Cool it: Tricks and tips to manage anger better

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Anger is one of our most misunderstood emotions. We usually avoid it because it is an unpleasant feeling. However, when justified it can help resolve issues and bring about change.

Getting angry is normal. It’s a natural reaction when we’re faced with any kind of threat or aggression. It helps our body get ready to defend itself. Our brain sends signals that release a flurry of chemicals that boosts our energy, making us ready to fight off any threat. You may feel your heart rate increasing, blood pressure rising, and your breathing getting faster. This is normal; you can control it.

Anger only becomes bad when you have or show too much of it. It can control your life and affect your physical and mental health, work, and relationships. It gets to this point when we allow it to build up. For example, for us newcomers, anger can start to build up when reality does not match our expectations. Some may have had a rough start where they couldn’t cope with the weather or experience culture shock. Then later on they may experience a difficult job search, or bullying and discrimination in the workplace. More negative experiences (even minor ones) can pile up and cause chronic anger especially when they are not addressed and fully processed.

If you are in this situation, consider the following tips:

Strategies for handling anger:

  1. Pay attention to the signs

    Recognize the situations, events or memories that trigger your anger. Do you get angry easily when you’re driving during rush hour? Are you more irritable at certain times of the day, for example around the end of a workday when you’re tired or hungry? Remembering certain situations can also make you more prone to rage. Avoid these triggers when you can. Perhaps you can drive to work earlier than usual, observe regular meal times, or stop yourself from ruminating. Being more aware can help you control your reaction and avoid intense situations.

  2. Count to 10

    This simple habit can prevent you from doing or saying something that you may regret later on. Counting to 10 gives you time to calm down and assess a situation. This is especially important if you work in a high-stress environment. Try to count to yourself slowly, or post reminders where you can see them easily. A friend who handles customer complaints at a call centre has a poster on the wall in front of her with 10 calming photos consisting of cats and natural landscapes. You can devise your own by thinking of 10 things that calm you down or make you smile.

  3. Understand why you’re feeling this way

    Many times, our thought patterns make situations worse than they really are. Negative thinking can fuel our frustration and anger. Here some examples:

    • Overgeneralizing – Examples: “I never get the credit I deserve.” “People always disrespect me.” “Nothing good ever happens to me.”
    • Obsessing on “shoulds” and “musts” – Many of us set strict standards and unrealistic goals. When things don’t go exactly as we imagine, we get frustrated.
    • Mind reading and jumping to conclusions – This is when we assume that others are watching what we do and judging us.
    • Collecting straws – This is when we think about negative things, small irritations, and bad events in the past and then pile them on to a current issue. It makes a minor situation bigger and more dramatic.
    • Blaming – Having someone to blame can make one angrier. We do this to avoid taking responsibility for our own actions.

    When you notice that you tend to go into any of these thought patterns, stop and think for a minute. You can even write your thoughts down if you can, or talk to someone. Evaluate your thoughts and check if they’re true. It’s also important to identify the items that you can change or remedy.

  4. Think of the consequences

    Ask yourself – Will your anger resolve anything? Also, imagine what your boss, colleagues, family, friends or even your kids will feel (or think of you) if you allow your anger to get out of hand. Think about the long term consequences that your actions can lead to. Can you lose your job? Hurt someone you care about? Damage relationships?


    5 tips for handling anger from Howcast

  6. Turn anger into something constructive

    Instead of dwelling on the things that make you angry, redirect your energy towards an activity. Take a walk, engage in mild exercise, yoga, or meditate when you feel overwhelmed. Try journaling to let it all out. Writing things down can also help you assess the situation clearly. It can even lead to a solution or plan of action.

  7. Know when to get help

    Anger is considered chronic when you:

    • feel overwhelmed
    • have trouble organizing and managing your thoughts
    • fantasize about hurting yourself or others

    Seek the help of a professional as soon as possible. Talk to someone even if you notice milder signs but feel like anger is starting to affect your thoughts and health. We all can benefit from the evaluation and advice of a counsellor or doctor.

Article updated April 20, 2022.
Sources: Anger Management. Tips and techniques for getting anger under control, Molly Edmonds, Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. and Melinda Smith, M.A.,; Strategies for controlling your anger: Keeping anger in check, American Psychological Society; and Anger symptoms, causes and effects, Retrieved June 19, 2018.

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Community Resources

Do you or any of your family members need counselling? Aurora Family Therapy Centre offers effective therapy programs that are affordable. You can also ask them about their newcomer programs.

You do not have to be in crisis or suicidal to call Klinik Community Health. Experienced counsellors will be ready to listen and provide support.

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