Each week we look at one of the common psychotherapy issues, explaining how you can regain control your emotions and use them constructively. This week we’re looking at anger, another perfectly natural emotion and very much a part of being human.
Anger is pretty straight-forward: something happens that makes you angry, you express your anger and then move on. But when you display excessive anger or cannot move on, this can be a sign of a mental health issue.
Many people say they feel ‘out of control’ when experiencing excessive anger, as if they are standing behind themselves watching and unable to stop what’s happening. Frequent anger-attacks or prolonged periods in a tense state can be damaging to both your health and your relationships, to help regain control – it can be useful to learn your triggers.
Know your triggers
The easiest way to learn what sets you off is to keep a diary about the times you have felt angry. Once the anger has passed, you’ve calmed down and can think rationally, ask yourself:
• What was going on at the time?
• Did someone do or say something?
• How did that make you feel?
• What was your reaction?
• How did you feel about it all once you’ve calmed down?
Do this over a period of time and you may see patterns emerging, sometimes simply knowing what makes you angry can help you stop feeling so tense.
Look out for warning signs
If you are struggling to pinpoint your triggers then try to recognise the physiological signals of anger, such as:
– A rush of adrenaline
– Quicker breathing
– You become tense
– Your heart beats faster
If you can program yourself to spot these signs then you’ll give yourself time to consider your reaction to a given situation. The more control you gain over anger the more you can live a normal life, keep your relationships healthy and your feelings positive. So, here’s…
10 ways to keep anger at healthy levels:
1. Count to 11
If you can feel the adrenaline rushing and heart rate quickening then count to 11 before you react, 11 is odd so you’re more likely to remember to do it and it’ll give you time to cool down.
2. Breathe slowly
Your breathing will quicken when you become angry, so slow it down – breathe out longer than you breathe in and relax on the exhale.
3. Take care of yourself
The saying goes – ‘healthy body, healthy mind’ so get enough sleep, eat nutritious foods and make time for your kind of relaxation. Remember: drugs and alcohol lower inhibitions, which can worsen anger, so avoid them if you’re serious about helping yourself.
Or write, compose, dance, whatever you like doing that’s creative – it will help you feel less tense and can reduce feelings of anger.
5. Open up
Get a different perspective on your triggers from a friend, discussing your feelings can really help you understand opportunities for change.
6. Speak only when calm
Speaking in anger can upset people and make a situation worse; it can feed anger in others and cause longer-lasting damage to relationships. If you can give yourself time to calm down, you’ll be able to express your frustration in a clear, non-confrontational way and are more likely to resolve the situation peacefully.
7. Have a laugh
Humour helps you get a more balanced perspective and ensures you don’t take yourself too seriously. For example; when your mother-in-law messes with your sock draw for the umpteenth time after being asked not to, just imagine her drawing up a plan, wearing a ninja suit and slightly rearranging your socks, before sneaking off and laughing like a Disney cartoon villain while sitting in a Dr Evil chair.
The truth is, she’s probably just on autopilot trying to help out and humour can help you realise this.
Just remember that humour doesn’t mean laughing off your problems or getting a laugh at someone else’s expense.
8. Change your thinking
Try not to use definite words such as ‘always’ or ‘never’, for example: “She’s always doing it” or “He never remembers things”. These words compound your negative feelings and suggest there’s no way of solving the problem, they’re also rarely accurate and can hurt people’s feelings.
9. Let Forgiveness be your reaction
When your anger rises, you’ll be filled with negative feelings and bitterness – turn your back on these emotions and instead forgive the person that has angered you. It’s empowering. Discuss what happened and learn from the situation.
10: Know when to seek help
Learning to control anger alone can be very difficult and if you’re struggling to manage your anger then you may want to consider seeking professional help. Here at the Affinity Centre we can help you identify your triggers; know when you’re becoming angry and learn how to respond in a healthy, controlled way.
To get in touch and discuss your anger with an expert in a completely confidential environment, call us on 01625 529 099. You can arrange an appointment at our Wilmslow Centre at a time that’s convenient for you.
Read the book: Anger Management For Dummies* by Gillian Bloxham gives constructive ways of dealing with anger and reviews how therapy can help.