Updated: Oct 16
Are you prone to raging outbursts? Or, do you occasionally feel the anger simmering just under the surface? Maybe you’re like me who declares you never have a moment of anger, until one day it creeps up on you…
Anger is our natural survival instinct that kicks in whenever we perceive there’s danger. However, we’ve been taught that anger is a bad emotion and should be suppressed at all costs. This is a valid enough reason if you have a problem controlling your anger.
An angry outburst can be scary for anyone at the receiving end of your anger. It can also lead you into deep trouble if you don’t learn to manage it properly. So, while it’s an instinctual reaction to a threat, you're responsible for managing your reaction appropriately.
What are your triggers? And, what are the threats that you perceive to be dangerous? These are some of the most responsible questions you need to ask yourself whenever you feel rage brewing.
Read on to find out more about taming your anger and how to cope when the rage flares up!
What Triggers Anger?
There are many reasons why someone would get angry. They could be struggling with work pressure and not able to cope with the demands of their job. Anger often surfaces when there are problems in the family such as an unhappy relationship between the parents or a difficult child.
Financial problems often lead to people having anger issues while underlying conditions may trigger anger in a person. These could include the following:
Anxiety disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder
ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)
Grief (anger is one of the natural stages of the grief cycle)
Anger can also be triggered by low self-esteem and a lack of confidence when dealing with certain situations. When a person feels judged, disrespected, or ignored they may react out of anger.
Emotions such as guilt, anxiety, irritability, shame, and frustration can also set off an angry outburst. But, often, in these situations, the person will suppress their anger. Instead, their anger is shown through physical symptoms such as:
High blood pressure
Tension in the muscles
Increased heart rate
A tingling sensation throughout the body
Studies are showing that autoimmune diseases can be linked to stress-related disorders often triggered by a particularly traumatic event, whether psychologically or physically.
When exploring the “anger/autoimmune disease connection”, you’ll understand anger creates a stress response that triggers the endocrine system. This ultimately affects the function of the immune system.
I often turn to Dr. Johen Sarno's fascinating book. "Healing Back Pain" because it talks about how low self-esteem, anger, and anxiety are reasons why we suffer from back pain (insert most physical conditions here and you'll get to the crux of the matter!)
5 Tips to Manage the Anger
While we agree that anger is a natural response to a dangerous situation, how you respond is crucial. It’s okay to get angry but how you manage it appropriately is vital. You want to use your anger as a healthy response to a situation and not as a violent reaction to a trigger you’ve not explored from within.
Not all anger is displayed the same way either – you know the fist-throwing, red-faced, cursing road rage driver gesticulating behind you because you were a bit slow taking off at a green robot!
Anger can also be passive (giving someone the silent treatment, making snide comments, or sulking) or inwards (where you direct all the anger towards yourself through negative self-talk).
Here are 5 tips to empower you to control your anger so that it’s a healthy response rather than a negative reaction.
1. Step Back and Identify the Trigger
Master the art of stepping back whenever you find yourself in a situation that makes you uncomfortable. Assess what is happening and ask yourself, “What is going on here? Why am I being triggered?” Reflect and give yourself enough time to hear the answer.
Most times, the reason is a trigger that touched a sensitive nerve within. Maybe you’re feeling insecure because you were being put into the spotlight or perhaps, you felt the other person was being disrespectful. Perhaps, you’re feeling disregarded and snubbed.
Once you’ve identified the “threat” (the trigger) and put a name to the feeling behind your anger, you can control your outburst. Instead of reacting by yelling or resorting to snide remarks, you can instead give an appropriate response if the situation warrants it.
2. Stop Dwelling
Hands up if you spend day and night dwelling over something someone did to you that made you feel hurt or angry? Dwelling on an unpleasant situation will only lead to more anger instead of calming it down. And, before you know it, it comes out at the most unexpected times.
Rehashing a negative situation is pointless unless you’re using the exercise to reflect on what actually happened so you can amend it, one way or another. But, if you’re rehashing a situation because you can’t let it go and you want to be in “victim” mode, well, you’re not going to find a viable and healthy solution.
Instead, find ways of bringing your attention to what you can learn from the person or situation that you’re dwelling over. Most times, you may need to simply let the past event go and move forward from it. If you don’t, the anger will build up in you and you’ll eventually explode, often in reaction to a minor irritation.
3. Get Physical
One of the best ways to manage your anger is to get physical and not in a typical way such as treating someone else as your punching bag! If you’re prone to anger outbursts, getting active such as going for walks, jogging, doing gym, or even gardening are all known ways to manage anger constructively.
Active exercise will help to reduce tension and lower stress, all fuel for setting off a raging flare-up. If you’re working in a stressful job, facing financial difficulties, or having family problems make sure you’re getting in plenty of exercise. This way, you’ll be able to handle the stresses and problems with a calmer state of mind.
Exercise is also good for increasing serotonin levels which contribute to less depression and anxiety.
Another way to diffuse your anger is by actually punching your pillow or a punching bag. Install a punch bag in your garage and make sure you use it the next time you need to release pent-up anger.
4. Start Journaling
Journaling can be a very powerful tool when dealing with anger issues. How many times do you find yourself tossing and turning all night as you dwell on angry thoughts? This can lead to insomnia and in turn, gives your mind more time and space to churn out those angry thoughts!
By journaling your thoughts, you’re giving your anger a healthy outlet. Most times, the act of writing down your negative thoughts will help to diffuse your anger. Plus, it may highlight the real reason why you’re thinking those thoughts in the first place. This gives you the opportunity to reflect on what’s really going on within yourself and to find ways to control your anger.
I, myself, have found journaling to be one of the best ways to handle those nights when the angry thoughts won’t go away. I go to my Place of Wellness, burn some incense, and start writing. By the end of my entry, my mind is lighter and my negative thoughts are no longer the center of attention!
5. Meditate and Breathe: Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques can empower you to manage your anger better. Deep breathing can soothe any angry feelings and guided meditation with relaxing imagery will also help. Make meditation a daily practice and learn to focus on breathing from the belly.
Another great way to relax is to bring your attention to your muscles. Start at your feet and with each muscle group, focus on how tense they are. Then, focus on relaxing them before moving on to the next muscle group in your body. This works well when you’re meditating.
The more you make use of relaxation techniques, the more able you are to apply them when you find your anger bubbling at the surface.
While releasing anger is essential, you need to do it in a controlled manner. If you struggle with anger management, life coaching can help you identify and avoid triggers that lead to raging outbursts.
Uncontrolled anger will lead to relationship problems, and challenges in the workplace, and place a huge strain on your health – physically, emotionally, and mentally. While you can’t eliminate angry feelings, you can learn to manage them so you and those around you are happier.
Life coaching can also prepare you for those times when anger suddenly flares up without warning. By understanding the underlying cause of your anger, you’ll be better placed to manage it when it happens. Contact me today if you want to start changing the way you respond and learn to reign in your anger with a proper action plan.
This post was updated on July 13th, 2023.