Anger is an emotion that all of us experience at some time or another. We may feel it as a slight annoyance to a driver who isn’t paying attention, or we may feel a full-on rage during an intensely stressful situation. We may feel as though we’re a victim of anger if someone else demonstrates it toward us. Sometimes we express our anger, and sometimes we hold it back. In today’s world, sometimes anger even goes unnoticed – it is something we might feel so frequently that we fail to recognize the role that it plays in our lives, and the messages that it is trying to send us.
The truth is, those messages are usually quite important. When it comes to emotions, anger is one that we tend to feel frequently because in our society it is often more “acceptable” to feel and express than some of the other emotions. Unfortunately, anger is often a cover-up for other, difficult emotions such as fear or sadness. For example, when we are in a heated conversation with our partner we often express anger (yelling, saying things we might not mean) when we are actually feeling afraid of not being close to our partner, or maybe sad that they have done something that hurt us. While those deeper emotions are very strong, sometimes we can’t see them because anger is hiding them.
While anger is natural and is okay to feel sometimes, it can cause a problem when anger takes over and clouds our other emotions and/or our judgment. How do you know when you’re angry? Does your heart race, does your head pound, do you make fists with your hands? If you find yourself feeling angry, take a second to notice that anger. What seems to have caused that feeling for you? Is it related to one event, or have you had a rough day where anger has piled up? What else are you feeling in addition to anger? What might be a healthy way that you can let go of the anger in order to feel better and move on?
Everyone copes with anger differently. While there isn’t one “correct” way to express it, some methods are more productive and helpful than others. Here is a list of some tips for healthy ways of coping with your anger. Consciously making an effort to use some of these might help prevent you from expressing your anger in ways that are unwanted or unhelpful, such as by yelling during a discussion.
- Take several slow, deep breaths, concentrating on your breath as you inhale slowly and exhale slowly. Allow your body to relax.
- Take some time to exercise, or find a way to move your body. This can give your body a way to use up all of that energy as well as release endorphins to help your mood improve. It can also give you a break from whatever situation you’re facing.
- Take a time out, alone, to reflect on your thoughts and feelings, then return to the situation when you feel you can remain calm.
- Talk about your feelings of frustration or anger with someone else who is supportive in your life. If you happen to be angry with someone close to you and you aren’t ready to express things calmly to them yet, try talking to another close (neutral) person or taking some time to gather your thoughts first.
- Try to make yourself laugh – you can watch funny YouTube videos, a favorite comedy, or talk to a close friend.
- Write about how you’re feeling in a journal. This can help you to express the raw emotion you’re feeling without worrying about hurting someone else, and this release may help you begin to become more calm and ready to tackle the situation.
- Do something that helps you relax – whether that’s listening to music, taking a walk, taking a bath, etc.
What else do you do to cope with anger in a healthy way? Please share your ideas in the comments!
Lindsey Hoskins & Associates provides individual, couple, and family therapy services in downtown Bethesda, MD. Call us at (301) 200-5290 to schedule an appointment.