Anger is a normal emotion that all people experience from time to time. Different people will experience different levels of anger, and for most, those levels will remain in the normal range. Some individuals, however, have excessively high levels of anger. While that in and of itself may signal a problem, it is the inappropriate expression of anger in an aggressive manner that can lead to additional problems. Anger does not have to be avoided, but it does have to be managed properly to keep it from spiraling out of control. Although some doctors recommend mood altering drugs to treat anger problems, there are several simple techniques that can be used to manage anger without the use of medication.
1. Walk Away
Take a breather and remove yourself from the situation that is causing you to become angry. Anger causes your heart rate to go up and raises your blood pressure. This causes a spike in adrenaline and other energy hormones. Walk away and count to ten, to reverse those physiological and biological effects. Concentrate on taking deep breaths and focus on your body every time you inhale and exhale. When you feel yourself starting to calm down, make a mental note of how your body felt as you relaxed and focus on that feeling the next time you find your anger level elevating.
2. Know Your Warning Signs
Anger doesn’t appear out of nowhere. However, you may not pay attention to the specific warning signs that your body is putting off as you are becoming agitated. By the time you realize you are getting angry, you may already have reached your boiling point. Learn how to tune into the physical signs that your body is expressing to you when you are becoming angry. Physical signs develop as a result of our internal “fight or flight” reflex. As your anger levels increase, so does your desire to “fight”. The key to keeping this reflex under control is to head anger off at the path by listening to your body. There is universal warning sign, anger affects people differently. Learn to recognize your physical symptoms, which may be a pulsing heart, tingling in the fingers, feeling flushed or rapid breathing. Knowing your warning signs will help you take steps to manage your anger before it escalates.
3. Get Some Exercise
When you feel yourself getting ready to boil over with anger, get out and get some exercise. Not only will it take you away from the situation at hand, but exercise is a way for you to release pent up energy and any negative emotions that may be stored up. Exercise also stimulates the production of chemicals in the brain that are responsible for calming the body and improving your mood. Go for a jog, shoot some hoops or just hit the gym.
4. Work On Your Communication Skills
Often times, poor communication skills can lead to confrontation when in reality, the disagreement can often be chalked up to a simple misunderstanding. When emotions are running and tempers are high, you can quickly say something that you would not have said under normal circumstances. Not only can this escalate the situation at hand, but it can lead to further problems down the road, such as regret or feelings of guilt about what you said. This works both ways during an argument. Try to give the other person the opportunity to express himself clearly. Don’t interrupt, yell or hang on his every word. Don’t jump to conclusions and don’t speak without first thinking about what you’re going to say. Take the time to listen to what the other person is trying to communicate to you. Try not to become defensive about what is being said. Instead, try to hear the message in the words. When it’s your turn to speak, assert yourself without becoming confrontational. Keep your cool and try to work through the situation calmly.
5. Redirect Your Focus
Don’t focus on the negative. Look at the bigger picture and try to focus on a way to resolve the conflict in a non-aggressive manner. Pay close attention to the underlying issue rather than the events that led to your anger. Look for a simple way to remedy the situation rather than escalating it out of anger. For instance, if your child is constantly whining about being hungry during homework, offer him a light snack rather than insisting that he finish the task at hand first. Pick your battles and fight them fairly. Remember that anger will never solve any problems but instead, will likely make them worse.
6. Avoid Stressful Situations
Pay attention to the situations in your life that lead you to become angry and avoid them as best as you can. If you hate crowds, avoid shopping during busy hours. If rushing around in the morning causes your blood pressure to rise, set your alarm for 30 minutes earlier so that you have ample time to get ready without feeling pressured. Schedule some time for you to take a break at least once during the day. A quick 15 minute breather is often all it takes to redirect your focus and release stress that may have accumulated throughout the day.
7. Learn To Forgive
Holding a grudge will likely cause more problems for you than if you had simply forgiven the person you are angry with. By remaining angry, you feed into negative thoughts and emotions which can perpetuate feelings of anger. When you allow yourself to truly forgive someone, you essentially are letting go of all of the negative emotions surrounding that person. Know your limits and accept that we all make mistakes. Releasing anger and negativity opens up room for positive emotions.
8. Lighten Things Up
Rely on humor to lighten the mood and loosen things up during tense situations. If you feel yourself angered by an inappropriate comment, refrain from firing back with a nasty comment of your own. This will just escalate the situation. Instead, use humor to deflect any negative comments. Most people will respond to humor by laughing, or at the very least, by easing up on their aggressive remarks. Be careful not to use sarcasm or make personal jokes, as this can actually escalate the situation. Keep things light and on the surface at all times.
9. Use Relaxation Methods
When you feel like an outburst coming on, try some relaxation techniques to calm your mood and diffuse anger. There are many types of relaxation techniques. Find one that works for you and stick with it. Try deep breathing, imagery or chanting during the heat of the moment to help stop anger in its tracks. Relaxation methods such as Reiki, yoga and meditation have been shown to have an overall calming effect on people, and practicing these methods daily is a proactive way to help prevent outbursts from developing.
10. Change The Way You Think
Take an emotional inventory of your overall personality traits. Take note of the types of words you use and thoughts you have on an everyday basis. Do you swear often or speak with a negative tone most of the time? Are you a glass half empty personality? Do you often mock, ridicule or try to intimidate others? These are all traits of angry people. Try to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Continue to pay attention to both your inner and outer voice. Stop yourself when you are about to say or think something negative and insert a positive phrase instead. It is difficult to be angry when your thoughts are filled with positive emotions.