How can I control my anger long term?
If you think about how to manage your anger when you’re feeling calmer, you can avoid feeling overwhelmed by it in the heat of the moment. In particular, you can:
- learn your triggers
- examine your thought patterns
- develop your communication skills
- look at your lifestyle
Learn your triggers
Understanding what sort of situations trigger your anger means you can develop strategies to cope and think about how to react before the situation happens. You might find it helpful to keep a diary or make notes about the times you have felt angry. You could record:
- What were the circumstances?
- Did someone say or do something to trigger your anger?
- How did you feel?
- How did you behave?
- How did you feel afterwards?
If you do this for a while, you might start to see patterns emerging. You could do this yourself using a mood diary (many are available online for free, see our useful contacts page for suggestions), or you could find a professional therapist to help you – see our page on treatment and support.
“Over time I have been able to spot certain triggers, which then enables me to look at myself and choose a healthier path.”
Examine your thought patterns
If you’re feeling upset or angry, you might find yourself automatically thinking or saying things like:
- “This is all their fault.”
- “They never listen.”
- “This always happens to me.”
- “Other people should behave better.”
But often there are lots of different ways we could interpret a situation. It can make you feel worse if you think in terms of ‘always’, ‘never’ and ‘should’, because in reality things are rarely so black and white. Making an effort to replace these words with softer terms like ‘sometimes’ or ‘could’ when thinking about your situation might help you to break up negative thought patterns, reflect more calmly on your situation and find new ways through conflicts.
“The best advice I was given was to stop briefly once I am angry to ask myself what painful emotion I am feeling in the situation where I became angry. A bit of compassion for my own pain often stops me from taking that pain out on others.”
Develop your communication skills
Being excessively angry and aggressive can get in the way of communicating your feelings and thoughts effectively. People may focus on your anger, and find it hard to listen to what you’re saying. On the other hand, if you are able to express your anger by talking in an assertive, respectful way about what has made you angry, then you’re more likely to be understood by others.
Being assertive means standing up for yourself while still respecting other people and their opinions. It can:
- make communication easier
- stop tense situations getting out of control
- benefit your relationships and self-esteem
Learning to be assertive might not feel easy to start with, but here are some things to try:
- Think about the outcome you want to achieve. What’s making you angry, and what do you want to change? Is it enough just to explain what you are angry about?
- Be specific. For example, you could open your statement with, “I feel angry with you because…” Using the phrase ‘I feel’ avoids blaming anyone and the other person is less likely to feel attacked.
- Really listen to the other person’s response and try to understand their point of view.
- Be prepared for the conversation to go wrong and try to spot when this is happening. If you feel yourself getting angry, you might want to come back to the conversation another time.
The organisation MindTools provides tips on respectful assertiveness on their website.
“What helps me is acknowledging how I’m feeling and why, then taking time to address it productively.”
Look at your lifestyle
Looking after your wellbeing more generally could help you feel calmer and more in control when things happen that make you feel angry. You might want to:
- Avoid drugs and alcohol. Although you might feel this could help you cope in the short term, alcohol and drugs can both affect your ability to control your emotions and actions, and can be a factor in violence. For information and support to stop using drugs or alcohol you can contact Alcoholics Anonymous Hong Kong.
- Be more active. Being active can help let out any tension you’re feeling, as well as having benefits to your self-esteem. Even gentle exercise like going for a walk can make a difference. See our pages on exercise for more information.
- Get good sleep. Not sleeping well can have a huge impact on how we’re feeling, and how well we cope with things that happen to us. See our pages on sleep problems for more information.
- Look at what you’re eating and drinking. See our pages on food and mood for more information.
- Learn to deal with pressure. We can feel pressured or stressed for lots of different reasons, but taking some time to learn how to deal with pressure can help us feel more in control of difficult situations. See our page on dealing with pressure for more information.
- Develop your emotional resilience. Emotional resilience helps us feel more able to handle difficult emotions.
“Exercise is the best thing to manage my anger. It transforms my mood!”