Here Are Some of the Best Ways to Handle Anger

Anger is a powerful emotion. It takes skill to learn how to handle anger well.

With the mounting divisiveness in our culture, it’s a good idea to brush up on a few anger management strategies.

Anger Basics

Anger isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, some anger can be good…even lifesaving.

For example, a flash of anger can trigger our “fight or flight” response helping to protect us in dangerous situations. Anger also motivates us to take action and stand up for things like justice. And interpersonally, healthy expressions of anger can foster more harmonious relationships.

Yet, anger’s fiery nature means it can be highly destructive if it goes unchecked.

Types of Anger

Did you know there are different types of anger? Here are just a few:

  • Impulsive, externalized anger can destroy relationships in a moment, or worse, lead to aggression and violence.
  • Passive-aggressive anger often expresses itself as cynicism, hostility, putting others down, or being highly critical.
  • Internalized, repressed anger is highly destructive, and can lead to mental health problems such as low mood, addiction, and low self-esteem, as well as issues with interpersonal relationships and general health.

Physiologically, anger is associated with cardiovascular health issues and lowered immune function.

It’s essential to health and well-being to know how to calm anger when needed, understand it, use it constructively, and take measures to ensure it doesn’t burn out of control.

Here are some proven tips to help you handle anger better.

Handle Anger Better with These 7 Calming Steps

  1. Practice Deep Breathing

One surefire way to dial down intense, acute anger, is to do some deep breathing exercises.

Breathing from your belly calms the fight or flight response that often gets activated with sharp anger. It can help you to think more clearly and calm feelings of anxiousness too.

Here’s a simple exercise you can use the next time you feel anger rising.

Breathing with your diaphragm (or stomach) rather than your chest:

  • Inhale for a count of 3 to 4 seconds
  • Pause for beat
  • Exhale for a count of 6 to 8 seconds
  • Pause for a beat
  • Repeat this pattern 10 times

The calming effects of deep breathing are usually immediate.

  1. Drop Any Judgments

There can be a lot of shame tied to anger, especially if you have emotional outbursts that involve other people. Try to have compassion for yourself. Life is full of challenging stressors.

Relationship conflicts, family issues, financial stress, memories of painful events, work problems, and the frustrations we encounter every day can easily wake the tiger of anger.

Don’t judge your feelings but take responsibility for your actions. Make amends, if needed. Then focus your efforts on learning to calm that inner tiger.

  1. Get Curious

Handle Anger 2Anger is a signal that something is amiss. We generally experience it when we feel the need to defend ourselves. Get curious about it.

Mental health experts often refer to anger as a secondary emotion that covers up any number of primary emotions. Anger is more protective, while primary emotions leave us feeling vulnerable, which can be very uncomfortable.

These types of emotions may include feelings of sadness/grief, abandonment, betrayal, fear, loneliness, insecurity/lack of safety, being taken advantage of, shame, and more.

So, when you feel angry, ask yourself what other emotions might be lurking beneath the surface, driving the anger.

  1. Practice Self-Care

Adults aren’t unlike small children – when our most basic needs go unmet, we can get very cranky!

Ensuring you get plenty of restful sleep is an essential self-care strategy. Also, eat an abundance of brain healthy foods like lean protein (especially in the morning!), colorful fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats. Avoid excessive alcohol, caffeine, and refined carbohydrates as they can disturb sleep, spike blood sugar levels, and fuel anger.

Providing your brain with the restorative sleep it needs helps to balance hormones, which can help regulate anger. Keeping blood sugar levels steady helps to promote a more positive mood. Of course, getting regular exercise is a fantastic way to boost mood and keep anger in check.

  1. Learn to Communicate Constructively

Experts suggest that you express your anger or frustration in a simple, direct, and nonconfrontational manner. Communicate your concerns and needs clearly and check yourself for any hidden desire to hurt or control.

Think constructively and identify potential solutions. Speak only in “I” statements. Always be respectful.

Don’t be accusatory and stay away from statements with “always” and “never.” The more specific you can be when expressing yourself, the better. For example, “I’m frustrated because I’m doing the dishes every day, and I’d like you to pitch in” instead of “You never do the dishes, and I can’t stand it any longer.”

  1. Be Open to a New Perspective

Our minds often tell us things that aren’t true. It may not actually be the situation that makes us angry, but what we think about the situation.

Our minds have thousands of thoughts every day, and many of them are automatic negative thoughts (ANTs). These ANTs may make up all sorts of things about events, people, and situations.

Question them. You’ll likely feel less angry if you choose a different thought.

Psychologists call this technique cognitive reframing. Another helpful practice is to imagine being in another person’s shoes. Try to see a situation from their perspective.

  1. Cultivate Relaxation

In addition to deep breathing and excellent self-care, find ways to bring more relaxation into your life.

That may include practicing a hobby or going on a travel adventure. It might be reading a book (rather than scrolling through social media!) on your lunch break. Perhaps it’s playing fun and social sports like pickleball.

Take up a meditation practice. Get out into nature. Research shows that people who spend time in nature tend to have less anger and hostility.

Anger Is Serious

Anger issues aren’t to be taken lightly. If your anger feels out of control, causes you to act in ways you regret, or harms those around you, reach out to a mental health professional for help.

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Kim Henderson
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