Everyone gets angry. Anger is a reasonable and sometimes necessary response to a situation. When managed appropriately, anger can be an excellent motivator for accomplishing a difficult task, but when not controlled, anger can be destructive. People who are easily angered or who misplace anger can hurt themselves, their relationships, reputations, and even negatively affect their health.
This section will discuss what anger is, consequences of frequent or misplaced anger, and ways to manage anger.
Anger serves as a warning to our minds and bodies that something is wrong. It’s a normal emotion that can range in intensity from mild frustration to intense rage. It’s a reaction to a real or perceived threat to ourselves, a loved one, our self-image, or our own identity.1
Every day, each of us experiences anger in some way. It can come in the form of; frustration, harassment, hurt, injustice, criticisms, and threats to things or people we love. We each experience anger in different ways, and for various reasons, something that makes one person angry may have little effect on another. For example, some people experience road rage on their morning commute, and others go with the flow of traffic, knowing they will eventually get to work. This example shows that how we respond to anger is subjective and personal, and within our control.
How to Know When Your Anger is Uncontrolled?
- Anger goes beyond what is appropriate for the situation.
- It’s hard to cool off quickly or appropriately.
- You feel angry several times or all the time during the day.
- Without rhyme or reason, you become angry.
- Those closest to you can easily trigger you to become angry for little reason.
- Engaging in verbal and physical acts of aggression and violence are common occurrences.
- Your anger caused you to lose a job, friends, partners, or other meaningful relationships in your life.
- Drugs and alcohol are used to manage your anger.
The Consequences of Uncontrolled Anger
As we mentioned earlier, anger is a normal and sometimes necessary response to effectively solving problems. Anger can also help us face obstacles. However, when uncontrolled anger can be destructive, sometimes causing a multitude of problems. This is especially true in the workplace and within our personal relationships. Anger in the workplace can threaten your job or career and even get you fired.
More importantly, it can lead to a loss of trust and respect by coworkers and managers, which, in the long term, can make things even more frustrating.
Also, anger often decreases or shields our ability to make the right decisions or find solutions to problems. This will impact our performance and effectiveness and become a cycle of frustration and angry feelings.
Studies have also shown that anger can have physical consequences such as heart disease, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and even premature death.
Ask yourself these questions and give yourself honest answers:
- Do I get angry unexpectedly without an understanding of why?
- When I am angry, do I hit, or have the desire to hit something?
- Am I unable to forgive or hold a grudge when I am angry?
- Have I lost friends or relationships because of my anger?
If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, you need to start working to control your anger.
How to Manage Your Anger
Learning to manage our anger can be difficult, especially if we’ve become accustomed to letting it go uncontrolled. However, learning to manage or diffuse anger is possible and can prevent it from becoming a destructive force in your life.
The following steps are a combination of several well-known anger management techniques, including the book Anger Kills, written by Drs. Redford William and Virginia Williams, as well as Julia Barnard.
15 Strategies for Managing Anger
1. Keep a Hostility Log. It’s not uncommon to lack understanding of why you react in anger to certain situations. A hostility log will help you discover your hot buttons and identify places where your anger may reach uncontrolled levels.
Complete the hostility log to help you monitor your anger triggers and determine their frequency. This record will help you develop appropriate strategies to manage your angry feelings.
2. Acknowledge You Have an Anger Management Problem. You will not be able to manage your anger until you understand that you have an anger management problem. Acknowledging your anger is the first and most crucial step in learning to manage your anger.
3. Accept that You Don’t Always Have to be Right. This can be difficult, especially when you’ve spent time in a place of authority. When you are in the habit of making decisions, relying only on yourself, and always providing the answers, it’s hard to adjust or change that mindset in other situations. It’s important to remember to consider the feelings, opinions, and actions of others when looking for answers to problems.
4. Interrupt the Anger. When you feel the onset of out of control anger, try:
- Internally telling yourself to STOP.
- Physical relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or centering. Slowly counting to 10 before responding.
- Positive thinking or imagery.
- Meditation or simply just removing yourself from the situation that’s causing the anger.
- Distractions such as play a song, visit a website, daydream, take a walk, etc.
