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Anger is an emotional state that can vary in intensity from generic irritation to intense rage.We often think of anger as negative or to be avoided.  But anger, like any emotion, exists to tell us more about our needs, wants and beliefs.  For example, if someone posts something hurtful about a friend on social media, we might feel anger because someone we love and care about is being attacked. In short, we experience anger when we perceive threats – either personally or to those we want to protect. 

While anger can be beneficial, the feeling can often be overwhelming, impeding one’s ability to think rationally. Those in an angry state may experience changes in heart rate and blood pressure and other physical symptoms. These physiological changes can lead to maladaptive responses to anger such as outbursts, aggression, and violence. Learning to manage and control anger can improve your own happiness and your relationship with others. If you find yourself overwhelmed by your anger, consider taking a few deep breaths and recognizing why you may be feeling this way. Naming your feelings is a valuable tool for moving emotions from a high intensity emotional space to a more cognitive space. This allows us to calm the physiological reaction to anger and navigate our anger in a more relaxed way.

If you find yourself becoming angry frequently or not being able to control your anger, consider some strategies to manage your anger. Recognizing warning signs or triggers of anger can help you quell the intensity of the emotion. Healthy lifestyle habits such as eating well and exercising frequently can also ease the intensity of anger. 

In the workplace, the open expression of anger can lead others to feel minimized or even unsafe. Work can often be a stressful environment which can heighten the frequency and intensity of feelings of anger. Anger can also cloud judgment and impair one’s ability to see things from a different perspective. It is important to recognize how your behavior in response to feelings of anger may be affecting others, however anger in response to unfairness or disrespect in the workplace is a normal and valid emotion. Thus, understanding what is leading to this anger can help identify if a greater issue needs to be addressed. 

Memories of traumatic or harmful events can also trigger anger, so it is important to practice self awareness and to identify warning signs which can signal that it may be time to use a coping skill or ask for additional support or intervention. Individuals with prolonged or intense anger may experience negative impacts on their physical, emotional, psychological and social health and well-being.

How do I respond to anger?

  • Remember that anger is a normal experience
  • Identify the root of the anger. In some cases anger may be due to underlying fear or anxiety about a certain event of life circumstance.
  • Express the anger in a healthy way – journaling, talking it out, ripping up a scrap of paper, squeezing a stress ball.
  • Take a break if needed to practice relaxation strategies- bring the mind and body together to help calm and focus.

If you are helping someone else process their anger, remind them of these tools but also remember to set healthy boundaries for yourself. Try phrases like…

  • I can tell you are frustrated, would you like to take some grounding breaths together?
  • You seem upset today and I am wondering what I can do to help you. I am here to listen when you are ready. 
  • I understand that you would be angry over that. How can I support you?
  • I can tell you are upset, but when you speak to me that way I feel hurt.

Resources for Managing Anger

Controlling anger before it controls you from the American Psychological Association

Zero to 60: A teens guide to manage frustration, anger and everyday irritations by Michael A. Tompkins

Managing Workplace Anger from the Harvard Business Review

Tips for Survivors: Coping with Anger from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. .