By Lauren Berger, MSW, RSW
Anger is a very natural and common emotion to feel when we feel like someone has hurt us, something doesn’t go our way, or something feels unjust. If your grrrr moments seem like they’re invading your life, you’re not alone. Like many other emotions, there is a healthy and unhealthy way to feel and express anger. The problem with unhealthy anger is that it may lead to things like significant inner stress (personalization) or vilifying of other people (blame), neither of which is healthy or helpful in resolving the issue. If you can feel your fists balling up at your sides on a regular basis, it may be time to address what’s making you feel so angry. I’m here with my top tips to resolve some of the most popular manifestations of anger.
1. Road Rage.
City traffic is enough to make anyone feel like they’re going bonkers, but when mild frustration turns into intense anger, driving can become more dangerous. Something you can do for a near-immediate effect is take some slow, measured deep breaths. After a few breaths, you’ll likely notice that your pounding heart resumes a more moderate beat and your tensed muscles relax. Once your body shows signs of calming down, you can address what’s going on in your mind. Bring your focus to your self-talk. If your mind is filled with enough four-letter words to make a sailor blush, try imagining that your best friend is in the passenger seat. What would he or she say to help calm you bdown? Say this to yourself. You’ll likely feel your anger diminish so you can finish your drive.
2. Relationship Rage.
We tend to be the most raw with the person we are closest to, and in many cases that person is your spouse. Partnerships are complicated, which means that arguments can easily reach a boiling point. Because we know our partners so well, we often know exactly how to push their buttons… and they know how to push ours. It is very easy to become defensive, which escalates arguments and anger. Remember that deep breathing from my first point? It applies here too. Next, to help get a better response from your partner (which will help keep tension, and therefore anger, at a minimum), make sure you’re framing everything from your own point of view. This diminishes finger pointing, which makes everyone’s blood boil. Instead of saying, “You never take out the garbage!” try, “I’m usually the one to take out the garbage but I would really find it helpful it we could switch off.” Most people seem much more responsive to being asked for help (“can we switch off”) rather than being accused (“you never…”). If you’re feeling particularly fiery one day, remember that you’re both working toward the common goal of feeling happy in a relationship together, rather than competing with one another.
3. Keyboard Rage
It is so, so, SO easy to feel enraged by the comments section of just about anything online. I myself have had to bite my proverbial tongue to the point of proverbial bleeding. When someone or something provokes me, I stop myself from typing out a mega rant by asking myself three questions: 1) How would my boss react to my comment? 2) Will my comment only make this escalate further? and 3) What good will come of this? Answering these questions can hold you accountable for what you’re about to put online… and we all know, once it’s online, it’s out there forever. So, if you’d be embarrassed to have your boss (or mom, or teacher, or partner) read your words, then hold it back. If your comment will only set off the online trolls, take pause. You’ll only be getting on the hamster wheel of the comment war that will zap your time and energy. And if you know that your comment will likely not serve to make a difference, it’s probably not worth it. Instead, try writing out what you’d like to say elsewhere, such as a note on your phone or with a good, old fashioned pen and paper. You’ll experience the release of getting your feelings out without the backlash.
4. Worldview Rage.
Sigh. The world is a complicated place. Tragedy strikes far too often, we wonder how our political leaders ever come to get elected, and we worry that our environment is going to hell in a handbasket. It’s a tough pill to swallow. I think many of us feel helpless in making a difference as the issues seem too huge and out of our hands. So, what can you do with your feelings about it? For more immediate relief, I always suggest some exercise. It helps burn off the frustration you may be feeling and get things into perspective. This may be going for a run, trying some kickboxing, a yoga class, or a simple walk around the block. Next, brainstorm ways that you can contribute to making a difference. Participate in a rally, make a donation, volunteer your time, or educate others to help them make better choices. Being the example is a great way to raise awareness, even in seemingly small actions such as bringing your own reusable bags to the grocery store or bringing your kids with you to vote in order to empower the next generation. Showing yourself that you are doing something to encourage change can help reduce the anger you’re feeling. Remember, you may feel like your voice won’t make a difference, but if all our voices are combined, it can be the loudest noise in the world.
You are allowed to feel angry, but if that anger makes you feel even worse, you will thank yourself to try one of these strategies to help you feel cool as a cucumber once again. Wishing you all peace and even temperaments!
**Disclaimer: The advice in this article is for informational purposes only and does not replace the diagnosis/treatment of a licensed medical or mental health professional.**
Lauren Berger is a Registered Social Worker Psychotherapist providing counselling and psychotherapy at IHI. Check her out at www.laurenberger.ca, drop her a line at [email protected], follow her on Twitter: @LaurenBergerMSW, or sneak a peek at her Instagram: laurenberger_msw.