Tips to Manage Anger Before It Manages You

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The emotions we experience throughout life can leave us wrung out with tears, bouncing with joy, or seething with anger. So, why is it that anger is considered problematic? Many people are raised to think they shouldn’t feel anger, and some are socialized to think that anger is the only acceptable emotion for them to show. 

The problem with that is we aren’t in control of our immediate emotional response to any situation, so we are going to feel angry, and stuffing those feelings away or pretending it doesn’t exist only makes matters worse. In contrast, showing only anger means people aren’t allowing themselves to experience all the wonderful parts of being human. In these cases, anger becomes more of a personality trait than a feeling.

While we experience emotions at various intensities depending on our history and the event happening in front of us, feelings don’t last that long unless we ignore them or add fuel. When anger begins to manage you, instead of you managing it, you may experience chronic stress, your relationships may suffer, and you might even experience physical health problems. In this blog, we explain what anger is and how it serves a purpose in our lives. Then, we give you tips for recognizing anger and learning to manage and express it effectively so it doesn’t escalate and take over your life.

What is Anger?

The American Psychological Association defines anger as “an emotion characterized by antagonism toward someone or something you feel has deliberately done you wrong.” With that definition, anger is a sign that you know you deserve better treatment than you’re getting. Healthy angry feelings can propel you toward action that gets you out of danger and improves relationships, your career, or other areas of your life. This type of anger is not vengeful and doesn’t prompt you to hurt others.

anger management puzzle

There are many physical sensations you may experience when angry including:

  • high blood pressure
  • increased heart rate
  • tingling sensations
  • muscle tension

You may experience other emotions before, during, or after an episode of anger.

  • frustration
  • anxiety, stress, or overwhelm
  • rage
  • guilt or shame

Anger that prompts you to improve your communication with others or change your life in meaningful ways is healthy. However, there is another type of anger – unhealthy anger. Unhealthy anger is when you feel compelled to hurt another, physically or emotionally. This type of anger can result in aggressive behavior, violent language, and self-destructive behavior. Another sign that you have unhealthy feelings of anger is ruminating about the event and being unable to let go of your rage.

How to Recognize Anger Issues

Learning to control anger begins with recognizing you have trouble managing it. You need to identify the warning signs that you’re losing control of your emotions and ruminating on angry thoughts. Some symptoms that you have a problem managing anger include the following.

  • You often feel angry.
  • You worry that your anger is out of control.
  • Your relationships suffer because of your anger.
  • You hurt others emotionally or physically or are verbally abusive.
  • You feel regret after an angry outburst.

Anger issues can come in a few different forms, including

  • Outward anger, such as shouting, cursing, throwing objects, breaking things, or hurting others physically or emotionally.
  • Inward anger is self-directed anger, including negative self-talk, denying yourself your basic needs, and self-harm behaviors.
  • Passive anger includes sulking, being sarcastic, giving someone the silent treatment, and making rude remarks.

Tips To Manage Anger

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Experiencing anger is not a problem. Letting your anger get out of control so that it begins to control you is. We all experience anger, and learning to manage the emotion in a healthy way can get you out of the heat of the moment and help you avoid letting anger problems destroy your life, career, or personal relationships. Many anger management techniques can be done quickly without others knowing you use them. Here are some tips for managing anger before it manages you.

  1. Learn the physical symptoms of anger for your body
  2. Ask for or take a time out. Remove yourself from the same space as the person or thing causing you to become angry.
  3. Identify your angry thoughts and notice how they increase your anger level. Then, try to reframe those thoughts by questioning them, “Is that really what happened?” and then replacing the angry thoughts with more helpful ones like “I wonder why the person behaved like that? Is there some reason other than their desire to cause me harm?”
  4. Try relaxation techniques to slow your breathing and heart rate, such as
    • deep breathing exercises
    • meditation
    • journaling
    • progressive muscle relaxation
    • calling a friend
  5. Get moving – sometimes, physical activity, like a brisk walk, helps you cool down. Then, when you’re thinking clearly, you can address what caused your anger in a healthy way.
  6. Use humor to diffuse a situation if the person you’re with is receptive to it. If not, you can watch a comedy or read something funny to help reset your emotional state.

How to Express Anger

Once you learn to use anger management strategies to manage your anger effectively, you’ll want ways to express anger that help you resolve conflict without aggressive behavior. The best ways to express anger to people differ depending on if you’re dealing with a stranger, a co-worker, or a family member. Effective discussions about difficult emotions like anger require you to slow down and think through what you want to say and how you want to say it. You’ll also need to listen effectively without reacting and becoming defensive. Here are some tips to help you prepare for a discussion.

  • Write out what you want to say using I statements such as, “I felt ______ when you ______ because _______.” Be sure you take ownership of the feelings you experienced. You may have been embarrassed, hurt, or sad in addition to angry.
  • Listen to what the other person says without forming a response right away. You may need to work hard at this and even take notes about what they’re saying to help you stay focused. Try to understand where the other person is coming from.
  • Set a boundary about what you will do if the behavior continues. Boundaries are about what you will do – not what you want the other person to do.

Anger Management Therapy May Help

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If you read that list of anger management strategies and felt overwhelmed, that’s okay. You may need additional support learning to manage anger, so it doesn’t impact your mental health, relationships, or career. At SMPsychotherapy and Counseling Services, we believe that managing emotions is a skill everyone can learn. We offer anger management therapy in individual, couple, family, or group settings. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment or learn more about your options for anger management therapy.

Want more? 

For more about managing your thoughts and emotions, reserve your copy of the new book, Unbreakabl,e by Soribel Martinez, LCSW, CEO of SMPsychotherapy and Counseling Services. The book releases Marh 2023. It’s a story of one woman’s journey through adversity and how you can use her principles to build the life of your dreams. Book on pre-sale now!

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