It’s time to get down to brass tax and talk about practical tools for anger. What really works? The following considerations are very important:
You may be feeling very justified in your anger. If so, analyze the situation. What is going on? Is there a way for you to remove yourself from this? Is it a situation that repeats itself (such as a co-worker or supervisor who is treating you poorly)? If you feel the anger is justified, and you cannot avoid the situation, then it most likely boils down to HOW you channel and express your anger.
This is critical. Whatever you do, DO NOT stuff your anger within. Doing this will inevitably lead to additional problems for you: high blood pressure, heart problems, depression, anxiety, and more. Especially depression. There's a trite but true old saying "Anger turned inward creates depression". More often than not, this is true. More on coping skills for depression here.
If you have trouble expressing anger, consider seeing me (or another mental health expert that you trust) for a consult. There are healthy outlets for this powerful emotion.
For starters, here are some great ways to express your anger:
Now that we've discussed some tools for anger management, let's look at the tendency we humans have to make things bigger than they sometimes are.
For some of us, anger is a habitual way of responding to certain people or situations. While the bullet points listed in the previous paragraph can help, if you find yourself in this situation, you most likely need to examine how you think about things.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT, which I’ve referenced in other parts of this website) can be a very useful way of addressing this type of anger. For more on CBT click here. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is another wonderful model with plenty of helpful ideas and tools for coming to grips with anger.
CBT can help you pinpoint specific events and thoughts that are behind your anger. Best of all, it can also help you change these to something more realistic for your situation--in other words, you learn to see a molehill for what it really is!
Another important factor to consider is that anger can make someone feel temporarily powerful and strong. Do not underestimate this. Take a good look at yourself to see whether or not this is true for you. If it is, you’ll need to figure out other, healthier ways to feel powerful.
A very simple truth about the human brain is that the more emotionally aroused we are (whether it’s anger, frustration, elation, or another emotion) at any moment, the less clearly we are thinking at that moment. Period.
Thus, the more intense you allow your anger to become, the less mental capacity you have. You may kick into auto pilot, and the ‘fight or flight’ response will take over at some point. This is when we say and do things that we later regret!
For this reason, it is important that you learn to recognize the early warning signs of your anger. Consider the following:
Journaling and/or talking with someone are great ways to reflect on this after the fact. Check out my page on the many benefits of journaling. Don’t be too hard on yourself for losing your temper. Learn from it. Keep working at it. You CAN learn to channel your anger and/or work through it. When applied consistently over time, these tools for anger will prove quite useful in your quest!