Why Do I Get So Angry And How Can I Find Calm? – By Traci Baxendale Ball, LMSW, CAADC
Anger is an emotion.
Emotions don’t cause problems if we simply acknowledge them.
Usually what causes problems is behavior.
There is a difference between feeling angry and acting angrily.
You may find yourself wondering why you feel so angry. You might wonder how to find calm. Your anger may have hurt those around you. Anger may be harming your health as you repress it or stew in it. You may ruminate often.
Feeling angry is a normal human emotion. The average person experiences anger daily. It happens on a continuum that varies from mild annoyance to full-on rage. Anger can get so out of hand that it is destructive to your relationships as well as your physical and mental health. If you notice that you behave in ways that sabotage your happiness when you’re angry, counseling and/or anger management can help. Read on for some self-help tips.
Why Do I Get So Angry?
The amount of anger you experience on a daily basis is a product of your temperament, life experiences, and mental filter. Stress, chronic pain, and lack of sleep can turn small slights into big deals. You’ve heard that expression, “Don’t sweat the small stuff”? Not sweating the small stuff is more difficult when you’re not feeling your best because you’re sleep deprived or in pain.
How Does My Mental Filter Increase My Anger?
As I’ve mentioned, the typical person experiences anger on a daily basis. It’s not a bad thing if it’s dealt with in a constructive way. The way you interpret events through your mental filter can turn your anger up or down. For instance, imagine you are sitting at a traffic light and the person in front of you idles for longer than you would like when the light turns green. If your usual response is to honk, cuss, yell or make a rude gesture, you may find that this angry reaction is replicated in other areas of your life. An angry response is the result of an irritable, impatient mental filter. A “Do it now!” attitude. A better filter is one that is calming and helps you to be patient. The filter you create allows you to see the world in a way that makes you more angry OR less angry.
You might start to think about getting help for your anger if you notice you’re overreacting. After all, it can be very unpleasant to feel frequent surges of anger as a reaction to your own or other people’s petty mistakes. You may also start thinking about getting help if you’re taking anger out on people you love. Taking your anger out on people you love leads to shame, guilt and poor self-esteem.
In the end, it is important to understand that it really doesn’t matter why you’re angry. What’s more important is that you learn to respond to your anger in a way that doesn’t affect your life and those around you.
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How Do I Begin to Manage my Anger?
Mindfulness seems like a word for the hippy crowd. It may bring to mind mountain-top meditators. Mindfulness seems like an approach that is full of mystery. Let me shed some light on that for you. Mindfulness just means paying attention. So when you apply that to managing your anger, you will pay attention to what is triggering your anger, how it feels and what do to with it. Going through these mindfulness steps will help you to respond to anger rather than being reactive. Being reactive is when you act out on your anger. Anger management helps you to respond in helpful ways to the inner experience of anger, no matter how intense and frequent it is.
Is Anger a Part of Mental Illness?
People that struggle with mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and Bi-Polar Disorder typically experience more anger than others. Whether your anger is a result of a mental health condition or life circumstances, you’ll benefit from learning techniques to manage it.
Anger and Mindfulness
Mindfulness is enjoying a surge in popularity. In truth, it has been used for thousands of years as a foundation for good thinking and mental health. Mindfulness means to be aware and to be in the present moment. Mindfulness will be of great help to you as you learn to monitor and manage your anger.
Use these steps to manage your anger:
1. Notice (be mindful of) what is happening when you get angry. Start to make connections between what’s happening at that moment and your anger.
2. Make a mental note of these triggers.
3. The next time you face your trigger, note the situation that’s causing it and begin taking deep breaths.
4. Notice your emotions (disbelief, outrage, disappointment, hurt, helplessness).
5. Notice your thinking. How are you thinking because of your trigger? Are your thoughts angry and judgmental? What is your mental filter?
6. Keep breathing to slow down the pace of your thinking and tell yourself a soothing thought.
7. Resist the urge to react or act on impulse.
8. Think about how you can respond rationally (which means reasonably) to the situation.
Examples of Soothing Thoughts
Soothing thoughts help your anger melt away. This is different from stuffing or ignoring your anger. Practice telling yourself soothing thoughts while you breathe when you notice your anger kicking up. Here are some examples of soothing thoughts:
1. “I can stay calm. Just breathe.”
2. “Everything is going to be okay.”
3. “I don’t have to act on this anger.”
4. “I’m in control. I can choose to be calm.”
5. “Just think through this.”
6. “This will pass in a moment.”
7. “I’m only in control of what I do.”
8. “I don’t want to get angry and feel bad.”
9. “I want to feel good.”
10. “Let this go.”
The Value of Journaling
It is difficult to tackle your anger when you’re feeling heated. Journaling about the things that made you angry AND about helpful ways to find calm helps you get ahead of the problem. It’s called coping ahead. Journaling helps you be self-aware. It is that self-awareness that is needed for you to catch yourself in those moments of anger, so you don’t do or say something you regret.
