Anger is a normal and healthy reaction to many situations that served an important role in our survival when we were primitive beings. Today it can still be useful, though those situations are fewer than they once were, and chronic anger has become a common problem. In these cases, various anger management tips can be used to control angry outburst and prevent it from negatively affecting your life.
Chronic anger is an emotional condition that’s closely related to chronic stress and depression. It’s also a common problem, and a survey from the Mental Health Foundation in America found that 28% of adults worry about their anger levels and 32% know someone else who does. Anger is also more common in men (due to their higher amounts of testosterone among other factors) and is linked to high blood pressure, heart attack, depression, anxiety, digestive problems and a lowered immune system. As anger triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response it has many of the same health implications as prolonged stress and can thus result in a variety of conditions if the body isn’t given a chance to rest. Furthermore, Anger can cause individuals to act out of character – shouting at loved ones or strangers and potentially even resorting to violence. This can result in damaged relationships, injury, law breaking behaviour and loss of jobs and is why it’s so important to follow anger management tips to control your anger before it controls you.
The first step towards dealing with anger is to identify it as such. This can be achieved by recognising the physical indicators. These are contextual and generally similar to the physical signs of fear and stress (which are also caused by endorphins) but occur in situations that seem to involve trespass or injustice. Specifically these signs include a racing heart rate and rapid breathing, tension in the muscles, clenching of the fists and reddening of the cheeks and other areas (along with possibly protruding veins and arteries) as blood rushes to the surface. You should also be able to recognise the emotion itself which results in the desire to lash out coupled with impaired reasoning and judgement.
Once you’ve identified yourself as angry you should then utilise anger management tips to try and ‘cool yourself off’. The first of these anger management tips is to get yourself out of the situation that’s causing the anger if possible – if you distance yourself from the cause then you can’t over react and you won’t exacerbate your bad mood. If you cannot remove yourself from the situation then you should try to remove yourself ‘mentally’ by taking a step back and counting to ten. This works as anger is often an impulsive and short lived response to a specific event or stimulus – and that’s when you can do something regrettable. By taking ten seconds though you will separate yourself from the situation and allow yourself to assess the situation more clearly. Another reason this works so well is that it prevents you from ‘ruminating’ on the situation in your head as you‘ll be too busy counting. This means that you can’t go over the scenario in your head and so make the problem seem worse as a result which cognitive behavioural therapists believe is a big part of any mood disorder.
As well as counting to ten, another of the most popular anger management tips is to attempt to control your breathing. This works due to the connection between anger and both your heart rate and your breathing (both of which are also interrelated). By controlling your breathing then you can more efficiently supply your brain with oxygen and slow your heart rate. Make sure you breath more slowly then and make your ‘out’ breath longer than the in breath. Another well know anger management technique that many people find effective is to try to go to a mental ‘happy place’, again as a means to distance themselves from the situation mentally, but also to reduce their heat rate and physical reaction by achieving a sense of ‘tranquillity’. This will work best for individuals with a particularly vivid visual imagination and the ‘happy place’ itself should consist of somewhere either real or imagined that creates a feeling of happiness and of calm. For example one might choose a holiday spot with a loved one as their happy place, or alternatively an imagined log cabin in scenic isolation and surrounded by the sounds of wildlife or a quiet stream.
Some individuals with severe cases choose to utilise a tool known as ‘biofeedback’ to control their anger. This sees the patient plugging themselves into a heart monitor and/or blood pressure monitor to allow them to more closely monitor their biological responses to external stimulus. It’s also possible to set such devices to alert the user as to when they are getting overly aroused which will allow them to immediately identify problem situations and respond accordingly. This gives the user the ability to get immediate feedback as to how well their anger control is working and so identify which anger management tips work for them. Eventually through practice the user learns to spot their elevated heart rate themselves and to utilise the best methods to lower it.
These anger management tips will help you to control your rage as it occurs, and eventually you may find that you become angry less often. There are however many other long term anger management tips you can utilise to prevent yourself from getting as angry in the first place. Obviously the first and best of these is to learn to identify the stressors in your life and deal with them accordingly. This way you are getting to the route of the problem rather than addressing only the symptoms – removing anger is no good if you’re still not happy with your life.
If you’re generally happy with your life however, or the stressors affecting your life are outside of your control, then there are still many ways you can calm your overall mood. The first of these is to exercise more, which will work in a variety of ways to lessen anger. Exercising itself is a great form of catharsis and many a gym goer describes themselves as taking aggression ‘out on the weights’ (a punching bag can work even better).
Furthermore however, exercise causes the release of endorphins (which is responsible for the commonly cited ‘runner’s high’) which affect the brain in much the same way as many recreational drugs resulting in euphoria and the numbing of pain. This makes exercise a great natural antidepressant, but even more than that it will also improve your lung capacity, the strength of your heart and your blood pressure and cholesterol which are all connected to anger.
Also on the lists of long-term anger management tips is to try engaging in a creative hobby such as painting, reading or playing an instrument. This completely focuses your mind and so prevents you from ruminating or getting aggravated. The high levels of concentration will also serve to slow your heart rate. For all the same reasons, many people also advocate the use of regular mediation to reduce anger levels in the long term. This again works by allowing you to let go of all your stress and silent your ‘inner voice’, again slowing your heart rate and reducing your overall levels of calm. While there is a certain stigma attached to meditation with those who think of it as being unusual or ‘hippy-ish’, it is actually being suggests by many medical experts and psychologists, and not only as one of their anger management tips. In cognitive behavioural therapy (a school of psychology), a form of meditation known as ‘mindfulness’ is used to detach yourself from your thoughts and thereby observe their contents. This way you can identify those that are damaging or in this case anger provoking and so recognise them when they arise in day to day situations. As a general rule try to avoid using phrases like ‘should’, ‘must’, ‘can’t’ and ‘unfair’ as these can create pressure and so anger. Try to recognise as well that most people who give you cause to be angry are either angry or insecure themselves – don’t allow their bad mood to affect you.
Your diet can also affect your mood and foods that promote the production of testosterone such as red meats and foods high in zinc. You should also aim to lower your intake of fats and carbohydrates while increasing the amount of fibre in your diet so as to combat high cholesterol. Similarly, certain medications can exacerbate a bad temper, particularly those that affect your hormones such as tribulus terrestris or increase irritability such as caffeine or guarana. Alcohol is also a culprit and those prone to angry outbursts should avoid drinking, particularly lager and cider. In severe cases where other methods of control are ineffective, sufferers should seek professional help from a counsellor or doctor and may wish also to begin a course in a medication such as anti-depressants. Anger management tips then should cover your entire lifestyle, and as well as addressing the symptoms you should be addressing your diet, health, exercise and medications.