Anger is likely the trickiest emotion to accept in yourself and in someone you love when it arises. While it’s perfectly normal and healthy to get angry, society has led us to question our right to blow our fuses (whether long or short) from time to time. Apparently, researchers have even coined a disease, “intermittent explosive disorder” to describe those who, after a few weeks of calm, explode with impulsive anger and destroy things and physically hurt the people around them. What’s causing our strange relationship with anger? Why are some of us stuffing our anger away only to burst at the seams when we’re overflowing with rage?

Maybe you grew up with parents who taught you that being angry, or displaying your anger, was wrong. Maybe you personally believe that on your own! Either way, the truth is, anger is a normal, natural emotion to have. Even animals get angry! The trick is dealing with your anger in a way that lets you feel the emotion and be done with it in a way that protects you and others from harm. It is just as unreasonable to pretend like you have no anger as it is to be angry all of the time or at the drop of a hat.

If you’re someone who experiences discomfort with anger, here are some tips for cooling the jets:

  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and sugar. These might seem like a good idea (because they’re addicting and that’s what they want you to think!), but in reality, each of these substances has its own agenda once it reaches your brain, leaving you less in control of your behavior than you would by avoiding them. Caffeine increases nervous energy and can get the mental chatter going faster than you can keep up with; the same is true for excessive sugar intake. The combination of too much energy and too much thinking can produce irrational behavior– especially for people who are prone to irrational anger. And alcohol… do I need to explain?
  • Try yoga. Yoga helps connect your mind and your body. You will find that when your entire being feels whole and integrated, you’re able to manage your anger in a healthy way, and will likely even find that there is far less to be angry about. Most of the time, our anger is a hard-wired reaction that we can hardly control– it’s a way of conditioning. Yoga helps to mend your perspective and realize, truly realize, that you are in charge of you and everything that happens in your life. If yoga isn’t for you (and you should really try it before you decide that), any sort of light physical exercise will calm your body and mind. Try walking every day for at least thirty minutes and you’ll see a difference!
  • Keep a journal and write down your thoughts, feelings, whatever. Draw pictures if that’s what works for you! You might find that you just need to be heard or just need to “get it out”. Try this when you feel like you’re about to “explode” and see if it helps. If it doesn’t, take a walk! Pet the cat! Then come back to the journal if that’s what you’re feeling.

Try your best to let it flow through you without taking you over. And, like anything, managing your emotions takes practice. No one is perfect and no one had perfect parents or the greatest, most wonderful childhood to help them learn these things. If it’s a conflict with a family member, partner, or friend that has you feeling angry, try these techniques before talking with them, it might lighten the load and help with your approach.

And, if you really feel that you can’t handle your anger on your own, I suggest seeing a Somatic Experiencing Therapist. SE Therapy helps ground you and teaches you to master your central nervous system before tackling emotional issues that can activate you and send you flying off the handle, whereas talk therapy tends to go in circles if you’re not quite sure what the root of your anger is. Everyone is different! Anger doesn’t have to be a life sentence… make a positive change today!