Anger is a basic human emotion and feeling angry is OK. It is how we respond to and express that anger that can cause problems. Expressing anger in an abusive, violent or negative way is unacceptable. Rather than trying to suppress the anger, we need to learn how to manage it in a way that acknowledges the feeling while not harming anyone else.
What is anger?
Anger is an emotion many of us experience. Anger can vary from being very mild, such as an annoyance, to very intense, such as rage.
Anger can occur when we think someone or something has done us wrong or think a situation is unfair.
Do I have anger issues?
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 having anger outbursts?
- 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?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the questions, here are some initial ideas to help take the strength out of anger.
Anger warning signs
If you are having anger issues and want to control your anger, you first need to be able to recognise the warning signs that you are getting angry:
- Muscular tightening, especially around the jaw and arms
- A sensation of building pressure in the head
- Sensations of heat and flushing in the face
- Elevated heart rate, breathing or sweating
- The urge to yell or physically lash out
These physical signs are indications that your body is preparing for fight or flight, our primitive response to a threat.
Anger warning signs in our emotions and thoughts can include:
- Losing your patience
- Being irritated
- Feeling humiliated
- Feeling resentful
- Feeling overwhelmed
Once you recognise that you are getting angry, you have the opportunity to do something to diffuse the situation before it gets out of control. There are some techniques you can try to manage your anger.
Anger management techniques
Stepping away from a situation when you are starting to feel angry gives you space to think clearly and calm down. 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.”
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. You 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.”
How can I stop getting angry so easily?
While these anger management techniques can help you calm down in a crisis, they don’t address the causes of excessive anger. Conflict is inevitable in relationships, but this doesn’t mean that every disagreement needs to lead to an angry fight. Try the techniques below to keep your anger at bay.
Anger can be the result of 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 help to 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 help prepare you for the rest of the day.
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.
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
Renovate your Relationship is an e-book for men to help maintain their relationships. 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 has been developed by Relationships Australia Victoria and MensLine Australia.
Renovate your Relationship PDF: 8,625KB