It is no secret that we all get angry from time to time. We get into an argument with our spouse, partner, or child. We think the boss is treating us unfairly by withholding a promotion or piling on the work so that it spills over into the weekend. We disagree with a decision made by our local, state, or federal government.
Anger & Our Mental Health
That barely scratches the surface of all the things that might cause us to feel angry. And it is only natural to experience anger in any number of circumstances.
But when it comes to our mental health, the real question is this: How do we manage that anger?
The Upside of Anger
Sometimes anger can be a helpful emotion. It might encourage us to make a necessary change like improving our relationships, finding a new job, or volunteering for a cause that is important to us. If we didn’t feel a spark of upset, we might not be motivated to make these changes, and we might let a bad situation get worse or miss a chance to make a real difference in the lives of others—or in our own life.
So our goal when thinking about managing anger is not to suppress the emotion. In fact, that is not a healthy approach at all. Instead, our goal should be to channel that anger in useful ways that are not harmful to ourselves or others.
But it is not always easy.
The Downside of Anger
Sometimes we get angry and the emotion feels like a wave crashing down on us—or like our whole body has suddenly burst into flames. In the blink of an eye, we have lost control of the anger, and when that happens, we may feel the anger growing and growing until it is well out of proportion to the situation or subject we got angry about in the first place.
Anger of this sort—which may be accompanied by any number of behaviors ranging from yelling and stomping around to breaking things or even throwing a punch—often leads to feelings of embarrassment and guilt when we finally calm down. But by then, the damage to our relationships and our reputation may already be done.
Sure, an apology can go a long way. But it would be better to avoid these kinds of outbursts in the first place. Fortunately, there are some strategies that can help.
Strategies for Managing Angry Emotions
There are a number of things you can do to help moderate the impact of anger in your life. First and foremost is recognizing if and when your anger is actually a symptom of depression. While we tend to associate depression with symptoms like ongoing sadness or lethargy, some people experience anger as a symptom of depression—and in those cases, talking with a doctor or therapist is a great first step toward feeling better. Therapy, medication, or a combination of the two can often help.
What else can you do to better manage your anger experience? Here are some ideas:
- Be kinder to yourself by quieting your inner critic.
- Step away from confrontation when you start to feel anger building up.
- Choose forgiveness over holding grudges (though you should still end toxic relationships).
- Support your mental health through yoga, mindfulness practice, regular exercise, good nutrition, good sleep habits, decluttering, and more.
Feelings of anger are going to come and go, but with these strategies in mind (and in practice) you can better control it—so that it does not control you.
Do Not Be Angry With Yourself for Needing Help
Sometimes anger can put us in a vicious cycle. We feel intensely angry about something and then we feel angry with ourselves for how we reacted or behaved. When we are down on ourselves we may be more likely to let anger at others flare up again—and we may also be unwilling to get the help and support we need to improve our overall mental health.
At Johnstown Heights Behavioral Health, we understand how that cycle of anger can worsen. We also know, however, that we can provide a personalized, evidence-based treatment plan that can help you regain control over your feelings of anger and strengthen your mental health so that the emotion plays a less dramatic role in your life. When you are ready for a change, we are ready to help.