Stepping Back from the Edge: How to Deal with Anger in the Moment

Anger has a bad reputation, but it is a natural and healthy emotion that everyone feels from time to time. Anger is often triggered by fear, pain (emotional or physical), or both! It fuels passion and raises a flag that changes need to be made in our lives. But when you find yourself being caught off guard with unexpected anger or feeling anger at a time when you can’t express it, it can be difficult to cope with. The acceptable emotion of anger can quickly turn into the costly behavior of aggression if it is not addressed in a healthy manner.

So, what can you do when you find yourself feeling anger unexpectedly? Below are some strategies to help you keep your calm and respond appropriately.

1. Acknowledge Your Feelings
When you’re caught off guard with anger, you might start to feel defensive or emotional and not immediately know why. You may notice your body’s warning signs that you are about to lash out. Common physiological changes include sweating, shaking, increased heart rate, and tension. Before you do or say anything, assess your feelings and acknowledge that you’re angry, and what is the likely cause of the anger. “Our children got in a fight her child started, and she’s wrongfully blaming my daughter.”

2. Take a Breath
As you acknowledge you’re upset, stop and take a breath. Put physical distance between you and the other person by taking a couple of steps back. It sounds cliche, but taking deep breaths helps the mind and body relax.

3. Be Curious Instead of Furious
If you have difficulty controlling your anger, it can be all too easy to jump instantly into furious mode and unleash your anger. Instead of being angry, be curious. Consider why this person is behaving this way, or saying these things. Maybe they had a bad morning or heard some upsetting news.

4. It’s Not Personal
Remind yourself that this isn’t personal to you. Oftentimes when people are behaving inappropriately or saying hurtful things, it’s because of things going on with them in their own lives. Practice reminding yourself that it’s not personal to you.

5. Use “I” Statements
When you’re upset, it might not always be appropriate to respond. Sometimes it’s best to just walk away. But if you do need to say something, focus on the behavior you find unacceptable without placing blame. Talk specifically about your feelings and the effect of the behavior on you. By communicating without placing blame, you are more likely to be understood and work toward a resolution, rather than putting the other person on defense and starting a conflict.

If you’re still feeling upset after a difficult exchange, try calling a friend. You could also write your feelings down in a letter you’ll never send or exercise. Walking or running is a healthy and effective way to get rid of the energy that is behind anger. Do something nice for yourself later, like cooking a special dinner or taking a hot bath. When it comes to anger, remember that in the long run it’s best for you to control it, rather than allow it to control you.

Are you having difficulty managing your emotions? Is anger beginning to have a significant negative impact on your life and relationships? Lasting Serenity Counseling provides anger management classes that go into more depth on these topics. Call my office today or submit a contact message through my website and we can schedule an appointment to talk.

Speak Your Mind


24363 Spring Creek Road
Washington, IL 61571
(309) 204-9881

Schedule Appointment

Got Questions?
Send a Message!