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by Andrea M. Darcy
Rush hour travel, computer crashes, problematic relationships … at some point in our lives we will all feel angry. Anger management techniques mean anger doesn’t result in saying or doing things we regret, and can instead be productive.
But isn’t anger a bad thing?
Actually, this powerful emotion is perfectly normal, just like feelings of happiness, fear and sadness. When it stays within a natural and controlled range, anger is an integral aspect of our evolutionary make-up.
It helps us to instinctively detect and respond to threatening situations, as well as acts as a powerful motivating force to change aspects of our lives that we are dissatisfied with. And it helps us set firm personal boundaries to ensure our relationships are healthy.
The problem comes when anger is not within our control, or becomes rage.
When anger gets out of control
Y0u aren’t alone if you have a difficult time controlling your anger.
A survey conducted by the Mental Health Foundation, found that 28% of adults worry about how angry they sometimes feel. And 32% have a friend or relative who has problems dealing their anger.
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Not only can uncontrolled anger cause serious distress to those around you, it can lead to mental and physical health problems. Explosive, “seeing red” rage, or repressed “bottled up” anger can lead to depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and lower immune system efficiency.
By acknowledging you have an issue, and by trying to understand your anger and get the right help to start managing it? You have made a powerful and important first step to better health and happiness for both you and those around you.
Taking small steps and with plenty of time and patience can mean you will begin to see substantial changes in the way you react to stressful situations. Here are just a few ideas to get you started.
1. Recognise the symptoms.
Staying alert to the physical signs of anger is an important first step, as well as being honest with yourself that they are starting. You might feel your heart beating faster, your body tensing, and your breathing rate becoming quicker.
These are the first signs that you should try and leave the stressful situation, and give yourself a chance to cool down and reduce the impulse to lash out.
Counting to ten is also a useful technique, along with trying to slow down your breathing rate by breathing out for longer than you breathe in. These techniques will help relax you, and help you think more clearly.
2. Learn to express yourself instead of explode.
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Anger issues can often stem from difficult childhood experiences that left us entirely out of touch with ourselves. Learning to identify your feelings, and then communicate your feelings calmly even when stressed, can nip tension in the bud before it becomes out-of-control anger.
There are many ways to start to get in touch with how you really feel, that also give you the space and time to think more clearly and recognise what past issues might be at play. These include:
3. Learn different ways of thinking.
Learning to widen and shift your perspective is a crucial tool of anger management. Notice how often you think or even say things like, “It’s not fair!”, and, “You never listen to me”, or, “You always do that”. These are all rigidly in your perspective only. Try to understand the other person’s perspective, and the bigger picture.
Also consider how you can start sentences with “I” instead of ‘you’, and what that teaches you about the moment. “I feel like things are going against me when….”. Why might that be? What does this say about you? Is this connected to past experiences? What is your part in creating this situation?
2. Exercise the anger out.
Engaging in physical exercise is a fantastic way of releasing pent up frustration. Exercise is now shown to reduce stress and improve your mood, by releasing chemicals called endorphins.
It doesn’t have to be a gruelling body work out (although many swear by sessions with a punching bag!). It can be anything from running to yoga. These activities can focus your mind away from the causes of anger, giving you time to think more clearly.
3. Use wellbeing choices as anger management aids.
Food is a crucial aspect of maintaining positive mood. Chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters are greatly influenced by our food intake. By eating regularly and healthy we can more easily maintain positive mood (‘hangry’ has made it into the lexicon for a reason).
Similarly, avoid alcohol and drugs. While many of us turn to these substances to relieve tensions, they can in fact lower our inhibitions which we need to stop us acting unacceptably when angry.
Getting enough sleep is also a crucial factor in being able to relax and maintain positive mood.
Can a therapist help me with anger management?
The techniques and changes mentioned above will take patience and time, and the process is made far easier with proper support. Your GP will have details on local anger management courses or counselling that could help you.
Alternatively, there are a wide range of private anger management therapists who can help, and will employ a variety of different therapeutic tools to suit. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is currently a very popular short-term therapy used to treat anger problems. It focuses on changing the way you think about certain situations, and looks at how to improve your coping mechanisms.
Ready to stop letting anger ruin your life? We connect you with highly regarded anger management counselling with a team of counselling psychologists and psychotherapists who all have at least ten years of experience. Or use our sister site to book UK-wide registered therapists based on client reviews.
Andrea M. Darcy is a mental health and wellbeing expert and personal development teacher with training in person-centred counselling and coaching, as well a popular psychology writer. Follow her on Instagram for useful life tips @am_darcy