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Anger: everybody knows the feeling. It is the feeling of white, hot rage that causes your blood pressure to skyrocket and makes you feel like you are about to boil over. Anger is one of the most basic emotions, along with sadness, fear, happiness, and others. It is a useful emotion which serves a protective purpose by preparing us to fight when our sympathetic nervous system becomes activated. It can also serve as a mechanism to mobilize us to complete a goal or make changes in our personal lives and communities when we feel that things are not up to snuff. However, too much anger can be detrimental to our health and can hurt, or even destroy, relationships with our loved ones. If you feel that anger controls and dominates your life and you have trouble handling it, below we have some helpful tips on how to control your anger.
- Develop and Practice Relaxation Techniques – When you feel that you are about to lose your temper, put relaxation skills to the test. These may be individual for everyone, so find something that works for you. Some examples of relaxation techniques are: deep breathing exercises, mentally or verbally reciting calming phrases, imagining pleasant and relaxing scenarios, journaling, progressive muscle relaxation, and doing yoga poses. If none of these seem appealing, you can explore and find what helps you cool your temper down.
- Monitor Your Thoughts and Speak Carefully – It is easy to say something hurtful or destructive when you are angry, which you will probably regret once the feeling subsides. Before you say anything, take some time to collect your thoughts and allow other individuals who are involved to do the same. This is a good practice as saying something hurtful to someone else or someone saying something hurtful to you can result in even more anger, which can spiral out of control into an anger storm.
- Use Humor – Using humor can help lighten the situation and relieve pressure. You can use humor to identify and face what is making you upset and even calm you down, as a good laugh will usually help with that. Remember to keep it playful and light, as using put-down jokes, sarcasm, mimicking, or other negative humor can cause more hurt.
- Exercise – Any type of physical activity, whether it be lifting weights, running, power walking, yoga, and others can help reduce the stress which causes us to become angry and upset. If you feel tensions rising, go exercise!
- Use “I” Statements and Avoid “You” Statements – Use “I” statements, such as “I feel…”, “I think…”, rather than “You” statements, such as “You did…”, “You are…”. These are good and useful for avoiding criticism, placing blame, and taking ownership of the problem. Remember, when doing this, be respectful. Using “I” statements as a chance to be mean usually does not work and can continue to escalate the situation. A good example is saying “I’m upset because you did take out the trash when I asked you” rather than “You never do anything.”
- Temporarily Remove Yourself From the Situation – Take a moment to calm down with a method of your choice and then return to the situation once you are thinking clearly and some of the tension has diffused. Once you return, you can tend to the situation by allowing everyone to state their feelings and concerns, which can ultimately help identify possible solutions to the problem and solve it without corrosive and destructive behavior.
- Take Mental Breaks – It is a good idea to take breaks during stressful points of the day to help you wind down and relieve pressure. This will prevent and reduce the amount of stress that builds up inside of you, which will help you be prepared for emotionally hazardous situations. Coming home from a long, stressful day of work where you did not take any mental breaks is an excellent primer for anger about insignificant events that can be solved calmly, without the use of anger.
- Come Up With Solutions – Rather than focusing on your anger and what is making you mad, thus amplifying and intensifying your anger, focus on coming up with solutions to the problem. Using anger in most situations will not prove useful, won’t fix the problem, and make things worse. Try shifting your attention from anger to solution. You can also come up with solutions to common events in the future that cause your temperature to flare so you can either be prepared or avoid them all together.
- Forgive Yourself and Others – We are human, we all make mistakes. Forgiving yourself for being angry and others who either intentionally or unintentionally made you angry can prevent you from harboring bitterness, anger, and resentment. Holding onto these feelings for an extended period of time can make you volatile and keep you angry when you see and interact with that individual, resulting in a never-ending anger loop. When you forgive and ultimately get over this anger, you can come back to the situation and resolve it.
- Seek Professional Help – If all else fails and anger is still getting the best of you, seek out professional help. There are many trained therapists which can help you learn how to manage and control your anger. Therapy will help you identify triggers, explore underlying mechanisms for what is behind your anger, look at past issues, and teach your relaxation techniques. If you are a loved one need help with anger, you can contact us to make a counseling appointment or read about personal growth counseling. If we are not a good fit for you, we will help you find a good match, as we are tied to a very large network of mental health professionals in the Austin area.