Getting angry and having angry feelings is a normal part of life. Anger is one of our most primary emotions and often masks fear, jealousy, sadness, insecurity, stress, and exhaustion. Many people have difficulty learning how to manage anger or cultivate productive ways of expressing anger.
We can all recall having irrational, angry moments. Thoughts of confronting someone who had nothing to do with an upsetting event, telling someone off to their face, or simply yelling into the sky. There are many ways things that can trigger anger.
Anger is a Normal Emotion
Although having these types of thoughts and feelings might make us feel like we’re bad people, anger is a normal reaction to certain provocative situations. These automatic thoughts and feelings can be very shameful and embarrassing. Unfortunately many people are taught that the best way to deal with anger is to ignore it altogether.
People want to believe they are nice, caring, mature adults. Angry feelings and thoughts might make us doubt how good we are. When people experience angry feelings, some act to suppress that anger.
Ignoring Anger Never Works
The problem is that ignoring anger never works as it only resurfaces again. It is like pushing a beach ball underwater. The harder you push it down, the more out of control it will be when it pops back up.
Our expert therapists and life coaches understand how to control anger. We have developed this guide to help navigate both how to handle difficult feelings and be ok with them.
Working with a mental health professional can help us learn to deal with anger and other difficult feelings. While it can take some work, many people are able to learn how to control their anger. If you or someone you know is looking to work with a therapist or life coach to better control their anger, please contact us.
Embrace Your Feelings
Imagine for a minute: you woke up late and forgot to buy coffee. You’re already running late for your Monday morning meeting when your mom shows up unannounced. Your stress levels rise, your palms become sweaty and you sense anger rising throughout your body. You have a loud outburst, even throw things and feel like you’ve completely failed to control your anger.
This episode makes you feel awful. You feel shame and guilt for losing control and taking your exasperation out on others. But, note, this is the stress, tiredness, and frustration that you have faced all day boiling over. Your reaction is a natural state of anger.
How To Start Managing Anger
My first suggestion for learning to manage anger is the following: as soon as you can identify the feeling, name it, “I feel angry,” or “this is upsetting.” You start to separate yourself from the feeling and, in consequence, disassociate from it.
Next, take a moment to sit with the feeling and explore it when you are ready. Count to 20 and identify why you are feeling angry. Try to pinpoint it so you can begin to observe the feeling instead of only feeling it.
Finally, writing out all the thoughts in your head can help you to increase your self-awareness. There is often a feeling of calm when you find clarity around what is making you mad.
Journal Your Anger to Reflect And Grow
Personally, I will take a bathroom break when triggered and use the time/space to write out my angry thoughts in the notes on my smartphone. This uncensored jumble of words can help me learn so much. It feels so good to just vent and get it all out of my head. It helps me see irrational thinking and cognitive distortions. These thought processes can influence my feelings in unproductive and harmful ways. The practice of taking down my thoughts when they happen also helps me to see how my current mental state may be connected to something in my past. It also helps me identify areas where I’m insecure and have past wounds and sensitivities.
Recognize The Need for Self-Compassion
Imagine if your mother always criticized you for not being detail-oriented enough. When one of your co-workers accuses you of lacking attention to detail, this criticism lands especially hard because of your mother’s previous accusations. Recognizing how historical experiences influence how you process and react to certain scenarios allows you invite self-compassion into that situation. So, rather than allowing yourself to feel inadequate or “not good enough”, you consider the observation objectively while still being kind to yourself.
Purge Your Mind of Negativity
Journaling is a practice that can be a creative way to purge the mind of any negativity experienced during the day. Before bedtime, journaling is a great way to calm your mind and reduce stress. I like to have an ongoing feelings list so that I can use it to take action and make new choices to improve my life.
Recognize Opportunities for Change
Recognize areas of your life you can change for the better. For example, if you find it annoying that a friend complains about the same things all the time, you can change your relationship with that friend. For example, try planning an activity together rather than sitting on the phone listening to that friend rehash the same complaints over and over again.
Daily self-reflection in a journal for 10-20 minutes can reduce stress and also improve your working memory. Journaling also helps to foster a more positive point of view when thinking of one’s life. We recommend using positive-thinking-journal-prompts, such as:
Positive Journal Prompts:
- Write down 5 things you are grateful for.
