Anger is a basic human emotion. It manifests itself in times when individuals feel stressed, frustrated, or treated unfairly. Anger can also be a response to pain or the threat of injury. For most individuals, anger is related to the stress response, the primal instinct to respond to threats through fight or flight. Never expressing anger can be unhealthy, leading to hypertension, headaches, and muscle pain from carrying tension. On the other hand, anger that is out of control can be dangerous. When anger turns to rage, the angry individual may hurt others or themselves. Anger will make it difficult to make thoughtful decisions, leading to impulsive behaviors. It is very important for everyone to learn how to manage anger appropriately.
Take Some Deep Breaths
One of the first steps to healthy anger management is to take some deep breaths. The stress response turns on very quickly, especially when an individual is angry. In preparation for a powerful, physical action, the heart rate increases, along with blood pressure. Stored energy is released from fat to provide energy for the muscles. However, there is one aspect of the process an individual can control: their breathing. During an episode of anger, breathing becomes faster and shallower. If an angry individual takes some deep, mindful breaths, the other systems will also slow down. Then the individuals can approach whatever made them angry from a calmer place.
Get Some Physical Exercise
Anger is typically considered the 'fight' part of the fight or flight response. The body prepares to attack or defend itself. One hallmark of anger is tense muscles that want to spring into action. For this reason, to manage anger it can be helpful to get some physical exercise. Some individuals find intense exercises like sprinting help them deal with anger. Others prefer to take a calm walk to slow things down. Either way, one of the benefits of exercise for anger management is it helps the body cycle through the stress response. Physical exercise uses up the sugars released for energy during anger. It also helps get stress hormones like cortisol out of the bloodstream.
Release Tension With Humor
Anger and stress can lead to a single-minded focus on the object of anger. This is an advantage if individuals are about to fight a dangerous enemy. It does not help them survive if their mind wanders when facing a foe. This is, however, not very helpful when the object of one's anger is an unpaid tax bill. It can be dangerous when the object of one's anger is a disagreement with a spouse or a crying child who will not fall asleep. It can be helpful in these cases to release tension with humor. Humor interrupts the angry thought patterns, allowing the individual to look at the problem from a different perspective. In preparation, it can be helpful to keep recordings of favorite comedians downloaded on a phone or tablet.
Seek Professional Help
If an individual has a recurring problem with managing their anger, it is important for them to seek professional help. A psychologist or counselor who specializes in anger management can provide more effective strategies to deal with anger. More importantly, this person is trained to help patients deal with the things that trigger their anger. They can give the patient a safe space to talk about the origins of their anger and look at why an issue might trigger such a strong response. Counselors also allow the patient to look at the cause of their anger from a safe distance. Patients can talk about the issue rationally so, when confronted by a trigger in real life, they are able to deal with it in a calmer way.
Get Out of the Situation Temporarily
It is important to confront problems and deal with them. However, when it feels like anger is taking over, it can helpful for an individual to get out of the situation temporarily. This is not the same as running away from the problem. It is a temporary retreat so an individual's anger can subside, and they can regroup before coming back. Often, walking away allows individuals to calm down and think rationally about their problems. They can consider why a person or issue causes such strong emotions. They can take the time to look at the issue from the other person's point of view. Then, they can return to the situation and handle things in a mature and peaceful way.