A car cuts you off, causing you to slam on the bakes. Do you curse and thump on the horn? Or do you calmly let this irritation wash over you without scattering your cloud of zen? Our mood is likely to dictate how we react in this situation. But truth be told, some of us are quicker to anger than others.
When we allow relatively menial things to anger us, often, the source of our anger is something entirely different. We may harbor residual anger from something else, and then it erupts at something relatively benign.
This article will examine how anger expresses itself and why it harms us. We will then look at five ways we can control our anger.
What does anger look like?
According to VeryWellMind, anger is expressed verbally and non-verbally.
The verbal signs of anger include:
- Raised voices
- Expressing hurtful words
The non-verbal signs of anger include:
- Frown or scow
- Clench jaw
- Muscle tension
- Lash out physically at another person or an object
Some people are more “hot-headed” and susceptible to anger than others. Given anger is our inbuilt response to threats, whether real or perceived, it exists to protect us, but in reality, it can lead to our isolation.
This difference in individual anger levels bears the question of why some people appear more angry than others. Several factors impact our anger levels, including:
- Our upbringing
- Experiencing a traumatic event
- Feeling wronged or attacked
According to this study, we use anger to conceal feelings of shame, fear, or grief. It’s also worth pointing out that not everyone who experiences anger expresses it visually.
Why is anger bad for us?
We discussed the visual and non-visual signs of anger. There are also changes occurring within the body when we experience anger, which have a detrimental effect on our long-term health. Anger causes the following adaptations:
- Increase in heart rate
- Rise in blood pressure
- Surge in adrenaline
Perhaps the most sinister consequence of anger is its impact on our hearts. Anger can induce a heart attack or other heart-related emergencies.
But it’s not just our physical health that suffers from our anger. It’s our overall well-being. Some interesting studies have examined adolescent anger and found the following consequences.
While anger is a primal tool to keep us safe, it can have the opposite effect when we get the balance wrong.
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5 ways to not get angry over small things
Some people cannot control their anger and can flit between feeling perfectly calm one minute to red mist anger the next. This unpredictability isn’t much fun for the person in question, and it feels unsafe and scary for other people.
Here are five ways to help you control your anger.
1. Develop a meditation practice
Meditation is proven to enhance our mood and reduce stress and anxiety. The benefits of meditation set the scene for reducing the sensation of anger within the body.
According to Healthline, one of the benefits of meditation is increasing our self-awareness. This self-awareness allows us to process feelings and emotions. Sitting in stillness within ourselves and observing our feelings and emotions can teach us to unpick them in a safe environment.
Meditation invites peace and calm into our life which softens our propensity to react with anger over small and menial things.
In particular, metta meditation promotes loving-kindness and will help you tune in to compassion for yourself and others.
2. Work with a therapist
If you feel your anger issues are more complex than you can handle, you may want to engage in anger-management therapy. Anger management is devised to help prevent and control your anger and involves working with a specially trained therapist.
There are various options for anger management work, including group therapy and one-to-one therapy.
The therapist will work with you to help identify the source of your anger and help provide you with tools to use when you feel your anger rising.
A key proponent of working with your anger is to be in a position where you control your anger, as opposed to it controlling you.
3. Recognize your emotions
It’s easy to react with anger and ignore all the other complex emotions. Anger is a useful blame tool to push accountability away from ourselves and allocate responsibility outside ourselves.
But when we slow down and listen to our emotions, we may find other things going on. Our anger is often a tool for deflection. Maybe we feel criticized, and we feel embarrassed. Maybe we are experiencing shame from something someone has said.
In my policing days, the reports of domestic abuse surged after football matches. Those fans who supported the losing team often could not process their emotions and expressed them through violence.
When we cannot decipher our emotions, the risk is that they come out as a jumbled expression of anger and violence.
Learning to recognize and accept your emotions and feelings and the reasons behind these states is crucial in avoiding outbursts of anger.
4. Find perspective
It’s easy to make a mountain out of a molehill when we are prone to anger outbursts. Sometimes, all we need is to find a bit of perspective.
Is it worth bursting an artery over someone cutting in front of us?
Letting the small irritants wash over us means we save our mood from spiraling and protect our health.
If you find your anger rising in response to a situation, take the time to look for perspective. You can be irritated and frustrated, but does the situation merit such a reaction? Are other people responding similarly to you? Are things as bad as you are making out?
You may have spent half an hour in the car to travel to an attraction, only to find it is closed due to a power cut. These things happen; it’s no one’s fault. Yes, it’s frustrating, but lean into accepting the situation and looking for alternative entertainment. When we react appropriately according to the situation, we can move on quickly and prevent it from holding our mood captive and affecting everyone around us.
5. Practice relaxation techniques
Relaxation techniques engage the parasympathetic nervous system, which relaxes the body after periods of stress or danger. Some people live with elevated arousal levels. Most notably, people prone to anger live with elevated levels. But if we can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, we are more likely to evade anger bursts and remain relaxed in situations that normally induce an anger response.
There are many relaxation techniques you can use. I suggest you try different ones and find what works best for you:
- Breathing exercises.
- Mindfulness activities – coloring in, walks in nature, listening to music.
- A warm bath.
- Journal writing.
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Feelings and expressions of anger can rob the joy out of your life. Not only does anger affect you, but it impacts everyone around you.
Let’s be honest; it’s not much fun living our daily lives with anger spikes threatening to erupt over small and insignificant things.
Here are our top 5 tips for how not to get angry over small things:
- Develop a meditation practice.
- Work with a therapist.
- Recognize your emotions.
- Find perspective.
- Practice relaxation techniques.
What do you do to help control your anger and stay calm? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!