Tools for Anger: Channeling it in a Healthy Way

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:

  • Be honest with yourself. Does the degree of your anger match the seriousness of the situation? In other words, is it justified from a rational standpoint? If so, then your anger is likely a normal reaction to an event or series of events. In this case, you need to think about a way to channel the emotional energy and work through it. See the next section for more on this scenario.
  • On the other hand, are you making mountains out of molehills? My mother used to ask me this question. When you return to a calm state of being, do you reflect on the scenario in which you were angry and think “Wow, I made more of that than I should have”? If this happens to you often, you need to consider that part of your anger problem lies in the way you are thinking or reacting to events. If you feel this is true for you, scroll down to the second paragraph.
  • Do you have a lot of anxiety and stress in your daily life? If so, excess or misplaced anger will feed these emotions. More on anxiety and stress here

I am Angry for Very Good Reasons!

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:

  • Depending on the situation, you may want to talk with the person or people whom you feel have treated you poorly. This is a judgement call, of course, depending on the level of risk (cost vs. reward) involved.
  • Exercise. The more vigorously you can healthfully do so, the better.
  • Write about it. Journaling can be a wonderful way of expressing anger. Furthermore, by going back and reading what you wrote, new insights for dealing with your situation usually emerge.
  • Talk with a trusted friend or a professional. Getting the perspective of someone who is removed from the emotion of the situation can be vital in helping you work through your anger and the situation itself. Let’s face it, when we’re triggered by someone or something, we’re not very objective (more on this in the third paragraph).
  • See a mental health professional. Anger management is one of my specialities, and there are many other professionals who can help you with this, too.

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.

I think I’m Making Mountains Out of Molehills--How do I stop?

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. 

One of the Major Tools for Anger Managment: Understanding the Inverse Link Between Emotional Intensity and Clear Thinking

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:

  • Where do you feel the anger in your body?
  • What thoughts do you have as you become angry?
  • How do your thoughts and feelings change as the anger intensifies?
  • Later on….when the anger has subsided: What triggered my anger to begin with?

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! 

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