5. Learn Empathy. Learn to practice empathy. Empathy is the act of learning to feel how someone else feels in a situation. This will help you see a situation from another’s perspective, which can help you better understand the situation and prevent your angry reaction to it.
6. Rely on Your Network. Each of us has loved ones and essential people upon whom we can rely. Use these people to help you identify your problem and figure out ways to manage your anger better. Also, set aside time to re-invest in your close relationships, especially with family and close friends, so they are more likely to be there when you need them. Don’t forget relationships are a give and take, so remember to be there for them, as well.
7. See the Humor. Learn to laugh at yourself. Taking yourself too seriously can increase your stress and anger levels. If you take a scenario where you get angry and make it seem more significant than it is, it can help you see the humor in your anger.
For example, the weather has caused the cancellation of your flight, and you are going to miss an important meeting. You get angry because this meeting was vital, and you were expecting to get a promotion based on the outcome. Try seeing the situation differently.
Say to yourself: “The weather must have it out for me. It was just waiting until I was on the way to my big meeting for it to dump 5 feet of snow on the runway! Mother nature is probably laughing at how angry I am right now!”
This can help you see the humor in your anger and allow you to rationally and calmly deal with the problem at hand, missing your meeting.
8. Relax and Exercise. People often let little things bother them. Teach yourself to calm down, especially when situations are out of your control. Regular exercise can help relieve stress and frustration while you are experiencing those feelings, but it can also help over the long term to prevent them.
Get enough sleep and a healthy diet. This includes getting enough water. When your body feels good, you feel good. Feeling good can prevent angry feelings.
9. Be Assertive. Being assertive is different from being aggressive. Aggression is usually focused on winning in a situation, but being assertive allows you to focus on balancing your wants and needs with those of others. Speak up for what you want and need without being demanding or becoming angry when things don’t go exactly the way you want them to. Learning the be assertive leads directly to the next strategy; compromise.
10. Learn to Compromise. Learning to compromise can be the best skill you have in your anger management toolkit. You’ll find that compromising can often lead to an even better outcome.
11. Listen. Really Listen. Learn to practice active listening skills. Miscommunication is often the cause of frustrating situations. If you don’t completely understand a situation, you are not going to be able to find an appropriate solution. Use active listening skills by focusing on what they are saying instead of how you want to respond. Reflect on what you heard to understand better what they’ve said and also to show that you’ve understood. You’ll find this will help alleviate misunderstandings and prevent frustration from miscommunication.
12. YOLO – You Only Live Once. Live each day as if it’s your last. Don’t forget that life is short; why live with anger? Consider the times where your anger has caused you to miss out on happy times with friends and family or has ruined a relationship.
13. Learn to Build Trust. Just like relationships, trust is a give and take. Learn to build mutual trust between coworkers, friends, and family. As you begin to trust the people in your life, you are less likely to feel they are doing frustrating things on purpose to annoy you. This will allow you to understand the situations better and apply empathy to a frustrating situation.
14. Learn to Express Your Feelings. When something frustrates you, and you feel yourself becoming angry, learn to express those feeling appropriately, without anger. Appropriately expressing the frustration will not only help you reduce the potential for you to experience uncontrolled anger but will also help to alleviate the frustrating situation.
15. Learn to Forgive and Forget. This is perhaps the most challenging strategy for people to learn. However, learning to forgive and forget is the best long term strategy for overall anger management. Start today. Let go of your anger with others. You’ll be surprised how quickly you feel better.
Note: The 15 strategies here are simply a guide to help you learn to manage your anger. If you continue to have anger issues that negatively affect your life, consider seeking help from qualified anger management or mental health professional. This is especially true if your anger hurts others or causes you physical pain.
Anger is a normal and common response to a frustrating situation. It can even serve as a motivator to help you effectively accomplish a goal or overcome an obstacle. However, when anger is uncontrolled or not managed appropriately, it can become destructive, causing issues at work, home, and even health problems. Using the 15 strategies outlined here can help you deal with uncontrolled anger issues.
However, if you are unable to manage the anger yourself, you should consider seeking help from a professional who is an expert at helping people learn to manage their anger appropriately.
Use the Anger is an Energy worksheet, as a tool to evaluate your anger. The hostility log which follows will help you identify what triggers your anger and help you avoid those situations. Lastly, it is important that you remember: the solutions to your problems are endless.