Managing your anger

17 December 2020

Anger can be defined as a “strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility”. We all get angry at some time.

When you are feeling angry, it is often easy to feel like you are going to ‘lose control’, but there are ways to help you manage your anger.

Creating your anger-meter

One of the ways to manage your anger is to create an ‘anger-meter’ for yourself. An ‘anger-meter’ is something you can use to monitor and assess your anger levels. Think of it like reading your anger temperature – are you still feeling cool, or are you finding yourself heating up rapidly?

You can rank your anger on a scale of 1 to 5. Here is an example:

1 Cool

2 Feeling on edge or hyper-sensitive

3 Annoyed

4 Angry

5 Rage

For each notch your anger-meter rises, you will experience different things and your body may start to react. When you are ‘cool’ you should be smiling, breathing normally, and your reactions and thoughts would be as they usually are.

At level 2, you may find yourself getting agitated, breathing a bit faster, or making more sudden movements.

At level 3 you could see visible changes in your mood and reactions such as being snappier with those around you, feeling some tension in your body, and reacting quickly to things that trigger you.

At level 4 – anger – you often don’t pause to think before you act. You could find changes in your body such as an increase in breathing, heart rate, sweating, clenching your hands, shaking, or more muscle tension. You might raise your voice or swear.

The goal is to avoid getting to this level where possible, and to avoid progressing beyond to level 5 – full blown rage – where you would be out of control and may resort to violence, slamming doors, or screaming, and doing or saying something you may not mean or may later regret.

By keeping track of your anger levels, you can implement some skills to help you lower your level back down again.

Tips to manage your anger:

  • Learn to recognise the warning signs of anger
  • Try to slow your breathing (deep breathing)
  • Focus on muscle relaxation
  • Take time out – leave the situation for a period
  • Exercise (for release of emotions or for relaxation)
  • Allow yourself to feel the emotion (talk to a friend or write in a journal) instead of suppressing it
  • Think of the consequences of acting in a certain way (if you handle your anger poorly)
  • Use visualization skills (imagine a relaxing experience)

The value in managing your anger well can be seen in your relationships, mood, and general mental well-being. By carefully considering your reactions and then making informed choices about your actions, you can face difficult conversations and circumstances with confidence and know that you can leave without regret.

Written by:

Megan Hosking, Psychiatric Intake Clinician, Akeso Clinics

Cayley Lewin, Occupational Therapist, Akeso George