Anger is an unpleasant emotion ranging in intensity from irritation or annoyance to fury or rage. But what makes people angry is different for everyone. Things that infuriate some of us don’t bother others at all. Yet we all regularly experience events that could make us angry, such as:
Frustration and powerlessness.
Harassment and bullying.
Injustice, real or perceived.
Exhaustion and burnout from stress.
Demands or criticisms that we think are unfair.
Threats to the people, things or ideas that we hold dear.
Anger and aggression are not the same thing. Anger is an emotion, while aggression is a behaviour. Not everyone who feels angry is aggressive, and vice versa. Sometimes we may be aggressive because we feel afraid or threatened. You might not yell or confront others but still feel angry. In fact, passive-aggressive people can be as difficult to deal with as those who scream and shout. When someone is being passive-aggressive, they vent their anger in an indirect manner. Also, some of us might show no angry outward signs whatsoever – however furious we are. But suppressing emotions can actually do more damage than showing your anger.
The Dangers of Being Angry
An appropriate level of anger can spur us to take proper action, solve problems, and handle situations constructively. However, uncontrolled anger in the workplace can have many negative consequences. It can cloud our ability to make good decisions, affect relationships with co-workers, and destroy trust between team members.
Effective team working is based on sharing ideas in a supportive environment. If people think their team leader will fly into a rage if they suggest something, they’ll stop contributing and the team won’t function at its best. Unexpressed anger can be as harmful as outward rage. You may not express your anger but instead bear grudges or feel like you’re a victim, with damaging consequences for team cohesion.
Frequent anger, whether expressed or not, poses health risks, too. One study found that people who get angry regularly are more likely to suffer from heart disease. Research also highlights a link between anger and premature death. Further studies show it correlates to anxiety and depression.
Change What Makes You Angry
It’s important to deal with anger in a healthy manner, so that it doesn’t harm you or anyone else. First, recognize the problem exists. Sometimes, people don’t understand that their anger is an issue. They may blame other things: people, processes, institutions, even inanimate objects like computers. You probably know people like this, or maybe recognize the trait in yourself. You can tackle this by developing self-awareness to better understand how others see you. Do that and you’ll be more effective at managing your emotions.
Also, it’s important to be resilient. The ability to bounce back from disappointment and frustration is much healthier than becoming angry about it. How you interpret and react to situations depends on many factors in your life. Thinking about the reasons why you interpret and react to situations in a certain way, can help you to learn how to cope with emotions better.
Once you recognize what’s causing anger, you can start to manage the triggers. That way, you’ll accomplish more, stress less, and avoid feeling overwhelmed or powerless. Here are some practical steps that you can take to prevent or manage anger:
- Learn to recognize the onset of anger. When you become angry, your heart rate rises, and you breathe faster. It’s the classic “fight-or-flight” response. Be vigilant, so you can start dealing with your anger early, before it gets out of control.
- Give yourself a time-out. Stop yourself from “leaping in” with an angry response to a situation. Pause, and count to 10 before you act or speak.
- Breathe slowly. Regulating your breathing and other simple relaxation strategies can combat the onset of anger – they calm you down and allow you to think clearly.
Dealing with Long-Term Anger
If you feel angry often, you may need to take a more strategic approach to dealing with it. Here are six habits that over the long term will keep your anger in check:
- Exercise regularly. Exercise releases chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin into your body which can improve your state of mind and make you less prone to anger.
- Find some quiet time. Regularly practicing calming techniques such as Mindfulness which is a great way to cope better with stress and frustration.
- Avoid alcohol. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions and can make angry outbursts more likely.
- Express emotion. Talk about your feelings with a close friend or loved one and consider keeping a journal.
- Let go of angry thoughts. Try not to think that the world’s unfair, or that everyone and everything is against you. They’re not.
- Assert yourself. Assertiveness is not aggression. Learn to get what you want while taking account of others and respecting their feelings. But speak up for yourself and tell people when you think they’re wrong.