Anger can be a friend or a foe depending on how you deal with it. Anger can impact your health and your relationships. Aggressive anger can have negative effects on the way you think and act, as can suppressed anger. Frequent outbursts can damage or end relationships with significant others, friends, family members, co-workers and others. The physical effects of anger on the body include heart problems, high blood pressure, skin problems, digestive issues and headaches.

Anger itself, though, is not negative. It is a legitimate and powerful emotion. Knowing how to effectively express your anger can help you solve problems, increase personal effectiveness, achieve goals, protect yourself and develop healthy relationships. The goal is not to eliminate anger but rather express it in a healthy way.

6 Steps to Healthy Anger

  1. Keep an anger log. Monitor how often you get mad and the situations that trigger you. Also note how angry you get on a scale from 1 to 10.
  2. Notice the early indicators of anger. What are your personal clues? It maybe a tightness in your chest or an inability to concentrate. This will take practice but begin to notice the earliest signs of agitation or irritability—before it leads to anger. Keep track of what you discover.
  3.  Accept your anger. It is providing you with valuable information. Beating yourself up for getting angry only shifts the focus and isn’t helpful.
  4. Interrupt your anger cycle. Practice relaxing when anger is starting to build. Some options are taking a walk, breathing slowly, counting to ten, listening to calming music and using positive self-talk.
  5. Identify what you are angry about. Are you upset with yourself, someone else or both? Is it an old anger or does it feel new? Just be curious about your anger. What can you learn about yourself and anger from this particular situation? If you start to feel the intense anger returning, back up to step 4 and give yourself more time to relax.
  6. Come up with a plan to express your anger in a healthy way. If your relationship with the person you are angry at is generally healthy one then the best approach is often to just speak up. Letting someone you care about know you are angry and why can actually help build a stronger relationship. Create a good time and place to say what’s on your mind and leave room to hear the other person’s perspective. Make sure you aren’t just dumping on the other person. Use I-messages to keep your message clear and direct.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to address violent anger or abusive relationships. Please contact me for specialized local domestic violence resources.