Feeling angry, keeping cool

Is it normal to get angry?

Yes – everyone gets angry sometimes. It’s a natural response which evolved to help us defend ourselves from attack. But while anger is a natural emotion, it can cause problems if we handle it badly – especially if we become violent.

Anger triggers.

People get angry at different things. You might feel angry about something that has just happened, or because you’ve been reminded of something that happened in the past or because you’ve been thinking things over. It’s useful to identify what triggers anger for you so that you can be prepared. Common causes are:

  • friends letting you down
  • parents criticising you or not allowing you to do things
  • brothers and sisters being annoying
  • being picked on or put down by teachers
  • feeling frustrated because something doesn’t go as you expected
  • someone dying or leaving
  • being treated unfairly
  • not getting what you want

Recognise how your body reacts.

When we are angry the hormone adrenaline is pumped around our bodies. Your heart beats faster, your blood pressure goes up and your palms may become sweaty. Muscles tense, youmay get a knot in our stomach and your face can become flushed. It’s important to recognise these physical symptoms – if you can recognise the early signs of anger you can learn to nip it in the bud before it gets out of hand. Doing something very energetic such as going for a fast walk or run can help, or even giving your pillow a good pounding!

Things to think when people are winding you up

  • “I’m not the one with the problem, they are”
  • “I am better than they are.  I won’t give them the satisfaction of seeing me lose my temper”
  • “They will get bored more quickly if I don’t react”
  • “How sad that they have nothing better to focus their energy on”

How to manage anger

Anger management specialist Mike Fisher says there are eight rules that you can use to help cope with anger…

  1. Stop, think and take a look at the bigger picture.  People who go out of their way to wind you up are probably angry about something themselves.  For example, if someone is teasing you and calling you fat you might feel angry, but try to stop, think and take a look at the bigger picture.  It’s not happening because you are fat.  It’s happening because it gives them power over you, and pleasure, to wind you up.
  2. Remember that it’s okay to have a different opinion.  You may think Man Utd is the best football team in the world but others are not going to agree.  Try not to let yourself become angry when someone has a different opinion to yours, however strongly they express it.  We’re all entitled to our views.
  3. Use an anger management journal or log book.  When you are angry write down your thoughts and feelings, otherwise they will keep going round in your head and make you more and more angry.
  4. Talk to somebody about it.  Support from others can be vital in learning to handle all sorts of emotions, including anger.  Try to find someone to talk to about the events that have made you angry – offloading can really help you to put things into perspective.
  5. Don’t take anything personally.  This can be easier said than done when you are on the receiving end of an insult, but it’s useful to remind yourself that if someone’s trying to wind you up or dump on you, that’s about them and their problems, not you.
  6. Listen to people.  Make sure you listen carefully to what people are saying otherwise you may jump to the wrong conclusions.  If you don’t understand something you can ask for more details.  As you listen to what they say, try and put yourself in their shoes and get a sense of what is going on in their head.
  7. Lower your expectations.  Sometimes people do things that make us feel let down.  And the hurt can easily turn into anger.  Try not to have too many expectations of other people and instead take life as it comes.
  8. Anger by appointment.  When you feel angry, try and put off expressing your anger until a later time.  Perhaps suggest to the person who has upset you that you meet to discuss things later on or the next day.  This might give you the chance to calm down and process what has happened before you talk about why you are angry.

Ways to feel calmer

It’s rarely a good idea to let off steam in the heat of the moment – chances are you will say or do things that you will later regret.  So:

  • walk away
  • count backwards from 20 to 0
  • breathe deeply
  • recite a word like “relax” over and over
  • try to find a funny side to the situation
  • talk to someone not involved
  • listen to some music and sing at the top of your voice
  • go for a run or kick a ball about
  • play a computer game
  • picture somewhere you would rather be

Challenge angry thoughts

When we are angry we have a tendency to overreact and exaggerate.  Try to replace angry thoughts with ones that are more realistic – and probably calmer.

Angry thought: “My mum always ruins my fun.  She never lets me do anything.  I hate her.”

Calmer thought: “My mum stops me doing certain things but perhaps she has her reasons.  When I feel calmer I will talk to her.  Even if I don’t agree with what she says, at least I’ll be aware of why she is saying it”

Angry thought:  “He just gave me a dirty look.  I feel like smacking him in the face.”

Calmer thought:  “He just looked at me funny.  Maybe he has a problem with me or maybe he was thinking about something else and didn’t realise he was staring in my direction.”


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