Understanding and Managing Anger
Many of us have been taught from childhood to hide angry feelings. It’s as though anger is an ugly, unnatural emotion that we must keep to ourselves. And when we lose control and show our anger, we feel ashamed, embarrassed and guilty, because in the heat of the moment, we say and do things that can have disastrous results. If not properly controlled, our anger can ruin important relationships with our family, friends, neighbors and coworkers. Anger also can contribute to health problems such as high blood pressure, stomach problems and headaches.
It’s important to remember that while anger must be controlled, it is a normal, healthy emotion. We experience anger when we are uncomfortable with someone or some situation. Anger is a warning sign that lets us know “something must change.” And if controlled properly, anger can be useful to help us set healthy limits. If the waitress keeps ignoring your table, spills your coffee and confuses your order, anger helps motivate you to be assertive to get your needs met. You might talk to the restaurant manager, ask for a refund or choose another restaurant next time. If you pay attention to your anger, and let it work for you instead of against you, anger can help you recognize uncomfortable situations and motivate you to make changes.
Before you can manage anger, you must learn to recognize it. The key is to notice anger early on, before it becomes overwhelming. While everyone experiences anger differently, most of us notice physical and warning signs of anger. How does anger affect you physically?
Anger often causes an “adrenaline rush” in which your heart pounds, your muscles tense and you feel nervous and shaky as your body prepares you to cope with what it perceives is a situation dangerous to your health. By paying close attention to the physical signs of anger, you are in a better position to recognize anger when it first strikes, and before it gets out of control.
Anger Management Techniques
The good news is that we all can learn ways to improve our ability to cope with anger. It’s important to develop a personal anger management style that works for you. Here are some pointers:
- Own up to your anger. If you are angry, admit it to yourself. Attempting to hide or ignore anger only makes it worse. A far better strategy is to explore your thoughts and feelings about the angry situation. Ask yourself, “what am I really angry about?” Try to get to the bottom of what is really bothering you.
- Let anger out appropriately. Keeping in angry feelings is like locking the lid to the pressure cooker. Sooner or later there will be an explosion. It’s important to “let off some steam” by talking out angry feelings with people who care about you. They can provide insight, offer support and guidance. Remember that while it is okay to talk about angry feelings, it is not appropriate to verbally attack others or subject them to verbal abuse.
- Know your anger habits. If you are developing a problem with anger, then perhaps you need help learning to deal with anger differently. If your anger frequently gets out of control, you may need to take charge by developing a serious anger management program or seeking professional help.
- Keep your perspective. Not every situation requires the same response. Learn to distinguish different levels of anger. Are you frustrated, slightly annoyed, irritated or enraged? If you react with rage to a situation that calls for mild annoyance, you may be overreacting to the situation and need time to calm down. Or, perhaps you need practice letting go of situations over which you have no control, or tempering your feelings to better match the situation.
- Enhance communication skills. Rather than respond with insults, criticism and threats, learn to express thoughts and feelings in a health manner. Avoid attacking the other person, and instead share how that person’s behavior affected you.
- Stay healthy emotionally, physically and spiritually. Staying in good health is one way to manage anger. Those who eat a balanced diet, exercise and avoid abusing drugs and alcohol report feelings less anger and stress. Making time for hobbies and relaxation keeps us feeling calmer and less anger prone. When our lives are filled with meaning and purpose, we tend to feel an inner sense of peace that insulates us from overreacting to anger.
If you or someone you know has a problem with anger, help is available. Call the Bricklayers’ Member Assistance Program (MAP) to confidentially speak to a licensed mental health professional. Call toll-free at 1-888-880-8222.