9 Effective Anger Management Techniques
Are you completely stressed out? At times, do you find yourself in situations where you lose control of your anger? How do you deal with anger in a healthy way when emotions run high?
We know anger is a normal and a healthy human emotion; however, at times it can get out of control. Uncontrollable anger is destructive, resulting in problems at work and daily personal life. It affects our own quality of life as well our relationships with the people we love.
Anger management is important for reducing both physiological arousal and the emotions around what is causing the anger. Physiological arousal refers to the bodily changes that accompany anger such as increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure to use two examples. Other examples that will be more obvious to you can include clenched fists, teeth grinding, feeling dizzy from hyperventilation, trembling, and sweating.
Everyone experiences anger differently, so getting to know our own physical reactions can serve as a sort of alarm system, warning us we should take action before we lose control. Feeling and experiencing anger cannot be avoided nor can we control people who get under our skin, but there are steps you can take for calming the storm.
We do not have control over what others do, but we do have control over how we react to them. In some cases, we can make a decision to avoid certain people and circumstances, but in others, we have little choice, like for example in dealing with a co-worker. The best defense overall is a good offense. In this case, our offense is one of self-awareness and a bag of anger management tools at our disposal.
9 Anger Management Techniques
Let’s look at some of the effective methods for how to deal with anger in a healthy way:
1. Understand the Root of Your Anger
It can help us make conscious decisions about what subjects we choose to discuss with others and situations we may want to avoid. By getting a better understanding of our anger, we gain control of our reactions. Knowledge is power, as they say.
2. Think Before You Speak
When we are angry, it is very easy to say something we might later regret. In a moment of anger, we are more likely to lash out without considering the consequences of our words and behaviors. Even with apologizes, words can never really be taken back. For this reason, it is important for us to take some time to collect our thoughts before blurting out or doing something we will regret.
3. Express Yourself After the Flames Have Cooled
After the strong emotions pass, we can think more clearly. We are able to see a situation that angered us more objectively. When we think back to the situation that made us angry, we are able to express the frustration in a non-confrontational calm manner. When we express our needs and frustrations calmly, people are more likely to listen.
Some of us find we become angry because we have limited ability to express ourselves. In other words, our communication skills could use some work.
Others will likely become defensive when emotions run high. If we value our relationships with others, by taking these steps we are less likely to hurt them and at the same time will be able to stand up for our own needs. It is a win-win!
4. Relax. Don’t Do It!
Relaxation techniques are quite effective in helping us control angry outbursts. Some will be effective in the moment and are worth practicing regularly in order for us to rely on them in the moment we feel our temper rising.
Deep breathing, which involves slowing and focusing on the rhythm of our breathing, is a way to place our attention on something other than our frustration. Breathing slowly keeps us from hyperventilating. The intense focus on something else can help reduce the intensity of the anger.
Other relaxation strategies include massage, if you feel muscle tension building. Stretching is also great for releasing muscle tension and that is something we can do on our own. A technique called progressive relaxation involves intentional tightening of individual muscles and releasing them. The idea is to start with the feet and move up the body or vice versa. That way we will not forget and neglect any of the muscle groups.
To those unfamiliar with meditation, it may seem like a mystical religious practice. Sure, Buddhism and other religions incorporate meditation into their practices. Meditation has made its way from the East to the West, and its benefits are worth exploring. Many people claim they are not “good” at or cannot concentrate enough to meditate. Ironically, these are exactly the types of thoughts that meditation helps us overcome.
Mindfulness, another concept the West has borrowed from the East, is a state of mind. It has become all the rage (pun intended) in helping to treat many types of mental health symptoms, including recovery from substance abuse. The basic idea is to focus intently on the moment and be aware of things like sensations in your body and the details in the environment around you.
This takes some practice because it is in conflict with the typical state our mind is in. Our minds are typically focused on the past and future, rather than on the present moment! With practice, will slow our minds and stop racing thoughts.
Finally, another technique simply involves reclining in a comfortable chair, or perhaps on a couch, in an area that is away from loud noises and other commotion. Lie in a relaxed position, with arms by yours side and legs uncrossed. Keeping your eyes closed and your body completely still, do nothing but lie there for 20 minutes or more. Have no expectations. Don’t fight your thoughts. They will eventually slow naturally.