- Write about an ideal day you have had or would like to have (and make it happen if you haven’t already).
- Write about anything you are excited about or could possibly be excited about if you allowed yourself to be.
- Write about something kind someone said or did for you or that you did for someone else.
- Write about 3 worries you have and 3 things you can do to improve the situation.
Writing about our experiences can offer us self-love and compassion. We can begin to honor those feelings and make them important. As well, we can learn about ourselves and identify our individual needs, triggers and challenges. Papering our thoughts helps us develop successful problem-solving skills and improved life outcomes.
Carefully Identify Triggers
Being triggered is when an event produces an intense emotional or physical reaction. When someone is triggered it usually causes extreme feelings of distress and a heightened sense of being overwhelmed.
A trigger affects your ability to remain present in the moment. It may also bring up specific thought patterns and negative feelings which may, in turn, cast a heavy shadow over your spirits.
Common Anger Triggers Include:
- Being interrupted
- Slow walkers
- Lack of control
- Not feeling heard or listened to
- Having your feelings trivialized
- Traffic jam
Create Boundaries to Protect Your Mental Health
When you know what triggers you, you can then create boundaries to protect your mental health best. This could mean staying away from certain people and conversations or places and settings. If you have had a traumatic experience and have worked through it, there is no need to put yourself through a similar negative interaction. Choose to set boundaries to protect yourself instead.
There will be many times in life when you cannot avoid a trigger. In these situations you need to cope with the experience. Hopefully this blog will help you handle these moments better.
Some additional positive coping strategies that can be helpful:
- Physical exercise.
- Practice deep breathing exercises.
- Surrounding yourself with positive friends, family members, and supportive relationships.
- Practicing mindfulness.
- Working with a therapist using talk therapy.
- Get enough sleep.
- Relaxation exercises (such as the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding method).
Give Yourself Permission to Have Feelings
Anger, much like fear, is a feeling that makes most of us feel uncomfortable. Our culture, at large, is not generally accepting of our feelings when they manifest in out-of-control emotions or behaviour. Feelings of anger are often seen as aggressive and the outcome of negative emotions.
Regardless, of how irrational you may feel that you are being, it is important to give yourself a break and allow yourself to experience your emotions. This is especially important when you are angry since it is during these moments that self-reflection is stimulated. In fact, using tools like writing down all of your thoughts and feelings will help you to better understand what you are going through.
Words Take Power Away From Feelings
Words tend to take the power away from the feelings. There is something really soothing and calming in making sense of and understanding what you are feeling and why you are feeling it. The quickest way to get to this type of self-awareness is to avoid judging anything that you are experiencing.
After you’ve addressed your feelings of anger and what’s caused them, you can more easily begin to manage these feelings, whether you do so by going out for a walk, drinking a glass of water or communicating your feelings.
Breathe Deeply – Focus on Your Breath to Reduce Stress
Some breathing techniques provide both emotional and physical benefits by reducing stress hormones. Breathing techniques can help in moments of anger. Angry emotions send a cue to the mind that it is in danger which elicits a fight or flight response in the body:
- Increased breathing rate
- Increased heart rate
- Cortisol and adrenalin levels
- Impulsive reactionary decision making
- Decreased ability to make rational well thought out choices
Our Fight or Flight Response is Outdated
You literally get into fight mode which is almost never helpful in our current century where it is considered a far better survival skill to think and not fight. In the fight or flight state, our body is responding as if we need to get out of a dangerous physical situation. This physiological response was helpful and adaptive many centuries ago, for instance during the Stone Age, when survival and providing for your family often entailed physical altercation. However, this extreme reaction is vastly inappropriate when dealing with a co-worker who has said something that offended you during a meeting.
Slow Down Your Breathing to Calm Your Mind
Slowing down your breathing in these moments can help stimulate a feeling of safety and this, in turn, should lessen your anger, at least a few notches. The more we can bring our anger down, the more we can think clearly. This allows us to access our frontal cortex and make more positive choices for action rather than being aggressive.
