and family so they know what’s going o and support you. They will probably be delighted to help you and respect you for your commitment to do better.
How to handle anger in your romantic relationships?
It’s normal to get angry, irritated, or frustrated, especially with those you love most. It’s okay to have these emotions, but part of being an adult is learning how to manage negative feelings constructively. And learning to deal with anger is one of the best things you can do for your relationship.
Here are three tips for handling anger with your partner.
1. Don’t clam up
Clamming up is one of the worst things you can do when you’re angry. Whatever else you do, please don’t give your partner the silent treatment. It is destructive and punitive. Your partner will feel hurt and rejected, and it will take a lot more work to try and resolve whatever the problem is.
If you’re the one getting the silent treatment, try not to react or get too anxious. The more you push, or question, the more your partner will retreat. Let them know you’re there for them and waiting to talk when they’re ready. Then give them space.
2. Stay with your own feelings
When you’re in an angry situation, try to keep your focus on managing your own feelings, not your partner’s. You can’t control other people’s emotions, but you can try to stay as calm as possible and not react to whatever they are saying or doing.
Take a few deep breaths and think before you act. Hold your tongue. Don’t send that text. Stay in the present and don’t dredge up past hurts or mistakes. If the words ‘you always’ or ‘you never’ rise up in your throat, don’t say them! They are likely only to inflame things further.
3. Don’t triangulate
If you’re mad with your partner, it can be tempting to complain about them to a third person, creating what psychologists called triangulation. Such an emotional triangle is destructive of relationships and can stop you from trying to resolve the original problem as you get stuck in a good guy/bad guy story. Unless you’re asking for help or are in an unsafe relationship, it’s never a good idea to talk badly of your partner behind their back.
How to handle anger at work?
It can be tricky to work out how to handle anger in the workplace. After all, it’s the place where you’re supposed to be professional and on top of things, right? And there is nothing less on top of things than losing your temper.
But anger is a natural human emotion. We all feel anger from time to time. So how can you stay in control and manage your anger when you’re at work?
1. Step out of the situation
Whatever is happening, the first thing to do to avoid a blow-up is to remove yourself from the situation. If you can feel your anger rising, stay calm, and excuse yourself. You don’t need to explain. Just say you need to step out so you can calm down and come back to help find a solution to the problem.
2. Do something completely different
When you’re angry, you can’t think straight, and you’re in no state to start finding solutions. Go and do something completely different to take your mind off the situation. Take a walk, grab a coffee, or make an early lunch break. Or practice deep, slow breathing to get your heart rate down and more oxygen into your body.
3. Rewrite your mental script
When you’re angry, you’re likely to have words like unfair, always, never, ruined, or failure going through your mind at top speed. You’ll be thinking irrationally and not able to be objective or logical about the situation.
Try acknowledging those negative thoughts and then switching them up with positive ones like, “I’m upset now, but it will be okay,” or “I can find a solution to this.”
4. Don’t blame the other guy
Chances are the person who upset you had no intention of disrespecting you or hurting your feelings. Most of the time, people do upsetting things unconsciously or carelessly; it’s rarely malicious.
The person who didn’t put more paper in the copier could have been in a hurry or didn’t see the warning light go on. The guy who hasn’t called you back might be sick or hadn’t gotten your message.
Before you lose your cool, count to ten and cut the other guy some slack.
5. Talk about it when you’re not mad
If you have a problem with someone in your professional life, it’s best to talk about it. Wait until you’re calm and can talk without getting upset. Use low key language to explain how their behavior makes you feel and what you need. Keep the focus on the effect on you and avoid blaming language.
Tips for helping your child handle their anger
One of the best things you can teach your child is how to manage their anger safely. It’s an essential aspect of developing emotional intelligence and one that will stand them in good stead throughout their life.
As children’s brains develop, they gradually gain more control over their emotions, and they will learn patterns of behavior, including positive anger management. Here are some tips on helping them learn to manage their anger.
1. Model the behavior you want to see
Your kids will take their cue from their parents. You can choose to teach them impatient, explosive ways of dealing with anger. Or you can show them how to manage conflict honestly and openly.
2. Stay calm
Yelling at an angry child to stop will just make things worse by adding more angry emotions to the mix. As a parent, your job is to stay calm and restore calm. Create some space so that the situation can be resolved.
3. Acknowledge the bad feelings
You need to acknowledge that your child is angry and upset and that those feelings are okay. Encourage your child to tell you why they’re upset. Don’t put a lid on those emotions. Talking allows the feelings to come out as words instead of screaming or hitting and helps to defuse the anger.
4. Give your child skills
You need to show your child how they can manage their angry feelings in the moment. Have a list of safe ways to be mad on the fridge or pantry door. Work on it together when everyone is calm, so there is shared ownership of the actions. Some actions include dancing or stamping their feet or clapping their hands. They can give themselves a hug to stop the hitting impulse. Older children can write down or draw what they’re feeling.
Make sure you notice when your child is using one of these techniques. Notice and acknowledge their feelings and praise them for constructively managing their anger.
5. Set boundaries
Acknowledging anger is one thing, but children need to know that it’s not okay to act on their anger in destructive or hurtful ways. Tell your angry kid that you see their anger, but they are not allowed to hurt.
6. Stay with your angry child
Don’t send your kids to time out or to their room to calm down. The upset child needs to feel safe and accepted and loved. They need to know that bad or uncomfortable feelings don’t break the parent/child bond. Whatever happens to end any conflict with a hug and reassurance.
Anger is powerful, and it can make you feel terrible. But anger is part of your life and you won’t be able to avoid being angry sometimes.
However, if you squash your anger down, it doesn’t go away—it sits there and eats away at you. But there are some efficient and healthy ways to take control of the various situations in your life where you experience anger, so you’re not vulnerable to anger and frustration.