Have you found yourself beating on your steering wheel with a clenched jaw when you get cut off in traffic? Or, have you ever noticed your blood pressure skyrocketing after a conflict with your colleague? Let’s be honest…many of us have experienced a time when our anger truly got the best of us and we found ourselves struggling to overcome it. This crazy ride we call life certainly throws many obstacles at us that downright makes us want to rip our hair out sometimes…you are certainly not alone in that struggle.
Anger can be defined as “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility”. Anger is a normal and healthy emotion that we will experience throughout our lives. However, it is important to be mindful of how you are expressing your anger. Uncontrolled anger can have long-term negative impacts on your physical health including high blood pressure, digestive issues, headaches, and more. So, how exactly can you overcome and cope with your anger? Read along for 5 practical tips you can apply to manage your anger in a healthy manner.
1) Understand and Identify Your Anger Triggers and Warning Signs
To find healthy outlets and coping mechanisms for anger, it is important first to understand what your triggers are. It can be tricky to identify triggers because some of the triggers may not be blatantly obvious. First, pay attention to what your warning signs for anger are and this can help you determine patterns and identify triggers. Take notice of what physical sensations or thoughts you experience when you find yourself getting angry. You might notice your muscles tense up, your heart beats faster, your voice grows louder, clenching your first, you have a strong urge to cry, and more. Think about what was occurring before these anger warning signs began and that can clue us into potential triggers. Examples of anger triggers include boundary violations, feeling betrayed, feeling disrespected, experiencing a loss in life, feeling powerless in a situation, and more.
It is also encouraged to be mindful of what may be lurking underneath anger. Often anger is just the tip of the iceberg and many feelings hide under the surface that may need to be expressed as well. Many individuals consider anger a safer emotion to show than more vulnerable emotions such as feeling hurt, jealous, insecure, disappointed, and more. Take some time to reflect and journal about what angered you in the first place and what may be contributing to that anger. You might be surprised at what comes up for you.
2) Calm Your Nervous System and Find An Outlet
Relaxation skills such as slow and controlled deep belly breathing, mindfulness, meditation, relaxing imagery, affirmation use, and progressive muscle relaxation can help calm your nervous system and assist your body with coming out of the fight, flight, or freeze response. It is important to practice these skills regularly when you are not feeling emotionally dysregulated so that when the time comes to use these skills, you will be prepared.
Finding an outlet that allows for the healthy expression of your anger can be incredibly beneficial. Examples of healthy outlets for anger include journaling, high-intensity exercise, attending a rage room where you can safely break items, a cathartic scream, and creative expression such as painting. Reflect on how you feel before and after you engage in these outlets and relaxation skills to see which of these methods works best for you.
3) Use Assertive Communication and I-Statements
If your anger has risen due to a conflict with someone, it can be helpful to revisit the conversation once you have taken some time to calm your nervous system and can revisit the conversation with a clear head. Using assertive communication skills and I-statements can help you remain clear and consistent with the message you are trying to convey. Assertive communication can be defined as a communication style where you express your needs and wants while taking into consideration the needs and wants of others. To communicate assertively you want to maintain eye contact, use concise language to express your thoughts, maintain a steady pace of speech and tone, listen without interrupting, and express your needs, wants, and opinions. It may be helpful to engage in self-soothing practices throughout the conversation if necessary to ensure calm and clear communication.
The I-statement structure is: “I feel (emotion) when (explanation)”. Using this sentence structure encourages you to identify your emotion and take responsibility for your thoughts and feelings. Using you-statements can cause the other person to feel like you are placing blame or attacking them which can lead to a defensive response and start an argument. Examples of I-statements include: “I feel hurt and unimportant when you look at your phone while we are having a conversation.” and “I feel undesired when you don’t initiate physical intimacy with me.”
4) When In Doubt, Laugh It Out
Have you ever had a rough day where it was just one thing after another and eventually found yourself just laughing at how ridiculously awful the day was? It is honestly amazing how empowering and healing laughter can be. The “laughter is the best medicine” quote is truly onto something. Stand-up comedians often use unfortunate and anger-inducing scenarios they have experienced to fuel their comedic routines. Take a page out of their book and find a way to laugh and make light of difficult situations, when appropriate. Laughter can trigger the release of endorphins, diffuse tension, and help individuals feel connected. However, be mindful of using sarcasm as a means to strike up laughter in a tense conversation with someone. This just might throw gasoline on the fire when used in conflict with others.
5) Reach Out to a Professional
If you notice that your anger is negatively impacting multiple areas of your life including your career or interpersonal relationships, it may be time to reach out to a professional for support. A licensed mental health professional can help you navigate how to identify and challenge your thinking and behavior concerning anger. It is important to mention that anger is your primary concern when reaching out to prospective counselors to see if they feel that anger is within their scope of practice. It can be helpful to have someone unbiased and nonjudgmental to assist you with understanding your anger and finding healthier ways to overcome it. If you need support, our counselors at Natural Balance Counseling are here and ready to walk alongside you on this journey. Feel free to contact us today to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation to see if we would be a good fit for you.