Do you know that keeping your anger in check is good for your health? People who manage their anger get sick less often, and feel better emotionally-for real! Anger is a natural emotion but sometimes anger can lead to behavior that is out of control. It may even feel like the anger is controlling you. Have you ever had this happen to you? If so, you're not alone. Many teens have trouble managing their anger.
Why should I control my anger?
Even at a young age, having difficulty controlling your anger makes your body more likely to have physical problems that can occur now or later. This happens because your mind and your body are connected! These feelings can actually put stress on your body which can lead to medical problems such as:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Chronic lower back pain
- Stomach problems
Having problems with managing your anger can also increase your risk for developing emotional issues such as:
- Eating problems
- Substance abuse
- Drug, alcohol or other addictions
- Suicidal thoughts
Teenagers who have trouble managing their anger often have fewer friends, behave in more negative ways, and receive lower grades in school. Haven't had any of these issues yet? You are lucky. Don't wait! The time is right for you to learn how to control your anger and prevent problems in the future.
How can I tell if I'm getting too angry?
Your body has a few ways of letting you know when you are getting too angry. Some common feelings may include:
- Your heart races - it beats very fast and may even feel like it's pounding in your chest
- You breathe faster - it may feel like you can't catch your breath
- Your muscles tighten - your body feels stiff
- Your body temperature increases - you feel hot and may sweat a lot
What are some ways I can learn to control my temper?
The best way to control your temper depends on you! There is no quick fix. Every person needs to take time to think about what works for him or her.
Here are some helpful ideas:
- Improve your problem solving skills. When faced with a difficult situation or conflict, learn as much as you can about it and think about what happened. This will prevent you from making quick judgments that may be wrong. Remember, there are many ways to look at the same situation.
- Take responsibility for your actions. You can actually decide on how you will behave in certain situations ahead of time.
- Think about the consequence of your behavior. Realize that how you behave affects those you love and others around you.
- Pay attention to what upsets you. When you can figure out what triggers angry feelings, you can make decisions that will help you stay in better control.
- Pay attention to how your body feels when you are angry. When you notice your body beginning to change, it's time to take control.
You may feel anxious when you first try to take control of your temper. This is normal! Take time beforehand to plan ways to handle these feelings. The earlier you notice yourself becoming angry the more chance you have to stop your anger from getting out of control.
Is there anything I can do to relax when I'm feeling so angry?
Yes! Every one of us can find effective ways to calm down. Relaxation techniques work by helping calm us. When we are calm, our bodies relax, and physical problems brought on by anger such as a headache, usually disappear. Try the following techniques to help you relax:
- Take slow deep breaths. Breathe in and slowly breathe out - This works especially well when you feel like your breathing is speeding up.
- Repeat a calming word or sentence to yourself such as "I am in control of my feelings."
- Tighten your muscles then relax them. Notice the difference.
- Close your eyes and think about a person, place or thing, that makes you feel calm.
- Change the scene. Remove yourself from the situation. Leave the room for a minute or take a short walk. A change of environment often reduces angry feelings.
What do I do with all the anger inside?
Find a safe way to express it! There are many safe ways to express your anger. Here are a few ideas:
- Talk to someone you trust. Call or meet with a person you feel comfortable with and is a good listener.
- Exercise. Get that anger out by taking a long walk (in a safe part of town), work out at the gym or play a sport. Exercise stimulates the release of a chemical in the brain called "endorphins" that make us feel happy.
- Write in a journal. Let your feelings out by writing about them in a journal or create poetry or song lyrics. You can use your journal to write a letter to someone you are really mad at. You can read it again later, edit it, and send it, if you are still upset.
- Listen to or play music. Music has a way of calming the soul whether it is listening to your IPod, singing along with the car radio (even if you sing off key), or playing an instrument.
- Draw, paint or do other creative art projects. For some people, being creative is an outlet for their anger and helps them manage their feelings.
- Rest. Anger often takes our energy away and makes us feel exhausted. It's fine to take a break, nap, or go to bed early. Sleep helps us focus so we can deal with our feelings better.
- Think positively. Remind yourself that the world is not out to get you, but rather you’re just experiencing some of the rough spots of daily life.
- Communicate with others. Angry people tend to jump to conclusions. Slow down and think carefully about what you want to say. Listen carefully to what the other person is saying. At times, criticism may actually be useful to you. The best way to work through problems is by understanding how the other person feels.
Controlling your temper is hard at first! When you slip up, give yourself a break but take responsibility for how you acted and how it affected other people. A useful way to do this is to apologize. "I'm sorry" is a powerful phrase that can help do damage control!
What else should I know about anger?
In thinking about anger, it is important to remember that it is usually a secondary emotion. The underlying emotion is more likely to be rejection, fear, failure, frustration or sadness. This underlying emotion needs to be expressed and resolved for a person to heal from anger.
Professional counseling can help you discover and address the sources and triggers of your anger. Counseling can help you address the underlying feelings of hurt, fear and sadness, so you are able to make decisions about what to do with your feelings instead of letting them overtake you.
Would you like some individual anger management coaching?
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* some information on anger management for teens was taken from Center for Young Women’s Health and MyOutOfControlTeen.com