Anger is a natural emotion. It’s neither good nor bad. It’s simply an emotion. What people do with their anger can become good or bad, but the emotion is neutral.
“Anger acts like an early-warning system for our bodies, letting us know when something is not right,” says Paul Roadt, a Mayo Clinic Health System social worker. “We often ignore or stuff down our anger, letting it brew within our mind and body. When we don’t process our anger, it starts to escape our bodies through our words and actions, causing damage to relationships, people, animals or things.”
Roadt says the damage created by anger doesn’t need to be physical.
“One of the most common presentations I see is internal anger,” he adds. “People will tell themselves, ‘I’m bad,’ ‘I’m not good enough,’ ‘I let them down’ or ‘I messed up again.’ When these thoughts develop, they reduce our natural ability to handle stressors. This can lead to not having the coping skills in place to handle our anger effectively, causing us to have an anger episode.”
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Roadt says that if you’ve been able to relate to any of this so far, you might benefit from having an anger evaluation by a mental health professional. If you find yourself physically hurting people, animals or property, he says, it’s time to seek help now.
If you struggle with minor anger, Roadt offers a few quick skills you can use to reduce your anger level:
▪ Communicate your feelings with loved ones in a calm and healthy manner.
▪ Slow down your thoughts. You don’t need to react or respond instantly. Take a second to ensure that what you are going to say or do is appropriate.
▪ Take a breath. Oxygen helps you think clearly and can reduce the level of anger you feel.
▪ Take a break. Walk away from the object that is influencing your anger, and come back later and finish. If it’s a person, tell him or her you need five minutes to collect your thoughts, calm down and return to the conversation. Take as many breaks as you need.
If you think you would like help with your anger or more skills than were offered here, consider an appointment with a mental health professional to reduce the cost of anger in your life.