Anger is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a completely natural emotion that everyone feels from time to time. Occasional anger, in fact, can be healthy. It helps you express your feelings and deal with situations.
Anger becomes a problem when it rises up too frequently and tends to get out of control. An anger problem can have a negative impact on all aspects of your life. It can have damaging effects on your relationships and family life, your job and your health.
But fortunately there are many strategies that can help you deal with your anger. If you are a hot-headed person, you cannot snap your fingers and instantly become calm and laid-back. But these easy-to-follow tips can help you control your anger and prevent it from damaging your life.
- Avoid triggers. One of the important steps to dealing with your anger is to avoid needless anger triggers. Stay away from people who rub you the wrong way or things and situations that provoke you. Although this may not be possible all the time, avoiding triggers should be one of your strategies to control your anger. For instance: If your spouse’s messy wardrobe sends your temper flying, avoid opening it. Avoiding triggers and conflict is one way to minimize the frequency of your anger flare-ups.
- Dig for the exact cause of your anger. Become self-aware. Pay attention to what you are thinking, how you are feeling and the circumstances that make you angry. Many times, there is an underlying cause for the anger. There might be stress, fatigue, tiredness, fear, hurt, insecurity or depression – any variety of issues could be fueling your anger. If you can identify the cause and work on it, it will also help you deal with your anger.
For instance: You may notice that you get angry around a colleague who was recently promoted. So, here you know that your envy is the culprit. Either talk it out with yourself or avoid circumstances that may bring you face-to-face with that person.
- Take a look at the timing. Do you tend to fight with your spouse or yell at your kids at night? Perhaps you are tired and frustrated after a long day’s work. Avoid discussing important matters at night to prevent the discussion from turning into arguments.
- Steer clear of conversations that often end up in arguments. People often start discussions that go nowhere or push their opinions on others. Avoid getting into arguments with people. Do not engage in conversations that you know will end in arguments or a fight. Discuss touchy topics when you are in a pleasant mood.
- Change the way you communicate. Words spoken in anger often become a source of regret. Most of the time, it’s not what you say that causes arguments, it’s how you say it.
Rather than being aggressive, critical and rude, try to communicate in a respectful manner.
- Don’t jump to conclusions. Analyze your thoughts. Many times, you may get angry due to assumptions that are not necessarily true. Things may not be as they seem. Making assumptions on the basis of past experiences can also be one of the reasons behind your anger. Consider all alternatives before jumping to conclusions and getting angry.
- Take deep, slow breaths. When you are emotionally charged up, your heart rate rises and your breathing becomes quick and shallow. Shallow, chest-only breathing will exacerbate your anger. Instead, take slow and deep breaths and relax your muscles to calm down.
Each time you breathe, exhale twice the amount you inhale. Count to 4 as you breathe in and count to 8 as you exhale. As you do this, focus on how your breath fills your belly, chest and lungs. Continue this for several minutes. Return to normal breathing, if you feel uncomfortable doing this.
- Turn your rage into something productive. When you are seething with anger, turn your anger into motivation. Divert your attention to something else. Doing any kind of physical work will help you burn off the anger.
For instance: Do something that requires physical energy like moving old boxes to some other room, cleaning your closet, etc.
- Exercise can help you clear your mind and calm you down. The next time you find yourself angry, go for a run or hit the gym. If you are at work, even a brisk walk can help. Any form of physical activity releases mood-boosting chemicals called endorphins that relieve stress and create feelings of happiness and well-being. The exercise doesn’t necessarily need to be lengthy and strenuous.
- Meditation helps calm both your mind and body. The next time you feel a little irritated, go to a quiet room and meditate for 5 minutes. Sit in a comfortable position in a peaceful environment. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. If you find your mind wandering, bring it back to your breathing. Initially practice this for 2 to 3 minutes and gradually increase the time. After this time out, you’ll be calmer, able to analyze the situation and your feelings, and perhaps lead you to a way to resolve the issue.
- Imagine something positive. Visualize a relaxing and calming experience from your past or get transported through your imagination to a place that instantly lifts up your mood.
- Listen to music. Listening to music is one of the easiest and effective ways for changing your mood. You might have noticed that the moment you listen to a peppy number, it instantly lifts your mood. Research suggests that extreme music genres like heavy metal, emo, punk and scream can help calm angry listeners.
