Anger Management 101
Anger is a normal, even healthy emotion that can be beneficial when identified and expressed appropriately. Everyone blows up every once in a while, especially during adolescence when mood swings and interpersonal conflicts are common, but the following signs suggest anger may be a bigger problem:
- Feeling anger that is grossly out of proportion to the event or situation that prompts it
- Physical symptoms such as tightness in the chest, headache, irritability, tremors and tingling sensations
- Saying and doing things you regret when angry
- Using sarcasm, gossip or verbal violence to express your anger
- A desire to hurt yourself or others or damage property in a fit of anger
- Getting into frequent arguments or fights
- Feeling irritable or moody more often than not
- Withdrawing from friends and family to avoid dealing with anger
Whether your anger is occasional or persistent, managing this difficult emotion is a skill that can be learned. Here are a few steps to keep in mind next time you're about to blow a fuse:
Pinpoint the Problem. Pay attention to what triggers your anger, and how you're feeling and thinking as a result. How do you usually express your anger? Is your face red and your heart racing? Are you truly angry, or are you actually embarrassed or hurt? In many cases, anger masks another emotion, such as sadness, fear or guilt. Once the deeper emotions are explored, the anger often dissipates on its own.
Take a Minute. You can't always choose what happens or how you feel about it, but you can choose how you respond. Before lashing out in anger, take a few minutes to think. Are you reading the situation correctly? Could you be unfairly blaming yourself or others? Sometimes you need a break to accurately assess the situation and to release your anger. Counting to 10, taking a brisk walk, writing in a journal, listening to a favorite song, meditating and talking to a friend are all useful skills to control anger. Weigh your options and their consequences, and then decide what to do with a clear head.
Communicate Your Feelings. Just as important as identifying your feelings is learning how to communicate them to other people. Once you've calmed down, take responsibility for your feelings using "I" messages ("I felt angry when you…"). These statements will help you avoid blaming or criticizing the other person. Next, state your needs and concerns clearly but considerately (without hurting others or trying to control or manipulate them) and listen respectfully to what the other person has to say. Whenever possible, be liberal with your forgiveness. Holding onto anger will only make you bitter and resentful in the long run.
Don't Wallow. Instead of dwelling on your feelings of anger or frustration, focus on finding solutions. Since you can't control other people's behavior, think of what you can change to improve the situation.
Get Help. Sometimes anger can be a sign of a mental health disorder, such as depression or intermittent explosive disorder, that requires professional help. If your anger is persistent and gets in the way of enjoying your life, talk to a school counselor, parent or other trusted adult.
Growing into a responsible young adult requires learning how to manage strong emotions without losing control or doing something you later regret. Anger, like all emotions, is there to help you figure out what isn't working in your life and face the underlying issues so that you can return to a calmer, happier place.