Managing Anger through Mindfulness

We all get angry sometimes but there are ways of understanding and controlling our rampant emotions by practicing mindfulness. Anger is an emotion that can range from mild irritation to extreme rage which usually masks other underlying or unresolved feelings. It is an adaptive response that alerts us to a perceived or real threat which can be physical or physiological. It is also a reaction we produce at a time when we feel that our rights or dignity (or that of others) may be violated. Anger is not necessarily a destructive emotion if we find constructive ways to deal with our primary emotions.


When anger is expressed consistently, whether in appropriate or inappropriate ways, it will have some form of negative impact on our biological systems. These may include high blood pressure, raised heart rates and central nervous system damage have been linked to uncontrolled anger issues. Unexpressed anger can also become a big problem in its own right. These feelings may result in resentment and eventually lead to mental health issues like depression or anxiety.


Here are a few ways to use mindfulness as a tool to manage your anger:


1. Think before you speak

In the heat of the moment it's easy to say something you'll regret later. Take a few moments to collect your thoughts before speaking and allow others in the situation to do the same.


2. Once you're calm, express your anger

As soon as you're thinking clearly, express your frustration in an assertive but non-confrontational way. State your concerns or needs clearly and directly in a respectful way.


3. Get some exercise

Physical activity can help reduce some of the stress that amplified your anger. If you feel your anger escalating, go for a brisk walk or run and spend some time doing other enjoyable physical activities to reduce stress as well as boosting your endorphins.


4. Take a timeout

Timeouts aren't just for kids. Give yourself short breaks during times of the day that tend to be

stressful. A few moments of quiet time might help you feel better prepared to handle what's ahead without getting irritated or angry.


5. Identify possible solutions

Instead of focusing on what made you mad, work on resolving the issue at hand. Does your child's messy room drive you crazy? Close the door. Is your partner late for dinner every night? Schedule meals later in the evening — or agree to eat on your own a few times a week. Remind yourself that anger won't fix anything and will only make it worse.


6. Stick with 'I' statements

To avoid criticizing or placing blame — which might only increase tension — use "I" statements to describe the problem. Be respectful and specific. For example, say, "I'm upset that you left the table without offering to help with the dishes"; instead of, "You never do any housework."


7. Don't hold a grudge

Forgiveness is a powerful tool. If you allow anger and other negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice. But if you can forgive someone who angered you, you might both learn from the situation. It's unrealistic to expect everyone to behave exactly as you want at all times.


8. Use humour to release tension

Use humour to help you face what's making you angry and, possibly, any unrealistic expectations you have for how things should go. Avoid sarcasm though — it can hurt feelings and make things worse.


9. Practice relaxation skills

When your temper flares, put relaxation skills to work. Practice deep-breathing exercises, imagine a relaxing scene or repeat a calming word or phrase such as "Take it easy." You might also listen to music, write in a journal or do a few yoga poses — whatever it takes to encourage relaxation.


10. Know when to seek help

Learning to control anger is a challenge for everyone at some point. Consider seeking help for anger issues if your anger seems out of control, causes you to do things you regret or hurts those around you.


Contact prepare@familylife.co.za to find out about our Anger Management Support Group or call 011 788 4784 for counselling services.





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