Maybe it started with your brother insulting you, or an opposing player in the big game gave you a nasty bruise, or maybe your parents wouldn’t let you go out on a school night with your friends. There are many reasons why we get angry. An important part of growing up is learning to deal with anger so that it doesn’t snowball into hurting yourself or others.
Did you know that keeping your anger in check is good for your health? People who manage their anger get sick less often, and feel better emotionally. Even though anger is a natural emotion, it can sometimes lead to behavior that’s out of control. It may even feel like the anger is controlling you.
Why do I have trouble controlling my anger?
There are many reasons why you may have trouble managing your anger. The reasons are different for everybody and may be a combination of different things. Perhaps you’ve witnessed violence at home, in your neighborhood, or at school, distorting how you view or experience anger. It may be hard for you to control your anger because you haven’t yet learned how to deal with the emotions you feel inside. Whatever the reason, the next step is moving forward to work on ways to understand what triggers your anger and how to stay in control.
Why should I control my anger?
Even at a young age, having difficulty controlling your anger makes your body more likely to have physical problems that can occur now or later. This happens because your mind and your body are connected. These feelings can actually put stress on your body which can lead to medical problems such as:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Chronic lower back pain
- Stomach problems
Having problems with managing your anger can also increase your risk for developing mental health concerns such as:
- Eating problems
- Substance abuse
- Drug, alcohol or other addictions
- Suicidal thoughts
Teenagers who have trouble managing their anger often have difficulty maintaining friendships, more behavioral problems, and receive lower grades in school. This is often because teens that have difficulty with anger are often unhappy and feel isolated, even if they get a lot of attention for angry behaviors.
How can I tell if I’m getting too angry?
Your body has a few ways of letting you know when you are getting too angry. Some common feelings may include:
- Your heart feels like it’s racing – it beats very fast and may even feel like it’s pounding in your chest, or pounding in your head
- You breathe faster – it may feel like you can’t catch your breath
- Your muscles tighten – your body feels tense and on edge
- Your body temperature increases – you feel hot and may sweat a lot
- You may develop a headache – you may feel like your head is pounding or pulsating
Are there some situations that make you feel particularly angry?
Think about the last few times you became really angry. You may realize there’s a pattern. By becoming more aware of what upsets you, and how you feel when you’re angry, you can take control of it before it takes control of you.
Keep in mind that your thoughts, feelings and behaviors are all connected. Your thoughts affect your feelings, which then affect your behaviors. Your behavior can also affect your thoughts, which can affect how you feel. Since they’re all related, making one change—to thoughts, feeling or behaviors—will make a big difference.
What are some ways I can learn to control my temper?
The best way to control your temper depends on you. There’s no quick fix. Every person needs to take time to think about what works for him or her.
Here are some helpful ideas:
- Take a second before reacting. The simple trick of “counting to 10” before reacting can be very helpful in keeping your cool
- Improve your problem solving skills. When faced with a difficult situation or conflict, learn as much as you can about it and think about what happened and identify and name all the feelings you’re experiencing. Are you angry? Disappointed? Embarrassed? Scared? This will prevent you from making quick judgments that may be wrong. Remember, there are many ways to look at the same situation.
- Take responsibility and learn from your actions. You can actually decide on how you’ll behave in certain situations ahead of time if you find a way to “keep a cool head.” For example, if losing your soccer game last week caused you to get angry, think about how you can better prepare yourself to deal with the stress if you don’t come out with a win this week.
- Think about the consequence of your behavior. Realize that how you behave affects those you love and others around you. You can ask someone about how they were affected and remember this for the future. Also sometimes there are consequences like suspension or being grounded that can be a reminder of what happens when your anger escalates.
- Pay attention to what upsets you. When you’re able to figure out what triggers angry feelings, you can make decisions about how to manage these triggers. Sometimes they’re avoidable and other times not; it’s up to you to be prepared with strategies that will help you stay in better control.
- Pay attention to how your body feels when you are angry. When you notice your body beginning to react, it’s time to slow down and identify the feeling before reacting.
- Create a “toolbox” of relaxation techniques that work for you. Find tools and skills that help you calm down when you find yourself getting angry. Some people step away from a situation, others listen to music or exercise. Figure out what works for you and use it.
You may feel anxious when you first try to take control of your temper. This is normal. Take time beforehand to plan ways to handle these feelings. The earlier you notice yourself becoming angry the more chance you have to stop your anger from getting out of control.
What are more examples of how to relax when I’m feeling so angry?
Every one of us can find effective ways to calm down. Relaxation techniques work by helping calm us. When we’re calm, our bodies relax, and physical problems brought on by anger such as a headache, usually disappear. Try the following techniques to help you relax, and check out our guide on how to lower stress for more suggestions.
- Take slow deep breaths. Breathe in and slowly breathe out – this works especially well when you feel like your breathing is speeding up.
- Repeat a calming word or sentence to yourself such as “I’m in control of my feelings”.
- Tighten your muscles then relax them. Notice the difference.
- Close your eyes and think about a person, place, or thing that makes you feel calm.
What if my anger feels out of control?
Take quick action. If your angry feelings begin to take control over you it’s important to do something to keep yourself and others around you safe.
Here are some helpful tips:
- Leave the scene – Take yourself away from the person and/or place where you became angry. A change of scenery can help you “cool off” your angry feelings.
- Walk away instead of driving away – Walking is a great way to get your anger out. Avoid driving to prevent yourself from putting yourself and others in danger.
- Choose safe ways to deal with anger – Take deep breaths, repeat a calming word, relax your muscles, imagine a calm place to decrease your anger. Don’t drink, use violence, or pick up a weapon.
- If you feel you’re a danger to yourself or others, call 911 or go to the closest emergency room. If you’re having thoughts of wanting to hurt yourself or hurt other people, it’s important to get help immediately!
What do I do with all the anger inside?
Find a safe way to express it. There are many safe ways to express your anger.
Here are a few ideas:
- Talk to someone you trust – Call or meet with a person you feel comfortable with and is a good listener.
- Exercise – Get that anger out by taking a long walk (in a safe neighborhood), work out at the gym, or play a sport. Exercise stimulates the release of chemicals in the brain called “endorphins” that make us feel more relaxed and calm. You can also try a relaxing or focused exercise to calm yourself, such as yoga or Tai Chi.
- Write in a journal – Let your feelings out by writing about them in a journal or song lyrics. You can also write a letter to someone you’re really mad at. You can read it again, edit it, and send it, if you’re still upset, or you can throw it away.
- Listen to or play music – Music has a way of calming the nerves and the soul, whether it’s listening to your iPod, singing along with the car radio (even if you sing off key), or playing an instrument.
- Draw, paint, or do other creative art projects – For some people, being creative is an outlet for their anger and helps them manage their feelings.
- Rest – Anger often takes our energy away and makes us feel exhausted. It’s fine to take a break, nap, or go to bed early. Sleep helps us focus so we can deal with our feelings better.
Controlling your temper is hard at first. When you slip up, give yourself a break, but take responsibility for how you acted and how it affected other people. A useful way to do this is to apologize. “I’m sorry” is a powerful phrase that can help do damage control.