5 Tips For Dealing With Anger Better - SACAP
Applied Psychology

5 Tips for Dealing with Anger Better

Apr 17, 2024
Angry woman using computer.

Feeling angry isn’t the enemy. When managed, anger can be a useful tool. However, when out of control, it brings out the worst in someone and can wreak havoc throughout their lives.  

The reality is we’re not going to be able to keep an even keel all the time. We are going to feel a myriad of emotions, including anger. And this is perfectly normal and can even be a healthy response to a situation. Therefore, how we deal with our emotions and prevent ourselves from being overwhelmed or spiralling out of control is key.  

What is Anger? 

Despite its rather unpleasant consequences at times anger is, in fact, a healthy emotion experienced by all.  It ranges in intensity and how long we feel it. It can be a fleeting burst, like when someone carelessly bumps into you at the shops. Or a full-blown rage fest, that often results in negative consequences, for yourself and others, and behaviour you later regret. Anger can also be internally triggered, for example, by worrying or brooding over issues and memories. 

When you get angry there is both a biological and physiological change in your body. There is a rise in energy hormones, cortisol, noradrenaline, and adrenaline. Additionally, your blood pressure escalates along with your heart and breathing rates. It can also hamper your cognitive processes. This means anger can negatively impact your ability to accurately assess a situation as well as make reasonable and rational decisions. 

Anger Can be an Unhealthy Emotion 

When anger is out of control it can have devastating effects. Not only on our relationships and work but also on our mental, emotional and physical health. Research shows that angry people are up to three times more likely to have a heart attack compared to those less prone to such fury. Furthermore, studies also show that losing your temper increases your short-term health risks.  For up to two hours after losing your temper, the risk of a heart attack increases by more than fourfold. And the risk of having a stroke can increase over threefold. 

Anger can be a Healthy Emotion 

However, when managed correctly anger can also be a valuable indicator. It can let us know when we’re in emotional or physical danger. Thus, anger can assist us by keeping us better informed about the world around us. Thereby, enabling us to have a more appropriate response within a situation and protect ourselves. 

Anger is a great motivator. It can lead us to want to achieve better and spur us into action. It can get us to take control of a situation. And thereby have productive and robust conversations where needed. A Harvard study shows that anger is closely associated with optimism and risk-taking. This means that it can lead people to achieve their goals. 

Despite these risks, anger is not the enemy. You can’t always control a situation. But you can control how you express yourself. Here are five ways to help you keep level-headed and reign in your anger demons. 

How to Deal with Anger 

1. Get a Good Night’s Sleep 

It might sound cliche, but a good night’s sleep can assist with many an ailment, including anger. Being well-rested assists us with managing our moods, especially when provoked. Being tired usually makes difficult experiences seem even worse than they really are. Thus, as a result, we tend to overreact to situations often with negative results. Research shows that lack of sleep diminishes activity in the frontal lobe. This area of the brain is associated with impulse control, thus making it harder to fight those angry impulses. 

2. Take a Deep Breath 

When provoked, the surge in hormones, adrenaline and neurotransmitters can result in a sense of being out of control. As fight or flight kicks in we can find ourselves struggling to think clearly. Hence the need for a long, slow, deep breath. Therefore, when you’re in the midst of an anger-inducing situation and feeling your emotions start to rise, stop and breathe. Breathe from your diaphragm, not just your chest. This will help to slow things down, giving you time to consider your reaction. It will also let the body know that it isn’t in danger and therefore a flight/fight response isn’t needed. As a result, deep breaths will assist with returning your hormones and chemicals to to base. Consequently, you will be able to regain control of your body and your behaviour. 

3. Consider Alternative Interpretations 

We have little control over what makes us see red. But we can control how we react. When faced with a situation that makes your temperature rise, try to stop. Then take a moment to consider alternative interpretations of the situation. Pause to examine the evidence. Ask yourself if what is happening was meant in the way that you are interpreting it.  

For example, it’s 8am, you’re late for work. You are stuck behind a slow driver driving in the fast lane. This situation has two different interpretations: 

  1. Their behaviour is intentional – they can see you’re in a hurry. It is 8 am so they should assume that you’re going to work. The person is purposefully creating conflict because they do not care about anyone else. 
  1. Their behaviour is unintentional – they have not seen you. In fact, they are not having a great morning either and, as a result, are lost in their own thoughts. 

Both interpretations are frustrating. However, the belief that the behaviour is intentional is more than likely going to generate the most reactionary, anger-inducing response. Always try to consider other possible interpretations before reacting. 

4. Take a Break 

Taking a break sounds simple enough, but it can be hard to do when emotions are running high. If you’re having a hard time with someone, do yourself a favour – take five minutes. You’re going to need this time to breathe, focus, interpret etc. Breaks are an excellent tool when anger becomes too much in a particular moment. They are not a long-term solution. Chances are you will return a little while later and the problem will still be there. But you’ll have clearer and a calmer mind, which makes all the difference. 

5. Find a Healthy Release 

Exercise, like hitting a punching bag, can be a healthy release. Hitting others, not so much. It is imperative to find a healthy release for your anger. All that adrenaline needs to go somewhere. It needs to be released and nothing will do the trick like a bit of cardiovascular exercise. Essentially, do what you must, just get it out. You will be amazed at how much better you feel afterward. 

Anger Management 

Are you interested in helping people to manage their anger better? Then consider studying a psychology or counselling qualification at SACAP. SACAP offers a range of courses, including part-time and full-time study plans as well as online learning options. For more information, enquire now

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