Anger is a very common emotion that most (if not all) of us struggle with. For some, anger stems from unfair circumstances outside of their control. For others, anger is internalized and directed towards oneself. There may be a combination of factors that causes one to become chronically angry. While professionals may not have all of the answers, they do know that chronic anger and rage are bad for relationships, mental health, job security, and self-esteem.
While everyone has the right to feel angry when harmed, learning how to handle our rage is the key to long-term healing. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to letting go of anger, there are some solutions you can put in place today to handle negative circumstances more effectively.
1. Get Checked Out by a Doctor
It may surprise you to know that some anger is caused by a health condition. For example, head injuries, certain forms of severe autism, or endocrinological difficulties can create a physiological response that causes one to feel angry. While this is certainly rare, it is always a good idea to get a full physical to weed out any underlying health problems.
What is more likely is that chronic pain or an injury causes chronic anger. When one is experiencing daily recurring pain that is difficult to treat, it can lead one to feel frustrated and short-tempered. If a person is taking medications such as opioids to deal with the pain, some side effects can also include anger. If you have another mental health issue such as ADHD or Bipolar disorder, anger can also be linked to that. Your doctor can give you some tips and/or medications to treat those conditions, which will help with any subsequent anger problems.
2. Think Before You Think
Thinking before you think is just as important as thinking before you speak. So much of our negative emotions and attitudes are caused by what’s going on in our heads. Studies have shown that less angry individuals tend not to ruminate as much on perceived harm as angry individuals do. Those who are angry tend to struggle with obsessive or circular thinking. They harp on a perceived wrong until it impacts their physical state, which may result in heart palpitations, increased sweating, and physical shaking.
But it isn’t just about how we think when someone wrongs us. It’s how we think while we simply go about our day. Switching our internal dialogue so it is more positive can be very beneficial for mental health and overcoming anger issues. When we are in a calmer state of mind, it is easier to handle the many adversities that come our way. When we speak kindly to ourselves and forgive ourselves, we tend to be more forgiving of others. We can start practicing by learning to talk to ourselves in a more realistic, affirming way.
3. Think Before You Speak
Even if a person has legitimately caused you pain, you will not get the desired outcome by screaming and yelling. Taking a deep breath and speaking in a calm, clear, and assertive voice does more to gain respect and eliminate future poor behavior from others. Before reacting, think about how you want to be perceived. Those who come off as assertive will typically not have to state their case to the offending party again. In other words, the person that hurt you will get the picture.
That being said, thinking before we speak is so much more than just being assertive. We also need to be authentic. So much anger is due to our inability to express our feelings properly. We may have a friend who constantly takes advantage of us and we are too afraid to say anything for fear of losing the relationship. We hold this anger in and it turns into resentment. Then, we tend to blow up at unrelated people, such as service workers or family members. This causes us to feel shame, which leads to internalized anger. Instead, speak assertively and tell the truth about how you feel to those who have harmed you. If you struggle with assertive behavior, speak to a qualified therapist who can give you some tips on how to proceed.
4. Get to the Root Cause
Chronic anger doesn’t just appear out of nowhere. Nobody has an inherently “angry” personality nor were they born “angry.” We learn anger – perhaps from our parents, our siblings, or a teacher. Working with a therapist to get to the root cause of your anger can help you learn the appropriate coping mechanisms.
Journaling can be a great way to get in tune with your anger and figure out what’s bothering you. Try listing your insecurities and see how they correlate to your anger. Or, write down “Your Story” from childhood to adulthood to notice any discernable patterns. You can also write down your feelings every day before you go to bed so they aren’t stuck inside of your head, waiting to fester. Finally, talking to someone about your feelings -whether it be a friend or a therapist – is a great way to eliminate anger. Don’t be afraid to open up to others; chances are they are struggling with some form of anger as well.