What is Anger?
Anger is a powerful, universal emotion. To manage our anger we need to understand it and realize how it can affect others and ourselves. On a biological level, anger has evolved as a way of surviving and protecting ourselves from something harmful or unjust. Our bodies might experience some anger when basic human needs such as food, shelter, sex, or sleep are unmet. Anger can trigger physiological changes and kick in the fight or flight response in our central nervous system. We can notice increases in heart rate and palpitations, blood pressure and hormones like adrenaline and muscle tension. We may also feel angry in reaction to someone's judgment, criticism or actions. However, when our anger impairs our ability to communicate well and we say or do hurtful or irrational things we must step in to manage our response.
Coping with Anger
Below are several ways to help reduce anger or respond in a more productive way:
- Take slow deep breaths. You can use counting to help shift your focus and attention to your body. Breathing will help slow down hyper-arousal in the body.
- Slow down. Be mindful and curious about what is making you angry. Notice what words and tone you are choosing in your responses. Take some time to think before you act or speak so that you do not lash out.
- Relaxation techniques. Body scan meditation can help you identify and validate parts of you that are holding tension and anger. This can feel like warmth, tightness, agitation, or clenching. Muscle relaxation can also help release this energy.
- Exercise. Working out has been proved to help increase feel good hormones like endorphins and can be a great way to release energy in a healthy way.
It is useful to understand the underlying causes of why you are feeling angry so that the problems are acknowledged. Talk to a mental health professional if your anger brings up memories or emotions that feel overwhelming or unmanageable. Meeting with a therapist and keeping a journal can help you identify your triggers.
Ernestina Perez, LPC