What is anger and how to convert unhealthy anger to healthy anger

Anger is a natural emotion that we all experience from time to time (especially the toddler throwing a tantrum at the shops). But what is anger and how to do we manage such a big emotion that can have destructive consequences.

Experts say that anger has evolved as a way of surviving and protecting ourselves from something we consider as a threat to us. Mild anger can be brought on by feeling tired, stressed or irritated and we are more likely to feel irritated if our basic physical needs (food, shelter, sex, sleep etc) are not being met.  Anger can also be a secondary emotion to feeling frightened, threatened or lonely.

Anger can be used to benefit or hinder our wellbeing.  Healthy anger can benefit us such as it can get you moving, give the opportunity to say something you have been meaning to say or stand up for yourself.  Then there is unhealthy anger which hinders our wellbeing by being aggressive, saying hurtful things we don’t mean, scare people away from you or hurts someone.  Making sure we have healthy anger can be easier said than done, but here are some suggestions to help you convert your unhealthy anger to healthy anger;

  1. Limit stimulants that increase your anger and irritability (e.g. caffeine, alcohol, drugs, anything causing tiredness etc).If you have a difficult situation to deal with, it is better if you have a clear head
  2. Practice non-identification with the passing emotion. Create a space between you and your emotion as the anger will come and go.  You can do this by recognising that anger is present inside of us, don’t resist or try to suppress the anger, realise it is okay to be angry and it is how we respond to anger that can be problematic.
  3. Count to 100 and make sure you are calm before you respond to the situation. Once you have calmed down state your needs assertively without being hurtful or controlling
  4. Do some exercise. If you feel your anger is escalating go for a brisk walk, run or other enjoyable physical activity that will help reduce your stress and give you a chance to reflect on the situation and the best way to respond.
  5. Listen to the language you use when talking to others, and change to gentler wording. For example, instead of “You have to…”, try “It’s important to…”
  6. When you have something negative to sayto someone, pull back and write it down or talk to someone else about it first. Give some time to let the perspective set in
  7. Notice thought patterns that feed your anger such as;
    • Over-generalising “You always do …”,
    • Making assumption “I know you think…”,
    • Blaming others for your anger “You make me angry..”
  1. Use “I” statements rather than blaming the other person. For example, say “I feel upset when you do …..”, instead of “You always do ….”.
  1. Practice relaxation techniques to calm yourself down such as deep breathing, positive imagery, repeating a positive statement (e.g. “I am calm”), listen to uplifting music, journal writing, physical activity etc.
  1. Know when to seek help.Controlling your anger can sometimes be challenging, but seek help if your anger seems out of control and hurts people around you or you do things that you later regret.