There are a vast number of breathing techniques out there, but this coping tool does not have to be complicated. The following breathing exercises are helpful in slowing down the fight response:
- Box breathing
- Belly breathing
- 4/7/8 breathing
Make Breathing Exercises a Daily Habit
You maximize the usefulness of breath work when you make it part of your routine and do it regularly. This is because it keeps our base level of stress or fight or flight response at a healthy and manageable level. In this way, when we get angry, our anger doesn’t peak to such a high rate.
Practicing breathing exercises 5 mins two times a day can have a measurable affect. If you can reduce your base fight or flight level to a 3 out of 10, then when you actually get angry, you might only peak to a 5 out of 10. However, on days when you don’t practice your breathing and your base level is at 5 or 6 out of 10, then when you get triggered, you could conceivably reach a 9 out of 10. It is really hard to control anger and calm yourself down when it reaches 8 out of 10 or higher. It can highjack our brains along with our bodies. This is when many people find that their anger can get them into a lot of trouble.
Meditation/Breathing Apps Can Help
For some of us, breathing is not something that we practice and can be easy to forget. Some breathing techniques you can insert into your schedule are moments of meditation in the morning or afternoon. We recommend checking out some of the wonderful breathing apps out there that will remind you to take a breath.
Get Moving – Physical Activity is a Natural Remedy
Exercise and activity are a great way to reduce anger, stress and anxiety; the simple reason for this is because you get yourself out of your head.
Getting your body moving develops and creates happy hormones or “dopamine” and releases stress toxins from the body naturally. This is why you feel calm after a short 20-minute run.
If it is difficult to get going and stay consistent with your exercise plan, you can set reminders and schedule it in. Perhaps set out your running clothes the night before for ease of wear. Lastly, having a running or exercise buddy is also a great way to stay committed to your workout vision.
Stop Venting – Share Feelings With Intention
We all have moments where we have long conversations with friends or family, often venting about many things that have already happened and that we have no control over. Be careful not to vent just for the sake of venting because it doesn’t actually resolve why you are feeling angry. Venting can often make you feel worse in the long run because it increases the anger rather than reducing it.
Reflect On The Situation Before Talking
Before you call a friend or family member to talk, make sure that you have had a chance to reflect on what has happened. This moment of reflection offers a moment for rational thinking or troubleshooting. It can be a moment for decision-making on what is actually wrong.
Stick to The Facts
Try to stick to the facts. When we speak to another person when we are upset, focusing on what is actual is key. While it is important to express emotions and feelings, sticking to the facts will conduce to a more productive conversation.
Calm Down Before You Talk
We all know the intensity of expressing our anger in a loud outburst. It is important to always try to take a moment to focus on taking deep breaths and create space in order to pause or walk away.
It is much easier to take a moment and walk away then it is to confront someone with anger and later regret how you expressed yourself. In these moments, it is most beneficial to find coping skills to move out of the situation, such as breathing, counting, walking.
When you find yourself in a confrontation, with your friend or loved one, remember you can reach out and communicate with them. This will help them get to know you and your emotions better.
Speak With a Mental Health Professional
If anger is a difficult feeling to manage, working with an expert can be a life-changing experience. The truth is that our feelings are hard to decipher, cope with, and manage. When you have these moments, it is important to acknowledge them and be action-oriented. In some cases, the best thing to do is to reach out to a life coach or therapist who will work with you towards achieving anger management.
Working with a life coach or therapist is a journey and keeping an open mind will assist you in making the most of your sessions. As well, expect that it may take a few attempts to find the right fit.
Therapists can help teach healthy ways to manage and express your anger. Mental health professionals have many tools and techniques to help you with your anger.
Nature has natural healing properties that are easy to access. As little as 20 minutes a day of walking outdoors can help to reduce anxiety, stress and tension.
It can sometimes be difficult finding the time to get outside. Some positive techniques to getting outdoors include setting up reminders to walk and scheduling hikes during the weekend. We suggest learning more about hiking trails in your area that you can easily access.
Going for a walk, listening to music, or simply distracting oneself through people watching can be enough to calm heavy feelings of anger, sadness, or stress. Giving yourself space and moving your body will often operate to reduce intense feelings of anger or anxiety.
If you are intent on improving your ability to manage your anger, we strongly believe that working with a therapist or life coach will be your answer. We specialize in anger management, talk therapy, assertiveness training, and many other services. Our passion is helping and supporting our clients so that they can live out their best life. Contact us for more information.