5. Put Down the Drink
Many of us enjoy unwinding with a cocktail or two. While alcohol is a depressant and does help people relax, it can also lower inhibitions, meaning we may be tempted to act in a way we normally wouldn’t. When under the influence, we are more likely to make rash decisions, make poor judgments, and be more impulsive.
For this reason, it is wise to be aware of potential triggers for anger. It’s best for us to avoid discussing sensitive subjects while we are under the influence and avoid places that may put us in a situation that is likely to escalate. If alcohol regularly causes your anger to worsen, seeking professional assistance may be warranted.
It probably goes without saying that all mood-altering substances change our perception of our environment and reality. This doesn’t mean all substances will affect our behavior and thinking in the same way alcohol does, but it’s worth mentioning and taking into account.
Caffeine is a substance, and a mood-altering one at that. It’s a legal stimulant readily used by people around the world. We commonly get our daily fix from coffee, soda, and some teas. There is a point at which caffeine intake becomes excessive and results in causing jitters, irritability, and other unpleasant symptoms. The irritability puts us at a higher risk of managing our anger poorly in any given situation.
7. Eat and Get Your Zzzz’s
Yes, eat and sleep. We need to be aware of and make sure our basic physiological needs are being met.
Who would think of hunger as a trigger for anger? But a hungry person is a grouchy person. We need to keep our bodies satisfied with nourishing food and avoid skipping meals. Hunger causes us to become irritable and to quickly lose our patience with others.
Lack of sleep can turn a teddy bear into a grizzly. Feeling tired reduces our tolerance for dealing with frustrating people and situations. You may be having trouble sleeping, which incidentally many of the anger management techniques reviewed in this article can help. For example, exercise, meditation, and limiting alcohol and caffeine all have been shown to help those who struggle with insomnia. Just the fact we are aware of our decreased patience, helps us to make better decisions in terms of choosing situations and the people we choose to interact with.
8. Stay Active
Exercise is an excellent, natural way to release tension. We all know the innumerable health benefits of physical activity, but we don’t hear as much about the mental ones.
Not only does exercise affect our brain chemistry in a positive way, it also releases muscle tension that can build up from accumulated stress. Some enjoy activities where pent up anger can be taken out on an inanimate object, such as a kickboxing bag.
Cardio activity gets the heart pumping, in a good way! It increases circulation, which means more oxygen to the brain. Science has long supported the notion of cardio stimulating the production of endorphins. Endorphins are naturally occurring neurotransmitters produced in the brain. Essentially, they act like painkillers. We’ve heard of a “runner’s high” which refers to the improved mood runners experience due to the rush of endorphins that aerobic activity can trigger.
Even if we don’t exercise on a regular basis, just getting out for a walk before lashing out in anger, can help quell the emotion. Not only is the physical activity healthy, but changing scenery can help as a temporary distraction and gives us time to gather our thoughts.
9. Get in Touch with Nature
This brings us to the wonderful effect that spending time in nature can have on our mental well-being. Not only does it allow us to get away from the daily stress of work, family life and other responsibilities, in nature, we are surrounded by a peaceful environment.
Enjoying nature does wonders in terms of relieving anxiety, boosting mood, and calming the mind. It can help us detach from these stressors and put things into perspective.
Some of the strategies discussed here can be used in the moment anger begins to build, such as excusing ourselves from the conflict to go for a walk.
Other strategies are geared toward regular practice with the goal of decreasing our overall stress level. This includes exercise, for example.
Still, others, such as mindfulness will be more effective in combating temper outbursts in the moment we need it, if we practice the techniques regularly. Because mindfulness is a state of mind that does not come naturally to us humans, we must practice as in any new skill in order to apply in our moment of need.
Any combination of the techniques listed about should help to manage anger before it gets out of control. For those who continue to struggle after implementing these techniques, professional counseling is a good option. Some of us may need additional support to get back on track and to stay there!
In some cases, anger can be a sign of an underlying mood disorder such a depression or bipolar disorder. Even anxiety disorders can make us less able to tolerate moderate levels of frustration. If you suspect you are suffering from depression or anxiety, seek the advice of a mental health professional for a formal evaluation and to discuss treatment options.