What is anger management
Anger management techniques are essential if we wish to learn how to manage anger.
Unlike what many people believe, anger is a natural emotion that we use to express our grief.
The grief that we feel whenever we feel powerless or when life gives us something we did not expect.
It is something we all feel and there is nothing wrong about it. What is important is how we manage that anger.
Failing to manage anger might not only hamper your close relationships but also lead to several health issues.
Sustained feelings of anger turn to resentment, which can cause anxiety and depression.
This leads to health problems like headaches, high blood pressure; digestive issues even skin diseases, and heart problems.
Apart from damage to your health and your close relationships, anger can push you in a life of violent behaviour, abuse or crime.
This can lead to loss of self-esteem and sustained mental health problems.
Thus, it is important that we understand our anger and learn how to manage it properly.
Understanding how anger works
Let us first understand how anger works. Something negative and unexpected happens around to you or in your surroundings.
Now you interpret it and you feel a bunch of emotions, anger might be one of them.
This is the feeling of anger, something about which you can do nothing. We cannot control how we feel on the spot.
We can however work on it over the long term so that we have a better interpretation than we had before, but more on that later.
Therefore, you see, the feeling of anger is not the problem. How you ‘react’ to those feelings however can be a problem.
Do you lash out in anger, maybe you try to walk away or avoid that subject?
After the moment of reaction has passed, you might hold on to anger. Sometimes for a long time.
Dr Abraham Joshua Twerski, a psychiatrist specialising in substance abuse calls them the 3 stages of anger.
The first stage is where you have the feeling of anger.
The second stage is where you react to anger which he calls Rage.
The final stage of anger where you hold on to anger is what he calls Resentment.
Why anger is your friend
There is a lot of stigma associated with anger. Some of that is for good reason. Our brain perceives anger as a threat.
We guide children to avoid feelings of anger from a very young age. This anger aversion leads to people developing an unhealthy relationship with their anger.
Researchers believe that anger is responsible for our survival. Anger was a way for our ancestors to communicate with each other.
By getting angry, they could communicate with each other if they felt something was fair or not.
I recommend that you check out an experiment that shows a monkey getting angry in response to the unfairness of unequal pay. –
As Ryan Martin explained in his ted talk, when people feel angry they have an increased heart rate and breathing.
Their bodies go in a fight or flight state, this provides them with the attention and energy they need at that moment.
Apart from those, your body also makes some subtle changes where your mouth goes dry because your body needs to conserve energy by slowing your digestive system.
Your increased heart rate helps the blood to reach to your extremities, which is why your face turns red.
All these changes helped our ancestors survive against the harsh conditions of nature.
Instead of avoiding anger, we need to accept anger as an ally. It is a natural motivator that encourages us to fight against things we feel are unjust or unfair.
Common Ways people deal with anger
As we learned above, anger puts you in a fight or flight state.
Either you will let anger control you and fight or you will run away (try to) from your feelings of anger by denying them or suppressing them.
In both cases, you are not confronting your anger.
If you let your anger control you, it will inevitably lead to irrational and regretful decision making.
One where you might not only harm yourself but also hurt people close to you by your actions or words that you can never take back.
You might think that you are better off running away from anger than expressing it immediately but this comes along with a host of other problems that lead to catastrophic long-term consequences.
The Need for anger management
By supressing your anger you are actively creating a behaviour pattern which betrays your sense of right and wrong.
It not only lowers your self-esteem but also eventually creates an environment around you where people can easily take advantage of you.
This by itself is bad enough but it comes with a host of physiological problems that build in your body that we mentioned before.
So what should you do when you are angry? Is there any other way to manage anger?
Instead of fight or flight, which comes from the emotional part of our brain we can choose to act the rational part of our brain.
It will take time and effort to cultivate, but it will be worth it.
Now we know how important it is to manage anger, let us look at the steps we should take to deal with anger correctly at the different stages of anger.
Feeling of anger
The first stage of anger is the feeling of anger.
This feeling comes naturally by the circumstances around you. However, there are a few ways to work on it.
Acting on the following anger management techniques over the long term will reduce the feelings of irrational and destructive anger-
Step 1.Identify triggers for anger management
If you have a short fuse and you have a habit of getting angry over small things then the first thing you should do is to focus on what triggers that anger.
Analysing what triggers your anger can help you plan your day differently.
You can either avoid the things that make you angry or prepare in advance for the trigger so that you can increase the gap between the stimuli and your response.
Step 2.Recognize warning signs
As discussed above, anger induces physiological changes in your body.
When you get angry, it is likely that your breathing and/or heart rate increases, your body feels stiff or you begin to speak loudly.
