11 ways to manage anger and be happier
It’s natural to feel some frustration or anger. But not coping with feelings of anger over time can be bad for your health.
It’s harmful to turn your anger inward. And it’s bad for relationships to turn anger outward.
Individuals who anger easily tend to have a low tolerance for frustration and may feel they shouldn’t have to be subjected to frustrations or annoyances. They may view circumstances they’re in as an attack on their dignity. And they may feel they shouldn’t have to suffer the indignity. Angry individuals may feel they’re morally right.
They may display their anger verbally or physically. Or they may display anger by being irritable or grumpy. Some people with poor anger management skills may even become physically ill.
There are a number of approaches you can use to better manage anger. Some may work better for you than others.
- Pause before speaking. If you hear a comment or are in a situation that bothers you, take a few moments or more to collect your thoughts before you respond. Slowing the pace of a heated exchange also allows others time to consider their comments.
- Use “I” statements. Rather than using accusing phrases such as, “You never….” or “You always…”, try explaining your frustrations by saying something like, “I get frustrated when…” or “I’m unhappy that…” Remember, no one can take away how you feel, but they may be able to help remedy the situation.
- Offer solutions. Once you’ve explained what frustrates you, suggest ways others may be able to help address the issues that frustrate you. After all, anger without a solution won’t resolve anything. A compromise may be an effective way to satisfy everyone involved with the situation.
- Let negative feelings go. Carrying negative thoughts only weighs you down emotionally. Forgiveness can be remarkably liberating.
- Use exercise to reduce your stress. A physical activity you enjoy, such as a brisk walk/run or yoga, can refresh you mentally. It can also give you time to think of solutions to problems.
- Take time to relax. These simple things can help relieve stress. Taking time every day to relax can be positive for your overall mental health. You may want to schedule personal time to relax — when you can take 15 minutes to break from the rush of the day.
- Use humor to dampen anger. Don’t take yourself too seriously. If you feel you shouldn’t be subjected to the indignity of a given situation, picture yourself as a king or queen, and you always get your way. As you mentally create your mental picture, include lots of details — the more outrageous, the better. This mental imaging can help us see the relative insignificance of many situations that may prompt anger. Note: Using sarcasm for humor can hurt other people and make things worse.
- Change your situation. If, for example, the driving of others makes you angry, try taking less congested routes or public transportation. Keep in mind that research suggests angry drivers are more aggressive, take more risks and report more near misses and accidents than drivers who are less angry. If you find you routinely argue with your spouse at night when you’re tired, look for other times to discuss important topics. Openly discuss ways you can avoid arguments.
- Seek ways to improve communications. Avoid words like “never” or “always”, as in, “This printer never works when I need it.” Or “You always leave the drawer out when you leave.” These types of statements tend to give you a false sense that your anger is justified. The truth is, exaggerated claims aren’t accurate and tend to reduce the strength of your argument.
- Change the way you think. In anger, thinking can become exaggerated. You may think, “This is horrible. Everything is ruined.” Instead, take a different approach and say something like, “This is frustrating. I’m upset, but it’s not the end of the world. Getting angry won’t change anything anyway.”
- Know when you should get professional help. Anger is a normal emotion. It’s rooted in our reaction to threats. The aggression prompted by anger can help us fight when we’re attacked. However, excessive or misplaced anger in the wrong situations can negatively affect our physical and mental health. If anger is negatively affecting your relationships or your life, professional help may be the right step for you.
About the Author
Gregory D. Schramka, PsyD is a licensed psychologist and Director of Behavioral Health Therapy at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital in Wauwatosa, WI. His special interests include the application of empirically-validated treatment approaches to problems of depression, anxiety, and anger-related difficulties.