Recognizing & Managing Anger

6. Know How Body Responds

As discussed earlier, your emotions and your body are linked. Anger is a natural response to something that happens to you. You may not be able to put your finger on what causes it, but you can probably feel it—you can recognize it.

How does your body feel when you are angry? Unexpressed anger is often translated into anxiety. When you feel anxious you may feel your muscles get tense in the chest, face, neck, arms, or legs. You may sweat or get cold, and you may breathe deeper or faster, or may breathe lighter or slower. You may even get a headache, stomachache, or backache. Every person has a “hot spot” and will have different bodily signs of anger. Take the time to feel your anger when it arises.

Know your anger at all levels and:

  • Be aware of survival responses
  • Realize that anger impacts your health

Be Aware of Survival Responses

Living creatures have a strong survival instinct. To cope with both physical and emotional danger they can choose from two basic response options: Flight or Fight. Anger, which is a response to perceived danger, fuels these same response options. When you are angry you may choose to take flight, physically and/or emotionally. You may close down, get quiet, run away or not express your anger. On the other hand, you may choose to fight, protecting yourself by physical or verbal means.

These are natural instinctive behaviors crucial to your survival. It is when these instinctive responses are fueled by unmanaged anger that damage occurs. When you view anger as a signal, it helps you understand that you need to pay attention and take action. Anger is a lot like an amber traffic light. It is up to you to move ahead cautiously and to choose the direction that your anger will take.

Realize that Anger Impacts Your Health

Anger is a response emotion. It is connected with assertion and survival, and expressing it in constructive ways is always appropriate. You actually can become ill without the healthy release of anger. Anger creates stress and tension, and has physiological effects.

Your body was not meant to shoulder the constant stress of unexpressed anger. Understanding and normalizing the experience of anger and your expressed response is key to your mental health and well-being. The key is to respond, not react.