There are many ways to journal. You might benefit from starting your day with a power hour, taking some of that time to journal. If racing thoughts keep you awake it may be better to journal when you’re in bed, before you turn out the light. Set aside time in your day to write. Start journaling daily and write everything that you feel. If you can, carry a small notebook around and write down what happened just before you got angry. Writing purges the toxic waste of anger. Remember that every emotion has an associated chemical response in every cell of your body. Journaling ensures you get rid of toxic waste so that it doesn’t make you sick.
How Can I Find Calm?
Once you start noticing a pattern as to why you get angry, you can develop a strategy for avoiding anger whenever possible and coping with it when it is inevitable. If the same things make you angry every day, try to eliminate or reduce your exposure to this trigger.
It’s not always possible to avoid your anger triggers. Here are some general things that you can do to manage your anger on a regular basis and promote calm and relaxation in your life:
A. Practice Yoga/Tai Chi or Other Restorative Movements
You may already feel overscheduled. If this is true, it’s not likely you will find 90 minutes in your day to drive to a yoga studio and take a class. It is possible to get the benefits of yoga without the hassle of driving to a studio. Get a yoga mat and review some basic poses that involve stretching, strength and balance. You will find practicing 15 – 30 minutes per day at home to be beneficial. The benefits of yoga or other formal flow/stretch exercises include learning to breathe, learning to be still in poses, mindfulness as you get more connected to your body and a release of tension and pain through the poses. These poses are highly adaptable for age, injury and fitness level. Simple modifications ensure you can stretch and breathe from either a yoga mat on the floor or seated on a chair.
B. Start a Morning Routine
Everyone needs a power hour in the morning. If you keep pressing snooze and roll out of bed a few minutes before you head off to work or the kids get up for the day, you will feel frazzled and irritated before facing your first stressor. Starting your morning on the right foot can have a significant impact on your mood throughout the rest of the day. Think of ways that you can wake up, centered and relaxed. Get up early and take your time getting ready. Consider journaling, spending time outside, read a reflection or affirmation, pray, move and listen to uplifting music before you join the rat race. A morning routine can involve drinking a glass of water, a cup of coffee, a healthy breakfast, turning off screens, reading, meditation, exercise… anything that is healthy and makes you feel great!
C. Breathe Mindfully Throughout the Day
Check in with your breathing often. Notice if it’s shallow or rapid and stand up, stretch and reset. Note that your breathing changes as you become tense. If you notice the warning signs before you get angry and can stop yourself from blowing up, then you have accomplished something big. Rather than reacting right away when anger starts to creep in, give yourself a moment. Think about the situation. Respond in a way that is more composed as the breath moves in and out of your body.
D. Assertive Communication
Try speaking assertively to the person that has upset you. Being assertive means that you combine being firm and clear with a sense of kindness. When you are able to let the person that upset you know you’re feeling slighted, you won’t stew for so long. Before you fire off an angry email or text, hold back what you have written for 24 hours. Go back to what you wrote and make sure it is clear, necessary and kind.
E. Speak to a Counselor
Online counseling services like BetterHelp are a convenient and affordable alternative to in-person counseling. They allow you to speak to a professional who can help you manage your anger. When you manage your anger, you’re not afraid to feel it because you feel confident you can manage it.
1. Take slow and steady breaths for a moment or two.
2. Imagine zipping up the mouth. (It will prevent you from saying something mean).
3. Now focus on your mind’s eye, the space between your brows, and get a helpful mindset on board. YOU (not your emotions or negative thoughts) are in charge of your behavior.
4. Run what you’re about to say through this filter and only say it if it passes the test: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?
5. Breathe deeply and let the emotion dissolve. Let is wash over you. Breathe out the bad stuff.
*PAUSE* BREATHE *THINK *SAY*
In addition to helping you with anger, this technique will also help you to speak truthfully versus impulsively which can lead to lying (and that really hurts relationships!)
This skill is not suppression or avoidance of anger! It is acknowledging it and working with it!
Notice your rage has cognitive components (mind/thoughts), emotional components (like huge waves of emotion crashing into you) and somatic components (you feel it in your body).
Now notice how you would normally act out on this emotion (default behaviors). It is usually destructive. Why contemplate changing it? Think about your MISSION.
Final Words on Finding Calm
It’s okay to feel angry. Feeling angry is not a negative thing. It’s what you do with your anger that counts. Mindfulness helps you notice it so that you can respond, rather than being reactive and impulsive. Use the tips you’ve read here to improve how you cope with your anger. The research shows that people that manage their stress and anger well have better health outcomes and improved relationships.
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Traci Baxendale Ball LMSW, CAADC is the founder of Vibrant Health Company LLC
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