- Get creative. For some, being creative helps calm their senses. A creative outlet for your anger will help you deal with it. Channel your emotions in a productive way –be it arts and crafts, painting, literature, dance, cooking, gardening or any activity that makes you happy. It gives you something to distract your mind, while directing the energy behind your anger into creating something beautiful.
- Watch something funny. As they say, “Laughter is the best medicine.” Lightening up can help diffuse anger. Humor can even help you face what's making you angry. Try watching your favorite comedy show that makes you roll with laughter. This will help you lose yourself for some time and will take your mind away from your troubles.
- Count to 10. This is an age-old method used by many. When you are angry, the first thing that comes out of your mouth is usually something very rude or mean. So, count to 10 before you speak. This will give you a pause and help distract you from the moment. A 10-second mental break from a negative situation will help you cool down,so you can collect your thoughts before you speak. Counting slowly will help, as it will give your blood pressure and heart rate some time to return to normal.
- If necessary, walk away. Walk away from the situation if possible. This will help you calm down. Being away from your source of anger will give you time and space to think about it. If you are at a place where it’s difficult to walk away, excuse yourself on some pretext. In the office, you can say you’ve got a call to make and escape. When in traffic, pull up near a petrol pump or a parking lot and let yourself relax for a while before moving on.
Staying in a conversation when you have trouble controlling your anger can make you say things that you will regret later. When in such a situation, it's time to leave – but always give a reason. Simply leaving without saying anything may enrage the other person and worsen the matter. If needed, tell them that you are not in the right frame of mind to talk and that you will be back in 10 minutes to discuss the matter.
- Discuss issues when you are calm. Before beginning a difficult conversation, take a few moments to calm yourself. The best time to have a conversation with someone you are angry at is when you are calm. Once you are calm, discuss the real problem and have a constructive dialogue. But make sure to do this in a non-confrontational way.
Express your feelings and address the problem in a polite and respectful manner. Avoid blaming the person, which could open up another argument.
- Use ‘I’ statements. Avoid verbally abusing or accusing the person with whom you are having a confrontation. Avoid using words like never, always, must and should. Try to be as harmless as possible. Instead of focusing on the person’s mistakes, focus on your feelings. Use ‘I’ statements. Explain what happened, how you felt, why you felt that way and what would you like instead. For example: Instead of saying,“You ignore me,” say “I feel ignored when you don’t talk to me during dinner because I was looking forward to this evening with you. I would like you to pay attention to me.” This technique is effective, as it cannot be disputed because you are only stating how you are feeling. Also, by doing this you are not judging the other person, so there is no need for him or her to become defensive.
- Take some time off. Schedule some personal time, even during the day. For instance: Take a break for 10 minutes when you get home. This time should be your personal time. Make the most of this quiet time. It will help you handle the temper tantrums and demands from your kids without losing your temper.
- Talk to someone. Sometimes talking to someone about your issue can work wonders. Be it your close confidant, partner, colleague or someone you can trust, talking about your problems can release pent-up feelings. Talking to someone also can help you look at the problem through their perspective. A new and different look at the issue may even help you find a solution. Sometimes even talking to a complete stranger can help. Knowing that there is someone to talk to and support can make a big difference.
- Journal it. Writing or journaling your thoughts when you are angry allows you to slow down and think about it. Make it a habit to write down your thoughts and feelings, rather than keeping it bottled up. Make daily entries into your diary about the situations that angered you. What was the situation, what happened, what were your thoughts, how angry did you get, what was the effect of your behavior. Do this for a week and take note of situations or people that pushed your buttons. Once you identify triggers, you can develop strategies to handle these situations instead of reacting impulsively. The more detailed your entry is, the better you’ll be able to understand and analyze the situation.
- Surround yourself with positive people. If you have any negative influences in your life, remove them. Be around optimistic, encouraging and positive people.
- Imagine yourself angry and see how it looks. Looking at situations from a third person’s perspective will help you solve your problems. It’s easy to lose sight of things and some situations may leave you feeling as if there is nothing else to do except get angry. Take a moment to imagine how you look when you are angry. For instance: When you are about to shout at someone, imagine how you would look. It may make you feel a little foolish and can snap you out of your anger. Doing this will give you perspective on the situation.
- A cup of green tea. A cup of green tea can help you control your anger. The L-theanine found in green tea helps soothe and calm your brain. The theanine stimulates the production of brain waves known as alpha waves that aid in relaxation. Theanine also alters the levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine in the brain. These neurotransmitters can have a positive effect on your mood. Grab a cup of green tea when you’re angry to help improve your mood and make you feel better.