Kym Marsden’s monthly mental health column aims to help anyone suffering from any mental health concerns. If this article raises any issues for you please contact the resources at the bottom of this article.
To quote John Hyams: “Anger doesn’t demand action, when you act in anger you lose control!” Anger certainly removes our ability to think and act rationally, I’m sure that all of us at some point can relate to having an angry outburst which is followed by guilt, regret and apologising profusely.
Yet, anger can be positive when it is controlled as it drives us to initiate positive changes to situations that cause negativity through motivating us to stand up for ourselves, implement boundaries within our lives and protects us when we are faced with a threatening situation.
Anger is not necessarily the issue, it is more so anger that is disproportionate to the situation which distorts our ability to think or act rationally which becomes problematic.
It is important we are able to recognise our early warning or onset signs as anger is building to allow us to manage our emotions appropriately before the explosion.
How do we harness and regulate our anger? We can do this by learning to recognise our bodies’ early warning signs and sensations both internal and external to your body, such as but not limited to:
- Tension in your body
- Knotted stomach or throbbing head
- Feeling burning sensations in your body
- Withdrawing from others
- Racing heart and rapid breathing
- Clenching fists and/or jaw
- Racing thoughts.
By recognising your unique early warning signs, you are giving yourself a head start and time to practice self-awareness and apply strategies which will allow you to harness and contain your anger before it escalates to the point of no return.
You may find the following strategies useful to tackle your anger.
Take time out
Sounds obvious, right? But it does take practice to retrain yourself, whether this be removing yourself to another room, go for a short walk, or popping music in your ears to distract yourself.
If you are at work, you may want to excuse yourself to go to the bathroom and take a five-minute breather before returning. Whereas if you are at home with a partner, you may have a 15-minute rule in place whereby you both retreat to other ends of the house for this timeframe and re-group after you have both cooled down.
Stop and reflect
Allow yourself to view the situation from a different perspective. Pose these questions to help promote change in your thought pattern to develop more positive ways of thinking, seeing and acting in the future:
- In an hour or two, will I regret and wish I handled this situation in a different way?
- How would another person view this situation and what would their advice to me be?
- Will this matter a day, a week, a month or a year from now?
- Is my anger equivalent to the situation or is it that I am also feeling upset on top of my anger?
This can be an effective tool to release stress and relies on mental imagery to attain a calm mindset.
I’ve provided a technique I use but since visualisation is basically the use of your imagination, you can create your own visualisations to soothe you.
Close your eyes and imagine a tranquil place that provides you a sense of calm. Visualise what you can see, smell, hear and taste as it will assist in disrupting your thought pattern to refocus and ground you.
I visualise being at a coffee shop overlooking the ocean and sipping on a latte whilst hearing the waves crash, birds squawk and wind gently stroking my face. Wherever you choose to go, make sure you take those few minutes to immerse yourself in every detail of this scene which help to ground you.
These vary for everyone and take the form of events or circumstances that trigger an angry response within us.
Identifying what your triggers are will allow you to manage your anger more proactively and effectively, providing you an opportunity to get ahead of your triggers and manage them in a positive way.
If your anger is impacting your day-to-day life, it is likely there’s an underlying problem that needs to be addressed. Seeking help will give you the opportunity to engage in relevant education and therapeutic supports, enabling you to manage your anger positively.
So, I encourage you to either reach out through your local support networks that provide anger management, which you can access via an internet search, or seek a referral through your GP via a GP Mental Health Care Plan.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental ill-health, call or visit the online resources below:
- Lifeline – 13 11 14, lifeline.org.au
- Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636, beyondblue.org.au/forums
- MensLine – 1300 789 978
- Kids Helpline 1800 551 800
- Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
- Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet – healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au
By Kym Marsden
Kym Marsden is a Kamilaroi woman and Accredited Mental Health Social Worker with over 19 years’ experience in Mental Health and Community Services. Her qualifications include BA Health Ageing and Community Services, Masters Social Work, Dip Counselling, Dip Community Services (AOD and Mental Health), and Cert IV Training and Assessment.