What is anger?
Anger is an emotion that we experience when something doesn’t go the way we intended. It can vary in intensity from mild frustration to rage.
Some people think that they should never feel angry, but anger is a normal emotion, like sadness, anxiety or happiness, which everyone experiences. There are times and situations when anger is the appropriate response. However, anger can become a problem when it’s too intense, too frequent or occurs at the wrong time. The way you express your anger—your behavior—can also cause you troubles.
People express their anger in many different ways. How do you express yours?
Anger is a lot like a pot of boiling water that’s about to boil over. You can put a lid on it. You can let it boil over. You can take it off the heat. Or you can turn down the heat.
Some people say that expressing anger makes them feel better, and that it’s even healthy to express it. In fact, some research suggests that putting a lid on frequent anger—or holding it in—is associated with higher rates of heart disease, high blood pressure and other health problems.
Other people use anger to make a point. But what if you get angry every time your friend wants to do something different than what you want to do? You may get what you want in the short term, but your friend might not want to spend as much time with you in the future.
Anger is a completely normal, healthy human emotion. But if you feel like your anger is taking control of you—if you’re starting to have problems in school, at work and in your relationships—it may be time to think about anger management.
You may never be able to completely get rid of, avoid or change the people and things that make you angry. But you can learn to recognize your anger “triggers” and develop healthier ways to deal with how anger makes you feel and act. That’s what anger management is about. These anger management strategies can help you keep your anger triggers from tipping you over the edge.
Distraction: You can’t be angry when you’re doing something you enjoy, can you? Distraction is an effective anger management technique because it helps keep your mind off the thing that made you angry. Here are 10 distracting activities you can try:
To be effective, a good distraction should fully engage your mind. For example, TV may not be distracting enough to fully get your mind off what made you angry in the first place. How about counting to 10? Counting to 10 is not very distracting because you probably can do it in your sleep—it’s very automatic. Instead, try counting backwards from 100 by 7s. What about punching a pillow—or a wall? Besides the fact that you might break your hand, do you really want to train your brain to hit something when you get angry? More importantly, what happens when there is no pillow? Surely you can think of something else…
Listen to Music: This is a great strategy, but it depends on what you listen to. Even if Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff” is your favorite song, you might not find it very relaxing. Instead find a song that you associate with feeling good—like a beach song or a great dance tune and shake your booty!
Exercise/Physical Activity: Exercise isn’t just distracting, it’s an excellent way to let off some energy without being destructive (like punching a wall). Exercise also releases endorphins in your brain—and endorphins can reduce pain and naturally induce an overall sense of calm and well-being.
Talk to friends: Socializing can be a great way to cope with anger, but if you dwell on what made you angry, you could stir up your emotions rather than turn down the heat. Instead, talk about something else—a concert that’s coming up, last week’s big game, a movie you just saw, you get the picture.
Laugh: It’s difficult to laugh and be mad at the same time. Figure out what makes you laugh and keep it on hand for when you are upset. Find jokes online or watch a funny movie. There’s a reason they say, “laughter is the best medicine!”
Use calming statements: Just telling yourself to relax and take it easy can be calming. Try these statements:
Find more tips on managing anger in Getting to Know Your Anger.
Now that you’ve learned a little about anger and your own experiences with it, examine your anger patterns and make an action plan to help you keep your anger in check. Think about:
Anger management is a learned technique, and like anything you learn, it takes time. Keep practicing until you see results. Or talk to a counselor at your student center about developing a range of techniques for changing your thinking and your behavior.