Turning anger into motivation – a fresh look at anger management


Kersha Singh | Manager | COPE | Netcare Akeso Kenilworth | mail me |

Anger can be a highly destructive force or a powerful motivator, depending on how we decide to use it. This emotion can be channelled more constructively to become your superpower.

Anger is a natural feeling that affects everyone. It is a normal emotion with a broad range of intensity from mild irritation and frustration to rage and aggression.

Getting angry may be in reaction to a perceived threat or pent-up frustration, and it can be helpful to take note of what triggers your feelings of anger and try to identify the underlying cause.

Expressing anger in the workplace

Anger can be triggered in many spaces, such as when sitting in traffic or at home with your family, and if it’s not dealt with in a healthy way, it can have potentially devastating, life changing consequences.

Often people are more guarded about expressing anger in the workplace, even though stress at work may be a significant underlying contributor to these feelings. The anonymity of being in traffic, or the relative freedom to express emotions in the home environment, may manifest this anger as road rage or irritation – potentially even violence – with loved ones.

If we allow anger to get out of control, it can cloud our thinking and judgement and may lead to irrational and destructive behaviours that can harm our relationships, health, work and ultimately our quality of life. The good news is that it is not too late for adults to learn to control their anger. This can be a very empowering experience when instead of reacting angrily, we can learn to transform our approach to respond to the situation more positively.

If we are willing to acknowledge our triggers, even if we cannot fully control them, we can learn how to cope more healthily. The more we identify situations, environments and people that trigger angry feelings, the better we can manage these scenarios and hopefully learn to respond calmly and constructively in challenging situations.

Anger management

Anger management is a set of skills; if we practise, we get better at mastering it. For instance, with dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT), we help teach people practical coping skills to manage their anger both in the moment and on a long-term basis to reduce the intensity of the feelings.

The first step is often impulse control. Identifying that our anger is in response to specific triggers, and what it is about the situation that consistently makes us feel this way is helpful towards managing the temporary distress, knowing it will pass.

With the right tools, it is possible to break the cycle of anger, and there are very effective non-pharmaceutical ways of redirecting the emotion more productively and, ultimately, more satisfyingly.

Toolbox to help cool a hot temper

The following short-term techniques are recommended to help reduce intense feelings such as anger. When something makes you angry, try to work towards responding rather than reacting to the situation.

When we start to feel triggered or overwhelmed, STOP:

  • S – STOP. Pause, don’t react in the heat of the moment. Count to 10.
  • T – Take a step back. Remove yourself from the situation by taking a walk or bathroom break.
  • O – Observe. There is no need to respond when you feel overwhelmed; wait until you have a more objective perspective.
  • P – Proceed mindfully. Try deep breathing, in through your nose for the count of four, and out through your mouth more slowly.

The physical feelings of being hot and flustered that come with being angry can exacerbate our perception of the situation, and actively cooling the body temperature can help us feel better. Drinking cold water, splashing your face and wrists, having a cool shower, or stepping into an airconditioned room can all break the experience of feeling ‘hot under the collar’.

When a situation is out of your control and triggering angry feelings, she recommends distracting yourself for a mental break. Read a magazine, listen to relaxing music, play a game, or get absorbed in something creative. Intense exercise is an ideal way to let off steam. If you’re feeling annoyed with a loved one, try going for a run instead of reacting angrily. Increasing your heart rate for 10 to 20 minutes will help relieve some tension so you can return calmer.

Using anger as motivation

If you find you are bringing anger from work stress home, try stopping at the gym on your way home to release some of the day’s tension and frustrations before you get home. This can also improve the quality of your leisure time at home with your loved ones.

If we feel angry, we can use it as motivation to channel our behaviour into more assertive or constructive communication. Proceed mindfully, as being assertive and respectfully communicating your feelings toward the situation by having a discussion or writing a letter about what has upset you, and suggesting how your needs could be better met, can be productive

As well as these short-term strategies for responding better to anger, it is important to address the underlying factors to resolve the source of our discomfort in the long term. Use the energy from that anger and redirect it to work towards creating a lasting solution, whether working towards building a different career that may reduce your stress or freeing yourself from a toxic relationship, for example.

In conclusion

If you or someone you know is struggling with anger control or any other emotional or mental health difficulties, our range of services, including occupational therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists, are available to provide professional support.

Our 24-hour crisis line is always here for you. Call 0861 435 787 any time of day or night, 366 days this leap year, trained counsellors are available to listen and can guide you on the options available to assist you.



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