Getting to Know Your Anger
So how do you learn to manage your anger in a non-aggressive way? The process starts by recognizing your angry feelings, getting to know the situations that provoke them and noticing how you usually react when angry. But how do you even know that you’re angry? It’s not always simple, but it’s easier if you pay attention to certain cues.
Warning: Anger Ahead
- Physical CuesThe way your body reacts when you’re angry: pounding heart, feeling hot or flushed
- Behavioral CuesWhat you do and how you act when you’re angry: being sarcastic, clamming up, refusing to make eye contact, clenching your fists, pacing back and forth or slamming doors
- Emotional CuesThe other feelings that surface alongside anger: feeling disrespected, guilty, humiliated, insecure, rejected or even tired
- Cognitive CuesThoughts that pop into your mind when you’re angry: putdowns of people, the desire to run away or get revenge, interpreting comments or questions as criticism
So the next time you’re aware of feeling angry, pay attention to how your body reacts, how you behave, your thoughts and any other feelings you may be having. Take note of these cues or write them down so you become able to identify your anger when it first develops.
What Sets You Off?
Some situations annoy almost everyone. Other situations are annoying to relatively few people. Sometimes, just thinking about something that happened in the past can make you furious. Learning to recognize what usually makes you angry helps you prepare for a constructive response plan. When those situations come up, put into practice the strategies you’ve chosen for dealing with difficult and powerful emotions.
Managing Your Anger
While there is no way to avoid feeling angry at times, there are ways to decrease the intensity of your feelings and change your reactions to anger. You don’t have to let your anger get the best of you. You can control your anger so it doesn’t control you. Besides, anger can be very productive. It can motivate you to take the necessary steps toward achieving your goals; and used wisely, anger can greatly improve your relationships. On the other hand, uncontrolled or reckless expressions of anger invariably hurt relationships and hold you back in life.
10 Tips to Help You Deal
Once you know you’re angry, you can choose how to react. Here are some strategies for dealing with very powerful feelings and responding effectively. Try them and see what works best for you.
- Take a time-out. Leave the situation that is making you angry. If the situation involves other people, call a time-out. You may need to agree to return to finish the discussion and resolve the issue once you have cooled off. Time-outs can be used along with other strategies as well, such as going for a walk, to the gym, to a favorite peaceful spot on campus, calling a friend or writing in your journal.
- Breathe. Help yourself relax by taking deep breaths. Deep breathing brings more oxygen into the body, and concentrating on taking deep breaths helps to focus your mind on something other than your angry feelings.
- Calm down. Calm yourself by visualizing a relaxing place or activity, listen to music, paint, write in your journal or do yoga.
- Stop thinking. Teach yourself to get rid of anger-provoking thoughts. Tell yourself that this kind of thinking will only lead to trouble. Try to stop the thoughts before you become so angry that you lose control.
- Exercise. Physical exercise releases feel-good enzymes that will help your frame of mind. Go for a walk or run, get on a treadmill, lift weights, shoot some hoops or throw a Frisbeeanything to get your muscles moving.
- Talk it out. Talk about the situation and your feelings with a supportive friend (naturally, choose someone who wasn’t involved with the situation). He or she may be able to offer a different perspective on what’s going on. Even if your friend just listens, expressing your feelings is bound to make you feel better.
- Consider the other side. Try to look at the situation from the other person’s point of view. Could the person be stressed or worried, and not at his or her best? Could what you said or did have been misunderstood? If you take the time to think about the other person, you’ll have a chance to step back from your angerwhich can lead to finding ways to clear up the troubling situation.
- Express your anger as soon as possible. Once you’ve calmed yourself a bit, express your angry feelings in an appropriate way so you aren’t left obsessing or worrying about the situation. If you feel you won’t be able to control yourself when you talk to the person who made you angry, try talking to a family member, friend, Resident Assistant in your residence hall, counselor or someone else you trust.
- Act assertively. Stand up for your rights in a way that shows respect for others. Express your feelings about the situation without blaming, attacking or threatening. When you remain calm and respectful, people are much more likely to take you seriously and listen to what you say.
- Keep an anger log. Keeping a journal, or log, can help you to notice and understand which situations are more likely to set you off. Keeping an anger log helps by increasing your self-awareness, as well as allowing you to express your feelings in a comfortable, safe way.