Anger...pause...action

. 3 min read
The All Mental Health Team

OK, you're angry. You've got options.

You can ignore it, repress it, pretend it doesn't exist. But that doesn't make difficult feelings go away, and anger will probably come out in unhealthier ways later. Or, it'll stick around for some uncomfortable physical tensions or passive aggressive actions.

You can also take action.

But, let's talk about when and how to do that.

Most importantly: pause.

Our first reaction isn't always the healthiest. Someone says something hurtful, and you want to hurt them right back. Someone rejects you, and you want to ruin their day. Someone you love is wronged, and you want to step right in and defend them. Those impulses are, first of all, very normal.

But they can often escalate a dangerous or difficult situation, making it worse.

When you pause, you have access to all the options, not just your first instinct.

This is really powerful because it means you get to choose.

And what do we mean by pause?

Don't take action right away. In the time between whatever made you angry and your response, you can: walk away, take a few deep breaths, count, listen to a guided meditation, say something calming to yourself...etc. What we mean by "pause" is just to do something simple and accessible for yourself, that doesn't require any equipment or planning ahead.

Then, take action.

Anger is such a powerful and intelligent emotion because it urges that something be done. It gives you the energy and purpose to make a healthy change.

But when we're overcome by a strong emotion, it can be hard to know what to do.

Let's take a look at a few of your (many) options:

Get moving.

Anger can be very physical. You might feel extra energy in your body, heat, muscle tension, or more rapid breath. Giving your body a way to expend energy through running, dancing, or any other movement practice, can give your body a way to unwind.

Vent.

It's okay to be angry. And sometimes it helps to talk it out. Of course we don't recommend going up to the next person you see and laying it all out there, but if you have a trusted friend who can make space for what's going on for you, that's great. And if all you want to do is vent (not get advice), it can always be helpful to communicate and set that expectation.

You can also vent on paper – write out everything that's bothering you, why, and how it's making you feel.

Breathe.

When we're angry we can get "ungrounded" which for some people means feeling antsy, distracted, uncomfortable, and out of control. Grounding practices like meditation, yoga, and breathwork can help bring you back into your body in a more easeful and steady way. Don't have a meditation practice? That's totally fine. You can try simple breathing exercises on your own like counting your breaths.

Set a boundary.

We'll talk about this in more detail soon, but setting a boundary can be an incredibly healthy way to deal with anger. Especially when the situation that's making you angry is ongoing, setting a boundary can help you cultivate a more respectful, honest, and fair situation for yourself (and others). Setting a boundary can look like communicating with someone, taking physical space, or not doing something you used to do that was causing pain.

Find your people.

Taking action in community is a powerful thing. Anger is a social emotion, and we're often angry when others are mistreated. Community action like voting, gathering, protesting, and caring for others around you can be an uplifting and strengthening action.

Understand the source.

Your anger has more power over you when you don't understand the source. So, reflection is your friend. You can write, think, or talk your way to a deeper understanding of what's under the surface. If therapy is accessible, it can be a great tool here, too.

Give yourself a break.

Difficult emotions will come and go. They're normal, especially after a breakup. And anger is a healthy response to an unfair or dangerous situation. We hope you can have some compassion with yourself, and an understanding that your brain and body are functioning to protect you. It's all about what you decide to do with that information.