Observe what physiological changes your body goes through when you start feeling angry.
Once you know them, they will act as warning signs before you react with anger.
Step 4.Make it a goal
Reacting when you get angry is a behaviour pattern and you can change it over time just like any other unhealthy habit.
Set up a goal to change it over time and evaluate your progress over time.
Let us say your first goal is to refrain from shouting at your children. How long would it take to reach this goal?
Can you walk away when you feel angry? Are you interpreting their behaviour fairly or making a big thing out of nothing?
Step 5.Manage your thoughts
Angry thoughts lead to more anger.
If you find yourself thinking about angry thoughts, it is a good idea to reframe those thoughts.
Instead of distorting the reality with unrealistic predictions, you can reframe the thought process by only looking at the facts with kindness and compassion.
If your partner repeats the same mistake repeatedly, you can stay calm and realise that changing unhealthy habits are hard.
Appreciate the little effort they are putting in instead of giving up.
Step 6.Evaluate your anger
Before acting on how you feel ask yourself if the anger you are feeling is constructive or not.
If you are witnessing something that is unfair or unjust and feeling angry, it might be constructive anger.
If on the other hand your anger is over something irrational and causes you to react regrettably then that anger is destructive.
The anger you feel is an agent of change. Your constructive anger can give you the motivation you need to get up and act to change circumstances you face.
Step 7.Gratitude for anger management
Take a moment to focus on all the things for which you are grateful.
Realizing you have plenty of things to be grateful for instead of feeling that everything is wrong might help you manage your anger.
Gratitude has a multitude of benefits, which we discuss in our blog titled, the surprising benefits of gratitude.
Step 8.Open to honest criticism
It is easy to go in denial and not acknowledge your faults.
If someone close to you points out a perspective that is in your best interest, take a moment and consider it before dismissing it outright and getting angry.
If you have an attitude where you constantly want to improve, this will get easier over time.
Actively seek criticism, it will help you get thick skin and give you a different outlook on things in the process.
Step 9.Judgements and labels
It is easy to judge people; however, empathy takes patience and effort.
Having judgements and labels is being intellectually lazy and closed-minded.
Anytime you feel angry, take a step back and think whether you are being fair and rational to the other person.
This approach will provide you with the ‘Freedom to choose’ your response and in the long term also improve your self-esteem.
When you refrain from judging other people, you are also less likely to judge yourself.
Step 10.Be Proactive
It is easy to pin the blame everywhere else. Proactive people, instead of playing the blame game take responsibility in their own hands and focus on solutions.
If you think that you can change the situation you are in, the first thing you need to do is accept responsibility for your current situation.
Proactive people over time develop a solution oriented outlook and thus don’t spend much time in the first stage of anger.
Reaction to anger, Anger management for Rage.
The second stage is where you react to anger. This is where you have to choose your actions in response to the stimuli of circumstances.
Unlike the feeling of anger, which is a long-term process, reaction to anger is what you can work the moment you feel angry.
The following anger management techniques will help you manage your rage-
Step 1.Deep breathing
When angry or stressed people usually breathe in shallow breaths from the chest.
They usually take in more than 15-20 breaths in a minute without even realizing it. When you are angry, try to take deep breaths from your diaphragm.
Inhale fully and hold for a few seconds, then exhale slowly. Deep breathing in this way where you breathe 4-5 breaths a minute will help you calm down.
Step 2.Stop talking
When you are in an intense argument, it might be tempting to lash out and let the other person know how you feel at that moment.
Giving into that feeling will however more often than not lead to regrets later on. The first thing you should do when you catch yourself being angry is to stop talking.
Take a moment and collect your thoughts. Decisions made in an emotional state are less likely to serve you in the long term.
Explain to the other person that you are not avoiding the subject of conversation but instead working on managing your anger.
Also by taking a time out, you can have enough time to revisit the issue once you feel calm.
Set a date with the other person so you can discuss this issue again so that they do not feel as if you are running away from difficult subjects.
Step 4.Practice relaxation
Visualise yourself in a stress free environment. It can be a beach or a rainforest. Try to use the senses of touch, smell and taste while you visualize.
Progressive muscle relaxation and visualization induce a relaxed state in your body that can counteract the negative physiological changes your body experiences during anger.
If not that, try listening to relaxing music, always works for me.
Step 5.Change focus
The word no in English language does not register an image in your mind.
This is why when I say do not think about a pink elephant; you cannot help but think about a pink elephant.
Instead of telling yourself, “don’t think about it” you should focus on some other mentally stimulating task.
