What is anger?
Anger is a strong emotion many of us experience. Anger is usually characterised by feelings of frustration, hostility, agitation, or aggression. We may feel angry in response to a perceived threat or injustice, an unfair situation, or when we think someone or something has done us wrong.
Anger can vary from being very mild, such as an annoyance, to very intense, such as rage. When you feel angry, you may notice physiological changes such as increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure.
Anger is a basic human emotion and feeling angry is OK. Anger can help you to express a negative feeling or motivate you to solve a problem. It is how we respond to and express that anger that can cause problems. For example, anger can be expressed verbally or physically, and it can be directed at oneself or others. Expressing anger in an abusive, violent or negative way is unacceptable. This is why having anger control is important. Rather than trying to suppress the anger, we need to learn how to manage anger in a way that acknowledges the feeling while not harming anyone else. Dealing with anger in a healthy is a key part of life and something everyone should strive for.
Do I have anger issues?
Anger can be a healthy emotion when it is expressed appropriately and in proportion to the situation. But chronic or intense anger can lead to negative consequences for both the person experiencing it and those around them.
If you are wondering whether you are having trouble managing your anger, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I sometimes have trouble controlling my temper?
- Am I finding it difficult to stay calm in challenging or frustrating situations?
- Am I having anger outbursts?
- Am I lashing out at others in response to minor irritations?
- Am I frequently getting into arguments?
- Have I ever become angry and regretted it later?
- Has my anger caused problems in my relationships or at work?
- Have I threatened violence against a person or property?
- Have I ever lost control of my anger to the point where I became violent or abusive?
- Has anyone ever commented on my anger?
- Am I having difficulty calming down after becoming angry?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the questions, you may need to work on your anger control. Read on to recognise some anger warning signs and get some initial ideas on how to manage anger.
Anger warning signs
If you are having anger issues and want to control your anger, you first need to recognise the warning signs that you are getting angry. Anger warning signs (or anger symptoms) can vary from person to person, but there are some common physical and emotional signs. Understanding the warning signs is an important step towards learning how to control anger.
Physical anger warning signs
The physical warning signs of anger can include:
- Muscle tightening, especially around the jaw, shoulders, and arms
- A sensation of building pressure in the head
- Sensations of heat and flushing in the face
- Increased heart rate or blood pressure
- Rapid breathing
- Shaking or trembling
- Clenched jaw or fists
- The urge to yell or physically lash out
These physical anger symptoms are indications that your body is preparing for fight or flight, our primitive response to a threat.
Emotional anger warning signs
Emotional warning signs can be harder to recognise than physical signs, but it’s important to be aware of them and take steps to control your anger before it escalates. Anger warning signs in our emotions and thoughts can include:
- Losing your patience
- Being irritated or on edge
- Feeling humiliated
- Feeling resentful
- Feeling frustrated
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Difficulty controlling emotions or staying calm
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
Once you recognise that you are getting angry, you can do something to defuse the situation before it gets out of control. There are some techniques you can try to manage your anger.
How to control your anger – Anger management techniques
Once you recognise your anger warning signs, you can take steps to control your anger before it escalates.
There are several anger management tips that can help you control it in a healthy way. Some of these strategies include:
Stepping away from a situation when you start to feel angry gives you space to think clearly. If things are starting to get heated, try saying something to the other person like: “Listen, I think I need to take a break for a bit. I’ll come back, and we can sort this out in half an hour.”
Count to 10
Before reacting to a situation that makes you angry, take a moment to count to 10. This will give you a chance to calm down and think about how you want to respond.
Slowing and deepening your breath can help diffuse the anger. Try taking five long, slow breaths. Focus on relaxing the muscles in your arms and face.
Talk yourself down, not up
Self-talk can influence whether you get more or less angry in an exchange.
Saying things to yourself like, “This person is an idiot!” or “How dare this person talk to me like that?” is likely to increase your feelings of anger.
Instead, try calming self-statements such as:
- “Cool it. I can handle this.”
- “No point flying off the handle. Let’s just take a few breaths.”
- “I’m not going to let this get to me.”
Reframe the situation
Try to look at the situation from a different perspective. By shifting your perspective, you may be able to see the situation in a more positive light, identify new solutions, or better understand the other person’s point of view.
If you are on your own and angry, try doing something to stop your anger from escalating. For example, you can put on music, call a friend, listen to a podcast, go for a walk, or clean the house. Shifting your focus to something else can help to reduce your feelings of anger.
How can I stop getting angry so easily?
While the anger management strategies listed above can help you calm down in a crisis, they don’t address the causes of excessive or uncontrolled anger. Try the techniques below to help prevent you dealing with anger so often.
Anger can result from built-up, unresolved distress, or it may be masking underlying emotions such as sadness. Learning relaxation skills and breathing exercises can help you release the physical tension in your body, which can contribute to anger problems.
Physical exercise can help to reduce the stress that can cause you to feel angry. You can go for a run, ride your bike, take the dog out for a walk, head to the gym, or play a sport. Exercising regularly can help to regulate your stress levels overall, and it can also be a helpful tactic to burn off excess energy.
Take a break
Short breaks during the day can relieve your stress and help you relax. You can do something you enjoy, like listening to music or just sitting in a quiet space. A short period of quiet time can also prepare you for the rest of the day.
Identify your anger triggers
Try to identify the situations, people, or events that trigger your anger. Once you have identified your anger triggers, you can start to take steps to manage them. This may involve avoiding certain situations, communicating more effectively, or developing new healthy coping mechanisms.
Improve communication skills
Slowing down, actively listening, and thinking before you respond can help to reduce heated conversations. The MensLine Communication Toolkit can assist you in developing your communication skills in your relationships.
Find alternatives or a new solution
In addition to the anger management tips above consider how else you can reduce your triggers. If a situation constantly makes you angry, try to find an alternative or a solution. For example, if you get angry on your daily commute, is there another way or time to get to work? If your co-worker is always late for a meeting, can you schedule it for later or use the waiting time to catch up on your messages? Try to be realistic about what you can control and what you cannot change. By seeking an alternative, you are taking an active step towards managing your anger rather than allowing it to control you.
Find a creative outlet
Engaging in an activity that you enjoy or finding a healthy hobby can help reduce feelings of anger. Some examples are creative writing, painting, singing, playing an instrument, cooking, building Lego, coding, and gardening.
It’s important to note that what works for one person may not work for another. So, take the time to find the best method to control your anger. If your anger is impacting your daily life, consider seeking help from a health professional. Our MensLine counsellors are here and available 24/7. Call us on 1300 78 99 78.
More reading on relationships and anger management
Anger Management Toolkit
The MensLine Anger Management Toolkit has worksheets you can download that may help you to better manage your anger.
Renovate your Relationship – A manual for men
Download the Renovate your Relationship e-book for men. Men may overlook the problems in their relationship until it’s too late. This booklet has practical advice on how to do the maintenance work beforehand so that your relationship does not reach a crisis point. The booklet was developed by Relationships Australia Victoria and MensLine Australia
What is an anger disorder?
As we mentioned earlier, feeling angry is OK and everyone will have anger from time to time. This is why learning the tools and steps to manage and express your anger in a healthy way is an important part of life. Anger disorders refer to a more serious, chronic condition where someone has repeated explosive episodes of impulsive rage. This is sometimes called Intermittent Explosive Disorder. If you are concerned this might be something you are experiencing, have a chat with your doctor to discuss treatment options.