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  • Sara

How to Get a Better Handle on Your Anger

Not surprisingly, many folks that face mental health challenges also have trouble with anger management. Having an inability to properly cope with strong emotions is a common symptom of conditions such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. Our brains are not at the top of their game when we are faced with mental illness, which makes it even more difficult to handle high stress situations in a calm manner (without feeling overwhelmed to the point of extreme anger).

This is especially true if we are trying to manage symptoms on our own and have a hard time asking others for help. We tend to bottle up these emotions, and they get suppressed until they can’t be suppressed any longer and the result is an explosion of anger. If you consider the analogy of a pressure cooker that eventually needs to let off steam, you can understand how the brain and body hold onto strong emotions until they can’t any longer.

One step in the right direction when learning how to handle anger in a more productive and calm way is to start by recognizing that this is to be expected and that a lot of people feel the same way. However, there are things we can do to address our anger and help ourselves respond to it in a more loving and compassionate way so that when we express it, our reaction is more appropriate. Also, we need to remember that anger is often valid, and it shouldn’t be shamed.

When we are young, we are often sent to a time out when we’re angry or told to just “suck it up.” These things invalid valid emotions and teach us that any expression of emotion is inherently bad. Over time, this leads to the core belief that we are bad, and we don’t know how to get our needs met because we bottle them up. We then becoming overly others-centered and disregard anything that has to do with ourselves and the emotions building within. This is a toxic cycle and is why it’s extremely important to valid your anger rather than assume that it’s not allowed to be there.

However, if our anger is endangering ourselves or others then that is a definite issue to work on. Again, the anger itself is not the issue. Our reaction to this feeling is if we blow things out of proportion and become emotionally, and even physically, abusive towards others.

Here are a few quick things that you can practice when you notice that you are having a difficult time handling your anger:

Take a few deep breaths – It is proven through research that deep breaths trigger our nervous system to help us calm down. Taking a few deep breaths in the moment can help you find clarity and prevent a full explosion.

Jot down your thoughts– If you practice thinking through moments of anger and frustration, you might be able to find a pattern in the way you view problems. And identifying that problem can be helpful for better preparing for next time. It will allow you to recognize warning signs tied to triggers that might lead to an explosion of anger.

Establish a mantra – You could develop a mantra to say to yourself when you are feeling extra worked up, such as “I can handle this.” Find something that you can say to yourself to remind you that you are strong enough and capable of handling your anger in that moment.

Take a break and relax – There is no shame in stepping away and taking a break to just relax. Tackling situations that have made us very angry is difficult when you are feeling heightened. Allowing yourself to take a break can provide a chance for adjusting your perspective and being more open to talking about it.

Count backwards – This is something that I have tried a few times and it has been helpful for when I am feeling anxious, angry, stress, and overwhelmed. Focusing your brain on a task is a helpful way to redirect your frustration and calm yourself down. Counting backwards relies on executive functioning and is a highly focused task.

Get out and exercise – Using physical activity as an outlet for emotions is an awesome option. It allows us to get all the intense energy out of our system in a healthy and productive way, and it also provides a chance for you to take a breather before reacting.

Handling anger is never easy, but it is essential for keeping our mental health strong. If you try the things above and still feel like you are struggling with anger management, it is always a good idea to reach out for help. A lot of people have gone through anger management challenges and the people in your life might be able to provide some perspective. Working with a professional counselor can help you identify additional coping strategies.


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