Cool it: Tricks and tips to manage anger better

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Anger is one of our most misunderstood emotions. We usually want to avoid it because it is an unpleasant feeling. However, when justified, showing anger at the right time can resolve issues and help bring about change.

Anger is a normal emotion. It’s only bad when it controls your life and has a negative effect on your physical and mental health, work and relationships. For newcomers, anger can seep in when reality does not meet their expectations. Challenges like a difficult job search, culture shock, or a rough adjustment to the weather can be frustrating. If these pile up, it could lead to chronic anger. If you are in this situation, consider the following tips:

Strategies for handling anger:

  1. Pay attention to the signs

    Recognize the things or situations 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? Does thinking about certain situations make you more prone to rage? Avoid these triggers when you can. Being aware of these can help you control your reaction.

  2. Count to 10

    It seems simple right? Counting to 10 allows you to stop, calm down and take stock of the situation. It will help you think clearly and assess the situation objectively.

  3. Understand why you are feeling this way

    Our thought patterns can make things worse than they really are. Negative thinking can even fuel our frustration and anger. For example:

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

    When you notice that you are doing any of these, stop. Take control of your feelings and focus only on the current situation.

  4. Think of the consequences

    Will your anger resolve anything? Imagine what your boss, colleagues, family, friends or even your kids will feel (or think of you) after an outburst. Think about the long term consequences that your actions can bring – Will you lose your job? Will you hurt someone you care about?

  5. 5 tips for handling anger from Howcast

  6. Turn anger into something constructive

    Instead of dwelling on the things that make you angry, course your energy into something constructive. Engage in mild exercise, yoga, or meditate when you feel overwhelmed. Try journalling to let it all out. Writing things down can also help you assess the situation clearly. It can 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. Talk to someone even if you notice milder signs but feel like anger is starting to affect your thoughts and health. You will benefit from the evaluation and advice of a counsellor or doctor.

Article updated April 16, 2020.
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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