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Anger is a Common Experience
Some people describe feeling more irritable or angry after a concussion. They might say they have less patience, a “shorter fuse,” or trouble staying calm in challenging situations. Irritability and anger are common in many health conditions that involve pain, sleep changes, and/or stress.
Anger Can be Helpful or Hurtful
Even “negative” emotions are important. Anger can motivate us to protect ourselves from danger, or stand up for ourselves when we are mistreated. However, too much anger can cause problems. It can hurt relationships, worsen symptoms, leave us feeling guilty, and get in the way of solving problems. Fortunately, there are strategies to help you manage anger.
In the section Becoming a Self-Manager, you learned many self-management tools and strategies can help reduce anger and irritability. For example, since pain and stress can worsen irritability, managing these factors is important. Also, good nutrition and pacing will leave you with more energy to deal with obstacles. Problem-solving and assertive communication are also great tools for handling frustrating situations.
Triggers and Warning Signs
One of the best ways to deal with the negative effects of anger is prevention. To do this, you need to identify Triggers & Early Warning Signs.
Early Warning Signs
Triggers could be things that are occurring outside you (like a bad driver) or feelings and thoughts occurring inside you. Examples of triggers:
- People being late or inconsiderate
- Being criticized
- Bad drivers
- Your symptoms, or thinking about your symptoms.
Sometimes it feels like anger comes on suddenly. However, usually there are warning signs. When you can spot these signs, you can take effective action before you lose your cool. Examples of warning signs include:
- Feeling hot - Sweating - Tightness in muscles/chest - Racing thoughts - Racing heart - Clenching teeth or fists - Tense muscles
Responding to Warning Signs
When you notice your early warning signs, you can use a stress management strategy, like calm breathing, to reduce the intensity of an emotion, or you can take a time out or distract yourself until the intensity passes.
Once the emotion is more manageable, you can practice problem-solving, assertiveness, or another strategy to achieve your goal in this situation. Alternatively, you can decide to move on. Choose your battles!
If managing anger and irritability is bothering you a lot, you can take action in a number of ways. Here are a few ideas:
- Make a list of your triggers and warning signs, so you know when to use the strategies above.
- If you need more guidance, make an appointment with your family doctor. They might refer you to a specialist for treatment.
- Learn more about challenging unhelpful angry thoughts by slowly working through this workbook Positive Coping with Health Conditions - A Self-Care Workbook [pdf]