Learning How to Manage Your Anger

Do you struggle to manage your anger levels? Do you easily lose your temper over the smallest things? Are you always being told to curb your road rage? Everyone gets angry at some point – this is normal. But if you find your blood boiling to a point where you start to worry about how you’re going to react, then it’s time to learn ways to manage your anger. Often, uncontrolled anger is a sign of a deeper issue. You may be suffering from stress or trying to deal with a difficult situation. Anger can also become a bad habit picked up from childhood, as a result of being brought up by a short-tempered parent who lacked the ability to control their temper. The problem starts when you lose control of your anger, as this could have a serious impact on your health and those around you.

How does anger affect you?

Anger is a very powerful emotion and it can have a damaging effect on your physical and mental health, as well as your emotional wellbeing. As human beings, we were designed to use anger for a reason; this is all part of the body’s reaction to danger – or ‘fight or flight’ as it is more commonly known. On a physical level, when you become angry, the adrenal glands flood your body with stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, to help you ‘fight’ the imminent ‘threat’. Your brain will then shunt blood away from your gut towards your muscles in case you need to physically fight the threat. Your blood pressure, heart rate, respiration and your body temperature increases, and your mind becomes much sharper and focused, so you’re ready for ‘battle’.

However, in modern society, things tend to get a bit confused. More often than not, we find ourselves getting angry at non-life-threatening situations, which do not require such a dramatic, physical reaction. If we regularly lose our temper, this causes an unhealthy strain on our mind and body. Over time, due to the continual flood of stress chemicals and metabolic changes associated with anger, we can become very unwell and sometimes seriously ill as a result.

Anger is addictive. Our fight-or-flight response originates from our limbic system, which is our primordial brain centre. Therefore, when you continually feel the ‘rush’ of adrenaline there is a risk that your dopamine reward receptors will be triggered, which can then lead to an addictive pattern of enjoying the ‘rewards’ of being angry. This repeated response makes it much harder to break the anger cycle.

Some of the more common issues that relate to unmanaged anger include headaches, high blood pressure, stomach issues, insomnia, anxiety, depression and even skin problems, such as eczema. In the long term, if anger is not effectively managed, you will increase your risk of having a heart attack or a stroke. So, it is important that you learn how to manage your anger before you put your health at serious risk.

What makes you angry?

Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Do you find yourself getting highly irritated and angry at minor issues?
2. Do you get overly upset when others disagree with your point of view?
3. Do you keep your emotions to yourself and them explode in a rage?
4. Do you lose control to the point where you throw or break objects?
5. Do you feel guilty by your reaction when you get angry?

Managing your anger

Many people feel it is best to keep their feelings to themselves, but this can often cause emotions to ‘boil over’ and people then lose their tempers at the smallest thing. We call this ‘anger repression’. Bottled up anger can often turn into depression and anxiety. Another common and equally negative way of trying to manage anger is by exploding into a rage over every minor detail; this will eventually take its toll on your relationships with family and friends too.

Instead, here’s a list of some simple ways you can start to control your temper:

1. If you’re faced with a situation where you are afraid that you might lose control, walk away for a short time until you cool down. This will help you to see the situation more clearly.

2. Take a deep breath and think before you speak. Take time to collect your thoughts before you react. It’s easy to lose control and say things you don’t mean in the heat of the moment.

3. When you have taken a break to collect your feelings and you’re ready to talk, there are simple ways to express your anger without losing your temper. If you’re confronting another person, be respectful of their feelings and explain the reasons why you’re angry. Avoid using language, such as “You always/You never…” and replace with “I’m upset because…”

4. If you’re suffering from stress and you believe this might be the cause of your anger, look at practical ways you can combat any negative feelings. Join a relaxation class or try doing some physical exercise – even if it’s just a walk around the block to move away from the immediate situation.

5. Don’t try to repress your anger until it boils over. Consider the reasons why a situation is causing you to feel angry and take some time out to look at your reaction before this causes any damage. Talk to a friend or family member about how you’re feeling, or you may find that counselling and therapy sessions give you a safe and confidential space to open up.

Getting support for your anger

If you are finding it difficult to control your anger and emotions, you may find it useful to talk things through with a qualified and experienced counsellor and therapist. Together, we will explore the possible root causes of your anger, and we will give you coping mechanisms to help you manage your feelings and control your temper. For more details, please get in touch.