With so many tumultuous topics swirling in the news lately, you or someone you care about may be feeling some frustration or anger. That’s natural.
However, not coping with feelings of anger over time can be bad for your health. It’s harmful to turn your anger inward. And it’s bad for relationships to turn anger outward.
The American Psychological Association points out that some people get angry more easily than others. Researchers have found individuals who anger easily often come from families that are short tempered and lacking in good emotional communication skills. A person’s genetics may also play a role in how they react to frustrations. Anger management issues can affect people of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds.
Individuals who anger easily tend to have a low tolerance for frustration and may feel they shouldn’t have to be subjected to frustrations or annoyances. They may view circumstances they’re in as an attack on their dignity. And they may feel they shouldn’t have to suffer the indignity. Angry individuals may feel they’re morally right.
They may display their anger verbally or physically. Or they may display anger by being irritable or grumpy. Some people with poor anger management skills may even become physically ill.
We may not have the ability to change what angers us. A better approach for your mental and overall health is to learn ways you can better manage frustration and anger.
How Can We Better Control Feelings of Anger?
There are a number of approaches you can use to better manage anger. Some may work better for you than others.
- Pause before speaking. If you hear a comment or are in a situation that bothers you, take a few moments or more to collect your thoughts before you respond. Slowing the pace of a heated exchange also allows others time to consider their comments.
- Use “I” statements. Rather than using accusing phrases such as, “You never….” Or “You always…” try explaining your frustrations by saying something like “I get frustrated when…” or “I’m unhappy that…” Remember, no one can take away how you feel, but they may be able to help remedy the situation. In your “I” statements, be specific and considerate.
- Offer solutions. Once you’ve explained what frustrates you, suggest ways others may be able to help address the issues that frustrate you. After all, anger without a solution won’t resolve anything. A compromise may be an effective way to satisfy everyone involved with the situation.
- Let negative feelings go. Carrying negative thoughts only weighs you down emotionally. Forgiveness can be remarkably liberating.
- Use exercise to reduce your stress. A physical activity you enjoy, such as a brisk walk/run or yoga can refresh you mentally. It can also give you time to think of solutions to problems.
- Take time to relax. These simple things can help relieve stress. Taking time every day to relax can have be a positive for your overall mental health. You may want to schedule personal time to relax — when you can take 15 minutes to take a break from the rush of the day.
- Use humor to dampen anger. Don’t take yourself too seriously. If you feel you shouldn’t be subjected to the indignity of a given situation, picture yourself as a king or queen, and you always get your way. As you mentally create your mental picture, include lots of details — the more outrageous, the better. This mental imaging can help us see the relative insignificance of many situations that may prompt anger. Note: Using sarcasm for humor can hurt other people and make things worse.
- Change your situation. If, for example, the driving of others makes you angry, try taking less congested routes or take public transportation. Keep in mind that research suggests that angry drivers are more aggressive, take more risks and report more near misses and accidents than drivers who are less angry.
If you find you routinely argue with your spouse at night when you’re tired, look for other times to discuss important topics. Openly discuss ways you can avoid arguments.
If you get angry with your child about a messy room, close the door, or calmly sit down with the child and discuss the disadvantages of a messy room. (How many bugs live under the mess? Will they come out after dark? How bad will the clothes smell in a few days when worn to school?) Humor can be a great tool when discussing the disadvantages of a messy room. Have your child come up with disadvantages, too. Work together to come up with a reasonable plan for dealing with the mess.
- Seek ways to improve communications. Avoid words like “never” or “always” as in, “This printer never works when I need it.” Or “You always leave the drawer out when you leave.” These types of statements tend to give you a false sense that your anger is justified. The truth is, exaggerated claims aren’t accurate and tend to reduce the strength of your argument.
Angry people often jump to unreasonable conclusions. Use suggestion #1, pause before speaking. And then listen carefully to others. If you’re criticized, work to understand what’s behind the criticism. Others may have some valid points.
- Change the way you think. In anger, thinking can become exaggerated. You may think, “This is horrible. Everything is ruined.” Instead, take a different approach and say something like, “This is frustrating. I’m upset, but it’s not the end of the world. Getting angry won’t change anything anyway.”
We all want things to go our way. Being demanding about getting your way can lead to anger that may not be entirely justified.
- Know when you should get professional help. Anger is a normal emotion. It’s rooted in our reaction to threats. The aggression prompted by anger can help us fight when we’re attacked.
However, excessive or misplaced anger in the wrong situations can negatively affect our physical and mental health. If anger is negatively affecting your relationships or your life, professional help may be the right step for you. Treatments can include counseling, therapies and/or medications. If you or someone you know has anger issues, visit with your health care professional.
The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.