The most stressful year in recent history was 2021.
Gallup found negative emotions reached a record high in 2020, with 2 in 5 adults experiencing daily worry or stress and 1 in 4 adults experiencing daily anger. And while the COVID-19 pandemic was the major contributor, Gallup found that negative feelings have increased across the world population for nearly a decade.
Then, in 2021, people had more worry than the year before — but only 23% reported experiencing anger as recently or frequently.
While some things are out of our control, we do have the power to improve our emotional regulation and try to manage this negativity — especially anger. No matter how much irritation or frustration you feel, anger management strategies could help you lower your stress and maintain a positive outlook.
Learning healthy ways to control your anger will positively impact your wellness and relationships — so let’s start by talking about the role that anger plays in your life.
How anger affects your life
Anger’s impact on your life depends on how well you control it. If you tend to get angry and lash out, yelling at your loved ones or colleagues, anger could be straining your relationships and harming your social and mental health.
But if you’re able to take a few deep breaths, calm yourself down, and communicate your frustrations, anger will help you improve your emotional intelligence and self-awareness.
Because anger is a stress response, it can also harm your physical health. When something triggers your anger, your body floods with cortisol and adrenaline to activate your fight-or-flight and prepare for conflict.
Being constantly frustrated or irritated means an increased presence of these stress hormones in your body, which can lead to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and more.
Here are ways that anger affects different aspects of your life:
Your health and wellness
- It leads to cardiovascular issues like coronary heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes
- Encourages you to adopt unhealthy habits and addictions like excessive alcohol consumption and substance abuse
- Causes high blood pressure and heart rate
- Increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes
Your personal life
- It can act as a red flag for others who wish to avoid your low emotional regulation
- Lowers your self-esteem and sense of self-worth
- Ruins relationships with family members, children, and friends
- Makes people afraid or nervous in your presence
- Creates negative thought cycles
- Makes it difficult to work collaboratively with others
- Distracts you from your work
- Poorly impacts your work performance
- Creates a toxic work environment
While these are all negative attributes of anger, it has some positive benefits, too. In the right context, anger can act as “good stress” and offer you the following benefits:
- Motivating you to meet a deadline or show your worth
- Prompting reflection on boundaries and behaviors
- Increasing self-awareness
- Helping you identify your values
How anger management is helpful
Uncontrolled anger can overwhelm your system and harm your physical, social, and mental health. Learning how to manage your anger doesn’t mean you won’t feel angry anymore; it means that when you feel angry, you’ll know how to manage the emotion and neutralize its negative effects.
Channeling that negative energy into exercise or taking the time to calm yourself before trying to communicate will mitigate the consequences of unchecked anger.
Here are four ways anger management skills benefit you:
- Helps to identify the source of your anger: Anger management makes you reflect on where your anger comes from. It strengthens your self-awareness and gives you insight into some of your anger’s warning signs. For example, does your anger come from different types of stress, work, or miscommunications at home?
- Aims to control your feelings, not suppress them: Suppressing anger may cause it to manifest in physical symptoms or behavioral effects like increased irritability, reduced empathy, and an even shorter temper.
Even if it feels bad, learning to sit with your feelings is important for improving your emotional regulation skills. If you can let yourself feel your anger, you’ll be better able to pinpoint what triggered the negative reaction. From there, you can express your emotions in a healthy way instead of reacting in the heat of the moment.
- Improves your relationships: When you know how to control your anger and express it properly, you’ll notice the positive impact on your relationships. You’ll see that problem-solving with others is smoother, and you’re better at communicating your thoughts and feelings.
- Helps you live in the present: You could feel angry or resentful toward something that happened in your past or anxious about something you’ll have to do in the future. But anger management skills help you slow down to focus on the here and now. You’ll let go of past and future worries to focus on the present.
Anger management strategies
It’s not easy to learn how to calm down when angry. But rather than letting your feelings bubble over or stewing in your anger, learning anger management can help you harness the feeling into something productive.
Here are seven anger management tips to try next time you’re feeling the heat:
1. Think before the words come out
Thinking about your words before you say them helps you resolve conflict in a healthy, respectful way. What will happen if you say the words that jump to your mind first? How would you feel if someone said them to you? Thinking about the other person’s feelings, your relationship, and how you can focus on moving forward will help you prevent turning molehills into mountains.
2. Step away from the action
If your anger is becoming uncontrollable, or you need time to think alone, consider walking away. Some situations simply become too overwhelming to slow down, and you need to take a step back.
There’s nothing wrong with that. Take this time to do some deep breathing, examine how you’re feeling, and think about your next move. This isn’t to say that you should run away from whatever makes you angry, but taking a moment to pause will give you greater clarity as your anger subsides.
3. Practice relaxation techniques
Angry feelings spreading throughout your body make it difficult to find a sense of calm. There are lots of different relaxation techniques to try, so stick to the one that resonates with you most.
Try listening to music, practicing meditation, or using progressive muscle relaxation techniques. It might take some trial and error, but learning how to relax your body while you’re angry will help you return to a state where you can regain control over yourself.
4. Identify your triggers
Have you ever thought about what made you angry? It might seem obvious — like someone saying something rude or breaking your favorite mug — but what’s the real meaning behind it? Understanding your triggers will help you plan ahead.
You’ll learn if certain places, circumstances, or people are the source of your anger and what to try to avoid. If it’s something you’re forced to confront, like a toxic coworker, remember this person frustrates you. Try to focus on taking deep breaths and limiting your interactions to protect your peace.
5. Move your body
Feelings of anger rush through your body. You have all this energy, but what will you do with it? Studies have found that people who exercise regularly have higher control of their anger than those who don’t.
Exercise means moving your body, whether that’s going for a brisk walk, doing some yoga, or swimming. Whatever helps you move your body will help you manage your anger.
6. Inject some humor into the situation
Some situations welcome a good laugh. Humor helps to relieve tension and gives you a different perspective on the situation. You might be angry that you spilled your drink over yourself. Rather than stay angry, find a positive outlook and laugh at your mistake.
Just remember that you’ll need to be mindful when choosing this technique. Laughter and jokes aren’t always the most appropriate or respectful reactions to certain situations. Read the room, and decide if making a joke is the best option at the moment.
7. Seek professional help
Asking for help is something you should never be ashamed of. If your anger becomes too much for you and you struggle to keep up, consider talking to a mental health professional.
They’ll be able to suggest strategies that may work best for you. You might discover that your anger issues are linked to other mental health conditions or learn helpful coping methods with a therapist’s help.
For the future: Recognizing anger as a normal emotion
Anyone can benefit from anger management strategies. Anger isn’t a toxic trait or something you should feel ashamed of experiencing. It’s a universal emotion that might make an appearance at work, on vacation, or on your commute home. And in the heat of the moment, it may seem easiest to express anger without thinking about it.
Anger management techniques will help you learn how to control anger, which is an investment in your physical and mental health. They help you express your anger in healthy ways and teach you to be mindful of how your feelings impact others. Remember to view anger as a normal feeling and express it in ways that make you feel in control.