Most of us have times when we feel frustrated, irritable, or grouchy. People tend to prefer these terms to describe how they are feeling rather than acknowledging the actual feeling – anger. People can be so afraid of the word that they deny, avoid, and minimize their actual experiences. All this does is postpone and intensify the eventual expression of this feared feeling.
Being angry is not a bad thing. It can help us set limits and boundaries, alert us to problems in relationships, and give us the energy we need to make difficult decisions. The difficulty with anger is when it is expressed through aggressive behaviors, such as yelling, threatening, or physically assaulting another person. The more people hold in or ignore angry feelings, the more likely it is that their acceptable emotion will turn into unacceptable or inappropriate behaviors.
Knowing how to accept, identify, and manage anger can make a big difference in your life. Here are seven ways to tame your anger and to minimize the chances of allowing it get the best of you.
1. Pay Attention to What Your Body and Your Mouth Are Saying
Ask yourself, “What do I notice first when I begin to feel angry, frustrated, irritable, or grouchy?” Does my heart feel like it is speeding up? Do I feel lightheaded? Is it hard to breath? Are my muscles tense? These are some physical signs of anger. If you notice that you are being particularly sarcastic or saying a lot of negative or critical things, you are probably feeling anger on some level, too.
2. Anticipate Your Triggers
What typically makes you feel uncomfortable or tense? Do crowded restaurants or long lines tend to set you off? Consider avoiding a potentially heated reaction by visiting your favorite, but crowded, restaurant during a less busy hour. Do you get overwhelmed when you have spent too much time around certain people? Try building in breaks, setting a limit on the amount of time you are with those people, or make sure “safe” people are with you who can buffer the impact of people who trigger you.
3. Be Aware of Your Assumptions and Perceptions
Analyze your thinking for incorrect assumptions or misperceptions. Many times we become angry because we assume something is true when it is not. These underlying assumptions warp our thinking, yet we believe we’re basing our attitudes and actions on truth. This pitfall can be particularly hard to avoid when you’re physically uncomfortable or under stress. You may find yourself “looking for trouble” where it doesn’t really exist.
4. Realize Contributing Factors
Ask yourself questions about your physical condition and psychological state. Am I tired? Am I hungry? Do I feel bad, physically? Am I stressed about something else or toward someone else? Am I anxious or worried about something else? Sometimes just recognizing and addressing those factors or situations can be enough to reduce the likelihood of an aggressive reaction.
5. Stop, Think, and Play It Out
Think before you speak or act. Choose words and actions carefully. It is not always an easy task, but sometimes just taking a moment to think, clear our heads, and calm down is all we need to keep from overreacting. As soon as you feel anger start to build, take time to calm down, separate yourself from the situation, and consider what the consequences of blowing up could be in that moment.
Since problems breathing can be a physical sign of anger, it makes sense that you need to try to focus on your breathing. To calm down and give yourself a chance to rationally collect your thoughts, start breathing in a very deliberate and rhythmic way. For example, inhale through your nose for a count of 5, hold your breath for a count of 4, and exhale through your mouth for a count of 5. Repeat it 5 times. Deep breaths can slow your heart rate and help regulate your body and your mind.
7. Find Alternative Expressions for Angry Energy
Anger has a great deal of energy behind it. Finding a way to express that energy in a beneficial way is an essential component of managing anger and aggression. Any kind of physical activity can be a great outlet for angry feelings. If you enjoy art, express your frustrations, visually. If love to write, put your thoughts down on paper or type them out. Just be sure to not send your writing to a person with whom you are angry unless you do some serious editing. Again, stop, think, and play it out. Consider the consequences.
Finally, it is important to know what you can and cannot control. Realistically, you can only control your response to situations and circumstances. You can’t control the weather, the number of people at a restaurant, or, especially, how other people think, feel, or act. All you can do is your best to recognize, understand, and control your own feelings and reactions.
If you would like additional help with managing anger and minimizing aggressive behavior, please call Work/Life Connections – EAP at 615-936-1327 to schedule an appointment to meet with one of our counselors who can help you develop a plan of action. Anger can cause physical, personal, and professional problems that can be prevented with good support and guidance.
Related articles from the Resource Library:
Read Anger in the Workplace
Read Dealing with Upset People