By focussing on something else your mind will be occupied enough that you won’t spend time in a downward spiral of angry thoughts
Step 6.Express anger when you are calm
If you felt that something the other person did was not fair, you can talk to them about it once you are calm.
If you have problem addressing an issue without being angry, consult your close friends as to what would be a calm response in that situation.
Explain what you felt was wrong in a polite way without trying to hurt them or control them. For more on this check our blog on ‘How to avoid arguments.‘
Step 7.Exercise for anger management
Physical exercise releases stress and anxiety, which is sometimes the reason for your anger.
Go for a run around your house or visit the gym. Exercise makes you feel calm and helps you clear your mind.
If you were angry and went out for a walk, more often than not, you will come back with a better perspective.
Step 8.Calm down ritual for anger management
If your work always leaves you stressed or anxious and you take that anger out on your friends or family, you should create a calm down ritual.
You can designate a place, some music, maybe something you like to eat or drink that you can come home to. Meditation for even 5-10 minutes can help massively.
As soon as you reach home, you can follow the ritual so that you can disconnect from the stress of work when you are at home.
Often time people use humour as a tool to look at tragedy with calmness.
Humour can diffuse tension in the worst times.
It helps you de-escalate stressful situations and calm down.
Make sure your humour does not turn into passive aggressive taunts or irony and sarcasm, which can hurt other people’s feelings.
Most problems that we face in our life tend to repeat. We get angry at the same things repeatedly.
If none of the above steps work for you, and if you just do this it will be good enough.
Take some time and meditate on how you are going to approach the situation if it ever repeats in the future.
This time that you take for yourself gives you plenty of ways that you can calmly deal with the situation without blowing the anger switch.
Holding on to anger, anger management for Resentment.
The final phase of anger is where you hold on to it. Especially if you are the kind of person that avoids confrontation or just runs away from anger this one can be harmful.
This is because you are pushing down more and more anger inside you. Here are the anger management techniques you can use to deal with resentment-
Step 1.Let go of grudges
Forgiveness is a virtue. Everyone makes mistakes and people that accept their mistakes deserve a second chance.
That being said, forgiveness is also good for selfish reasons.
When you hold on to grudges, you are giving all your energy to someone else instead of focussing on your own life.
By forgiving past mistakes you cultivate strong relationships as well as have more peace of mind.
Step 2.Reach the root cause of anger
A bunch of different emotions accompanies feeling angry. Evaluate why is it that you are holding on to anger for such a long time.
Using the five why method, you can reach the root cause of your anger. To cure our resentment it is important that we identify the real reason for our anger.
Just holding on to anger doesn’t fix anything however if you can acknowledge the root cause you can start working on it.
Step 3.Maintain a journal for anger management
Inner work is hard. Maintaining a journal and writing in it how you really feel can bring you a lot of clarity.
Maintaining an anger journal will help you figure out the faulty behaviour patterns and coping mechanisms.
This will not only help you in letting go of your resentments but also make it easier to respond and not react when you feel angry.
To be Mindful is to gain back the control of your mind. It is when you pay attention to the present and let go of worries about past or future.
In Taoist philosophy, it is referred to as Wu-Wei. It takes patience and practice to be mindful but meditation can help you a long way in reaching there.
In our blog on How to tame the mind, we explain how you can practice meditation and be more mindful.
Step 5.Seek help for anger management
If you are struggling with anger problems, you might seek professional help as a last resort.
There is a lot of stigma associated with it, which is why people avoid it.
However, anger issues may be linked to deep-seated mental health problems.
PTSD and other several types of depressive disorders can make it difficult to manage anger.
Also building a strong support system around you can help you deal with anger issues in a healthy way.
There it is. 25 anger management techniques you can use to deal with your anger. Everyone is different but I am sure some of these are bound to work for you.
Humans are rational beings and we are supposed to change our surroundings to our will, not the other way round.
Giving in to irrational urges of anger is us being influenced by our surroundings and acting in a regretful manner.
The work you put into the first stage of anger will benefit you in the second stage and the work you put in the second stage of anger will eventually benefit you in dealing with the third stage.
This week try to identify what makes you angry and start working on those issues.
For those who reached this far here is a bit of bonus advice when dealing with any stage of anger.
Separate yourself from your own thought processes and observe what goes on in your mind.
As Dalai lama said and I am paraphrasing-
“Your feelings of anger are like waves of the ocean. Just like waves come and go over time but underneath the ocean remains calm. Similarly, the feelings of anger come and go from one ear and out the other however underneath there is calm and bliss.”
We provide a free eBook called The perfect beginning that might help you out.
Well, that’s all for this post. Have a good day and a good life.