Everyone has to deal with anger.
This week Becky Brito, one of our SPEEK peer educators, shares how she copes with anger. We asked Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center’s social worker Tiffanie Brown to explain the mechanisms behind why, exactly, Becky’s tips work.
Coping with anger can be really hard, especially when you are easily influenced by your emotions. I personally struggle with coping with my anger. There are many reasons why people get angry. Everyone is different–what triggers one person might not trigger someone else. It takes a lot to get me angry, which means I hold a lot in. That’s not healthy. Anger can be very serious. If you don’t know how to cope with your anger, you can very easily hurt someone else, or yourself.
Here are some things I do to cope with my anger.
1. Count to 10 or a high number.
This is a good exercise because you are taking time to say the number instead of lashing out because you’re angry.
Tiffanie’s take: It’s important to do this mindfully, so that you really disconnect from what’s making you angry. It also gives you a chance to practice deep breathing, and practice other coping skills. If you disconnect from the event or thought that’s upsetting you, you’re less likely to act out aggressively.
2. Count backwards from 100.
Counting backwards is always a good thing to do because it helps you focus on what the next number is.
Tiffanie’s take: This is a great exercise because it takes more effort and concentration than counting forward, which means you’re less likely to get distracted by what’s making you upset.
3. Do something you love.
Whether it is singing, drawing, boxing, working out or something else, doing something you love can better your mood.
Tiffanie’s take: The intensity of anger can feel overwhelming. Introducing another emotion, like joy or humor, can make it more manageable. Try doing an activity that you love or that makes you laugh, like watching your favorite movie. Doing something that takes energy, like boxing, also helps you get that anger out in a safe and healthy way.
4. Express your anger in a respectful manner.
Expressing your anger appropriately is good because it will not cause an argument or a fight.
Tiffanie’s take: Communicating is really important because if you hold it in, it will just build. Use “I” statements, like “When you laugh at me, I feel really embarrassed and angry.” Expressing your anger respectfully is a great way to help find a solution, or to help put the fire out.
5. Step away from the situation and reflect.
When you reflect on a situation it helps you see it in a different perspective and will help you solve the problem in a calm manner.
Tiffanie’s take: This gives you a chance to engage in coping strategies, and think about what happened. Ask yourself if the person who made you mad acted intentionally. Take a moment to figure out where they’re coming from.
6. Think of possible solutions to a given situation.
Thinking of solutions will help because it gives you hope for a better outcome.
Tiffanie’s take: Becky is exactly right. If you can’t think of a solution or compromise on your own, reach out to someone you trust to get their perspective.
7. Try not to hold grudges.
Holding grudges is very bad for a person because it can ruin relationships.
Tiffanie’s take: When you hold a grudge, you’re only hurting yourself. Others may not even know that you’re holding a grudge. Long-term, holding a grudge can affect your physical health, such as giving you headaches or tense shoulders. It can also make you feel disconnected, moody, or low energy. Pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you.
8. Ask for help.
Tiffanie’s take: It’s never a bad idea to ask for help. If you feel that a situation you’re in is larger than you, you feel unsafe, or just need help with a resolution, reach out to a trusted adult for advice. They can also help mediate a conflict.
9. Take long and deep breaths.
Breathing helps you concentrate on yourself and not the bad situation at hand.
Tiffanie’s take: When you’re angry, your breathing becomes quick and shallow. This makes you feel light-headed and increases the intensity of your emotions. Deep breathing like what Becky suggests will relax and ground you. This can open you up to thinking in a different way.
10. Take time to cool off.
When you cool off, everything becomes easier to solve.
Tiffanie’s take: When you’re angry, your body temperature actually goes up. Physically cooling down will help with the anger you’re feeling. You can take a 10 minute run outside in the cold, take a quick cold shower, or splash some cold water on your face. Be mindful while you’re doing this, concentrating on how the cold feels.
Feeling angry is a normal, natural part of being alive. It’s completely ok to feel angry. It’s how you respond to your anger that’s important. Emotions are like waves– they usually peak, and then decline. Remember that that peak is temporary, and you can ride it out.
The Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center is located in New York City. It provides comprehensive, confidential, judgment free health care at no charge to over 10,000 young people every year. This column is not intended to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services to you or to any other individual, only general information for education purposes only.