- Expressing. Expressing anger shouldn’t be aggressive or hurtful, but it should be assertive. Talking to someone about why you’re feeling upset is often the best way of processing your feelings and working towards a resolution.
- Suppressing. Some people may keep their anger to themselves until they’re able to focus on something positive or redirect their negative energy. The caveat of suppressing anger is that if you’re unable to redirect it elsewhere, it can lead you to direct the anger towards yourself
- Calming. Calming techniques help you overcome the sensations that can accompany anger, like a fast heartbeat or the urge to lash out at others. The key to calming yourself is to focus on controlling both your actions and your inner feelings.
Dr. Spielberger says, “When none of these three techniques work, that's when someone, or something, is going to get hurt." Unexpressed or unprocessed anger can cause you to appear as cynical and hostile to others, or you may begin expressing your frustrations passive-aggressively. Difficulty with managing anger may also exacerbate health problems, cause difficulty in your relationships, or lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Signs and Symptoms of an Anger-Related Problem
Physical effects can include:
- Clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth.
- Increased heart rate.
- Sweating or feeling hot.
- Headaches or stomach aches.
- Increased blood pressure.
Possible emotional symptoms:
- Feelings of isolation.
Common behaviors may include:
- Becoming passive-aggressive or sarcastic.
- Yelling or crying.
- Overreacting to small issues (i.e. someone cuts you off in traffic).
- Breaking things during arguments (punching walls, breaking dishes, etc.)
- Having the same arguments with others or being repeatedly upset by the same triggers without finding ways to handle your anger.
Anger and Mental Health
Depression and anger can be an especially damaging cycle: angrily lashing out at a loved one can cause you to feel guilty and ashamed, and these feelings built up over time can lead to depression. The catch is that depression can make it more difficult to control intense emotions, so you’re more likely to lash out again. The best option for those stuck in this cycle is to seek professional help from a therapist.
How to Cope with Anger
- Relaxation strategies. Yoga, deep breathing exercises, and visualizing calm environments can help to decrease the urge to lash out in anger.
- Replace your thoughts. When you become upset, you may find yourself blowing things way out of proportion and your thoughts can become overly dramatic. If you immediately think, “Everything is ruined,” or “This never works,” replace your reactions with logic. Try saying, “This is frustrating, but I can figure it out.” Being reasonable with yourself can often show you how becoming angry too quickly can just make the issue worse.
- Listen more. If you feel like you’re being criticized or judged by someone, try to decipher the underlying message before responding, or ask for clarification. For example, if your significant other says that you aren’t home enough, they’re likely not telling you that you should cancel all your plans! Instead, they probably just want to spend more time with you.
- Use humor. Humor can be a great way to put things in perspective and redirect your anger. They key is to not laugh at your problems or use cynical humor, but to deal with your anger constructively and learn to recognize when small frustrations really aren’t a big deal.
For more help managing anger and other complex emotions, reach out to us at Couples Clinic.