How To Manage An Angry Mood

I used to experience my own anger quite strongly in my early twenties. I was often irritable and emotionally sensitive to those who were part of my inner circle.

This would probably shock the people closest to me as they probably wouldn’t even recognise that I was angry. That’s because anger for me, usually turned into and came out as sadness. I felt ashamed for being so emotional and angry and I wished I had an off switch to control my emotions.

It wasn’t until I was going through my training as a psychotherapist and participating in a lot of group therapy that I had an opportunity to understand my anger. I began to understand that other people got angry too and in fact  it COULD even be a connecting emotion that comes up when it’s safe and welcome to do so. 

We’ve all experienced anger before, it can present itself in different ways, like being slightly annoyed or frustrated at someone, a natural reaction when someone crosses the line with us or being really angry about something that justifies our anger. These are all normal experiences of anger. Anger becomes problematic when we begin to act out physically, this includes hitting, punching, yelling or using violence.

Learning to develop healthier ways to manage our anger can actually improve our overall health and well being. We lower our risk of heart attack, headaches and high blood pressure to name a few perks. When we manage our anger in healthy ways we also improve how we are able to communicate to our loved ones. This gives us the ability to have better relationships and feel more in control of our emotions.

As a side point, I want to share the positive of anger. Anger can be seen as a function of belonging, we have to feel safe enough to bring our anger up, particularly with others. I say this because when we are angry, we let the other person see the impact of what they have done, or how they may have crossed our boundary, were prepared to “shame” them so to speak in telling them how they have hurt us.
Anger as an experience can be complex to understand, if we were to look at our individual experiences from a psycho analytic point of view (which I often do with my clients) the theory can become confusing for those unfamiliar with the language, so I want to give you some simple yet different thoughts on anger and some clear an practical strategies you can use when you experience it.

1.    Recognise you’re angry
When were angry, everything is happening in the moment, we see and feel everything that is related our angry version of reality. This is why angry people often have great memories about certain things! We're also in a flight or fight mode and our primitive brain is in the driver’s seat, it’s easy to react. We can go from angry to raging with the click of our fingers. This is where we need to regroup and realise that were organizing our whole reality around a very small part of our experience. So step away, go outside for a walk, take a drink of water, do 10 jumping jacks or simply breathe deeply, change your physical state to bring you back to feeling grounded.

2.    Don’t respond instantly
 Anger isn’t usually a solitary experience, it generally happens in connection with another person. Good clean anger is about being able to hear the other persons experience, take in the information and feeling able to regulate ourselves so that we can meet them in that anger. As above, it might take some time to come back to yourself and get grounded again, but remember don’t respond in the moment.

3.    Ask yourself – Is this really a big deal?
We can get angry over almost anything, something someone says to us, lack of sleep, getting the wrong meal at a restaurant, drugs, depressions, kids not behaving, a skin break out or someone lying to you… the lists is endless. If your'e experiencing anger due to something small that has triggered you, realize that being angry isn’t going to solve the issue for you. It usually doesn’t make you feel better even if you flip the bird to that person who cut you off on the way to work or shake your fists at them as you drive past (yes I know this from experience). If it’s not a big deal, let it go and invest your energy elsewhere. If it is a big deal and there’s something that’s causing you major distress sin your life see point 6 below.

4.    When you feel calm and controlled express your anger
Anger is meant to be expressed. When people suppress their anger, they turn it inwards and it becomes internalized, this often leads to sadness and when un-supported, can in my experience lead to feelings of depression. The other common outcome is uncontrolled outbursts (You may not want anger sneaking up on you when you’re having a conversation in the office with your boss) that may be untimely. Once you’ve calmed down in the moment, try to assert and explain your feelings and concerns in an open and direct way rather than waiting until point break. It can feel uncomfortable when we don’t often get to do this,however, over time and with practice you will be able to learn how to express yourself clearly so that you feel heard, accepted and understood.

5.    Channel it
Anger triggers stress, so it’s important we get it out. We're often shamed for having a tantrum, but sometimes anger calls for it! Tantrums give us an explosive release of energy and were all allowed to crack it every now and then right? Get in touch with this part that serves you. It’s not about swallowing anger and internalizing it, it’s about letting it out. Choose your space and time wisely, it might not be appropriate or supportive in the middle of dinner! A way I love to channel exercise is through exercise, you might like to choose a physical type of exercise you enjoy to help you get out your energy.

6.    Seek professional help
If you have been struggling with anger to the point where it is impacting on your daily life Its important that you seek help from a professional (psychotherapist, doctor, anger management clinic etc). Psychotherapy has helped me understand my anger and given support to deal with and understand anger in ways that are supportive and healthy.

Natajsa Wagner is a Clinical Psychotherapist in Private Practice working with individuals, couples and groups. Natajsa is an advocate for authentic conversations that connect us. Natajsa believes that the relationship we have with ourselves and others is the essential ingredient to our emotional health, happiness and wellbeing.

Natajsa is passionate about speaking and teaching on the topic of moving from loneliness to belonging and the importance of human relationships. Her focus is on helping people develop self-awareness and understanding of our challenges, so we can create change that leads to more fulfilling and meaningful lives. Natajsa has been featured as an expert both locally and internationally and has contributed to a number of print and online media outlets including Women's Health and Fitness Magazine, Cosmopolitan Magazine & ABC Online.

You can find her:

Natajsa Wagner