We all know what anger is, and we’ve all felt it: whether as a fleeting annoyance or as full-fledged rage. Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion. But when it gets out of control and turns destructive, it can lead to problems—problems at work, in your personal relationships, and in the overall quality of your life.
So, we’d better control it before it slowly consumes us. Here’re some tips.
Think before you speak
In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to say something you’ll later regret. Take a few moments to collect your thoughts before saying anything. Also allow others involved in the situation to do the same.
Identify your triggers
Stressful events don’t excuse anger, but understanding how these events affect you can help you take control of your environment and avoid unnecessary aggravation. Look at your regular routine and try to identify activities, times of day, people, places, or situations that trigger irritable or angry feelings.
Maybe you get into a fight every time you go out for drinks with a certain group of friends. Or maybe the traffic on your daily commute drives you crazy. When you identify your triggers, think about ways to either avoid them or view the situations differently so they don’t make your blood boil.
Trying to stay calm
- Breathe deeply, from your diaphragm; breathing from your chest won’t relax you. Picture your breath coming up from your “gut.”
- Slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as “relax,” “take it easy.” Repeat it to yourself while breathing deeply.
- Use imagery; visualise a relaxing experience, from either your memory or your imagination.
- Non-strenuous, slow yoga-like exercises can relax your muscles and make you feel much calmer.
Once you’re calm, express your concerns
As soon as you’re thinking clearly, express your frustration in an assertive but non confrontational way. State your concerns and needs clearly and directly, without hurting others or trying to control them.
Use humour to relieve tension
When things get tense, humour and playfulness can help you lighten the mood, smooth over differences, reframe problems, and keep things in perspective. When you feel yourself getting angry in a situation, try using a little lighthearted humour. It can allow you to get your point across without getting the other person’s defences up or hurting their feelings.
However, it’s important that you laugh with the other person, not at them. Avoid sarcasm, mean-spirited humour. If in doubt, start by using self-deprecating humour. We all love people who are able to gently poke fun at their own failings. After all, we’re all flawed and we all make mistakes.
So, if you’ve made a mistake at work or you’ve just spilled coffee over yourself, instead of getting angry or picking a fight, try making a joke about it. Even if the joke falls flat or comes out wrong, the only person you risk offending is yourself.
When humour and play are used to reduce tension and anger, a potential conflict can even become an opportunity for greater connection and intimacy.
Take a timeout
Timeouts aren’t just for kids. Give yourself short breaks during times of the day that tend to be stressful. A few moments of quiet time might help you feel better prepared to handle what’s ahead without getting irritated or angry.
Don’t hold a grudge
Forgiveness is a powerful tool. If you allow anger and other negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice. Forgiving someone who angered you might help you both learn from the situation and strengthen your relationship.
Talk to a Friend
If there’s someone who has a calming effect on you, talking through an issue or expressing your feelings to that person may be helpful. It’s important to note, however, that venting can backfire.
Complaining about your boss, describing all the reasons you don’t like someone, or grumbling about all of your perceived injustices may add fuel to the fire. A common misconception is that you have to vent your anger to feel better.
But studies show you don’t need to “get your anger out”. Smashing things when you’re upset, for example, may actually make you angrier. So it’s important to use this coping skill with caution.
Likewise, if you’re going to talk to a friend, make sure you’re working on developing a solution or reducing your anger, not just venting. It’s unfair to use them as your go-to sounding board. Instead, you might find that the best way to use this strategy is to talk about something other than the situation causing you to feel angry.
Recognize if you need professional help
If, despite putting these previous anger management techniques into practice, your anger is still spiralling out of control, or if you’re getting into trouble with the law or hurting others, you need more help.
Anger management classes allow you to meet others coping with the same struggles and learn tips and techniques for managing your anger.
Therapy, either group or individual, can be a great way to explore the reasons behind your anger and identify triggers. Therapy can also provide a safe place to practice new skills for expressing anger.
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