Why you’re so angry and how to handle it
Have you ever gotten so angry or frustrated that you just want to scream? Or just want to punch something? The National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM) study revealed that anger can cause a person to lose the use of their prefrontal cortex which is what we use for making good decisions and having good judgement. We all get to that place at some point in our lives. Maybe our plans got completely ruined because of the weather, or we really don’t want to sit through another meal with Uncle Leo, or we’re tired of constantly hitting traffic everywhere we go. We get to the point where we are so mad we see red and want to either scream or even hit something. Anger can cause our bodies to have a physical reaction like increased heart rate, blood pressure and arterial tension while we lose our eye sight when upset.
Anger is an emotion that many people see as “bad”. Being mad is not a bad emotion but rather a misunderstood one. Everyone gets upset but it’s how we respond and communicate those feelings that matter most. After all, no one wants someone to be upset with them.
Many times when people are angry, we do and say things we usually later regret. We end up damaging relationships with those we love or work with because of our actions and words we say when in a heated moment. After the words are out or the action has been done, it cannot be taken back. Countless therapists and self-help books advise people to try to remain calm before you get angry and upset. But, what about when you’re already there and “seeing red”? Usually by the time we’ve gotten to that point it’s much harder to calm down. “The adrenaline-caused arousal that occurs during anger lasts a very long time (many hours, sometimes days), and lowers our anger threshold, making it easier for us to get angry again later on. Though we do calm down, it takes a very long time for us to return to our resting state. During this slow cool-down period we are more likely to get very angry in response to minor irritations that normally would not bother us” (Physiology of Anger).
Here’s some helpful tips to use when feeling angry:
- Walk away from the situation or person who is making you angry, if possible. When you are enraged, your first instinct is to get rid of the object or person that is making you feel this way. Obviously this can’t always be done. So the best thing is to remove yourself from the situation. When not faced with what is causing us to be mad and upset, our bodies can start to relax and you are more likely to make better choices in how to resolve the problem.
- Find a place where you feel safe and close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and count backward from 100. Distracting our minds on something seemingly meaningless like counting numbers can help our minds to start to lower the levels of adrenaline, testosterone, and other hormones and neurotransmitters that become increased when we get angry.
- Focus on a safe place in your mind. The beach, your bed, your mom’s warm embrace, etc. Try to imagine as much as possible. For example, if you’re safe place is the beach then imagine the heat from the sun, taste the salt in the air, and feel the sand between your toes.
- If possible, try to focus on what’s making you angry and ask yourself if what you’re angry about is worth being angry over. The saying “Pick your battles” is never more true than when something is making you mad or pissed. Stop and ask yourself “Is this situation worth ruining my day over?” “Is there another way to resolve this before I become upset?”
- Scream, cry, or punch a pillow. It may sound silly but sometimes the body needs a physical release from certain emotions. There’s a reason why when people become upset, they tend to increase their voice volume as the argument continues or they get so frustrated they throw a phone. These types of reactions are not healthy and typically cause an argument or become physical. But, screaming into a pillow, hitting a punching bag, or just sitting and crying can feel just as good.
- Lastly, talk to someone. Talking about what’s making us angry and venting can be enlightening about what’s causing us to be angry. Speaking our emotions out loud sometimes can also be therapeutic. Talking through what we are feeling can provide clarity into our thoughts during a time when our thoughts may be jumbled, coming all at once, or going around in circles.
As we get more into the holiday season, anger is one emotion we often see just about everywhere we go. Angry drivers on the roads, angry customers in retail stores and restaurants. Angry families at theme parks are things we can’t seem to avoid during this time of year either. For me personally, it’s the constant construction and traffic and bad drivers that can cause my blood to boil if I let it. I manage my frustration by reminding myself that I cannot control the other drivers and telling myself it’s more important to get to my destination safely than get into an accident and maybe not arrive at all. I remind myself that I have to be a safe driver no matter what because at the end of the day I want to come home to my family. Though we can’t control anyone else, we can control how we react to everyone else.
If you or someone you know is suffering with anger and anger management, please contact Life EnhancementCounseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced mental health counselors.
How Anger Affects the Brain and Body
Physiology Of Anger