By Angela Williams, Staff Counselling Sessional Counsellor.
Today is the start of National Anger Awareness Week, which aims to help people befriend anger by using the right tools to calm themselves down and to deal effectively with this emotion, be it their own or that of others. This post gives you some information on how to identify anger and manage your response to it.
Anger is a healthy emotion that everybody has, therefore it is perfectly normal to feel angry. When we become angry our body reacts by producing adrenalin, this can at times be invigorating, giving us more energy, but it can also make us feel tense and uncomfortable, sending us into a ‘fight or flight’ mode. How we deal with these reactions is the difference between managing and not managing our anger. If a person struggles to control their anger this can become unpleasant and intimidating both for the person experiencing the anger and for those around them.
The first step to starting to manage anger is to be aware of the signs, some of these may be:
- Heart beating faster and breathing more quickly.
- Feeling tension in your body, for example your shoulders.
- Clenching your fists.
Being aware of some of these signs initially can be an indication to move away from the situation or a need to implement some techniques to bring the anger back to a healthy emotion.
Count to 10. Give yourself time to calm down and think more clearly before having impulsive angry reactions.
- Breathing slowly and deeply. Breathe out for longer than you breathe in, and relax as you breathe out.
- Use a relaxation technique such as a meditation.
Once you are more aware of the signs that you’re getting angry and can calm yourself down, you can start looking at ways to control your anger more generally. For example:
- Talking about how you are feeling could help and you may be able to see the situation from a different perception. It can also stop you suppressing your anger.
- Being aware of your diet. Food can affect your mood. Lack of certain nutrients can make you feel irritable and weak, and so a healthy diet is likely to help you feel more in control of your feelings.
- Exercise and relaxation can help reduce your general stress levels, running, walking, cycling, swimming, yoga and meditation are just a few of the activities that can help.
- Making sure you have enough sleep is also important, being tired can automatically make us irritable without any additional anger triggers.
- Drugs and alcohol can make anger problems worse. “They lower inhibitions, and actually we need inhibitions to stop us acting unacceptably when we’re angry,” says clinical psychologist Isabel Clarke, a specialist in anger management.
- Just recognising what is making you angry can sometimes be very helpful, so keep note of the triggers, but if you find it difficult to recognise your triggers, seeing a counsellor to explore your feelings and the reasons around these patterns may also help. To help find these triggers ask yourself questions such as:
What were the circumstances?
Did someone say or do something to trigger your anger?
How did you feel?
How did you behave?
How did you feel afterwards?
- Painting, writing, music, dance and role play can all be a creative and positive ways to help explore and release some of the emotions around expressing anger.
Think about the way you think, not everybody has the same views as you do. Try to see things from others perspectives.
Getting help with anger
If you feel you need help dealing with your anger, you can refer to the Staff Counselling Service or you can see your GP.
You can read more to get further tips on managing anger.