“Anger management is the process of learning to recognize signs that you’re becoming angry and taking action to calm down and deal with the situation in a positive way. Anger management doesn’t try to keep you from feeling anger or encourage you to hold it in, anger is a normal, healthy emotion when you know how to express it appropriately – anger management is about learning how to do this.”
The above quote about anger management comes to us from the staff at The Mayo Clinic
While that quote may be lengthy, it provides perhaps the most concise description of what constitutes “anger management.” It’s not the denial of anger, nor the attempt to suppress any feelings that may surface about the emotion.
Anger management is about learning how to deal with anger. Many of us have either experienced recurrent bouts of uncontrollable rage or known someone close to us who has. Tragically, the end-result of elevated, uncontrollable anger is too often emotionally and physically harmful. Many deaths at the hands of someone else have stemmed from “fits of rage” or something similar.
We all experience this surge of anger – to various degrees – from time to time. Perhaps it’s when someone cuts us off in traffic, when a family member instigates conflict, or when a co-worker refuses to work together amicably. In these and many other scenarios, the temptation to resort to anger is highly compelling. Should a strong surge of anger arise, it’s best to accept its presence and handle it. This point brings us to the topic of this article: managing anger productively.
Let’s get down to it.
Here are five anger management techniques that’ll help keep you at peace:
1. Identify a possible outlet
Rather than focusing on the thing that made you angry, make a conscious effort to resolve the issue. Is your child’s erratic behavior making you upset? Find something that will keep them occupied. Is your friend or family member doing something that pushes your buttons? Calm down and have a constructive dialogue or set some definite boundaries.
2. Forgive and (maybe) forget
Forgiveness is one of the most potent antidotes to resentment. Allowing anger and other negative thoughts and feelings to distort and disrupt daily life ultimately leads to nothing more than bitterness, anger, and pessimism.
If you can forgive someone who brought about feelings of anger, you’ll both learn a valuable lesson. For you, the ability to forgive will reemphasize the truth that nobody can determine your state of mind. For the offender, the tolerance you exhibit may just be enough to remind them of the importance of remaining true to one’s word.
Should such a person repeatedly betray your sense of compassion, it’s probably time to reconsider the relationship. Depending upon the frequency of mistrust and the nature of the offense(s), prioritizing forgiving rather that forgetting may be the best (and healthiest) solution.
3. Improve your listening skills
Honing your listening skills may seem like an irrelevant solution, but hear us out. When we’re active listeners, we instantly improve the communication between the other person and us. This builds trust, and this trust can help mitigate potentially hostile thoughts and emotions.
Demonstrating to another that you’re genuinely listening accomplishes three things: (1) it shows that you care, (2) it shows that the other person’s thoughts and emotions matter, and (3) it establishes or reinforces feelings of empathy. Sometimes, a person that’s all worked up simply needs to be understood. Active listening accomplishes this need for understanding and much more.
4. Practice Relaxation
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), relaxation techniques mindful meditation and deep breathing exercises may help to diffuse your angry thoughts.
The APA provides some specific practices that may help:
- Breathe deeply from the diaphragm, as “chest breathing” will not promote relaxation.
- Repeat reassuring words, such as “take it easy,” “relax,” and “I’m in control” may help. It is recommended to practice deep breathing during this exercise.
- Use imagery, visualize something that provokes relaxation – either from experience or imagination.
- Nonstrenuous exercises (e.g., yoga, meditation, tai-chi) can assist with relaxing the muscles while promoting relaxation.
5. Cognitive restructuring
Angry people tend to swear, curse, or act erratically when confronted with a stressor. The problem here is obvious – such behavior fuels bitter notions and renders impossible any potential solution.
Cognitive restructuring involves nothing more than changing the way we think. The reason this method is so effective, as it pertains to anger management, is that thought processes are instantly dramatized and exaggerated when we’re angry.
Here’s a practical example. We’re waiting in line at our favorite coffee spot when the customer who is facing the cashier complains that their order is messed up. Understanding that resolving this problem will take time, a cynical monolog begins to surface in our minds. Instead of saying, “This sucks,” “I’m going to be late,” recognize the situation and rationally replace them with something like, “This situation is out of my control,” “I’ll remain calm, and they’ll eventually figure it out,” etc.
When we make a conscious attempt to rationalize such thoughts, a favorable outcome is much more likely.
6. Meditate daily
Meditation is the practice of focusing your mind and body into calmness and relaxation. It helps you increase your focus, deal with stress, and improves your general health. Those who practice meditation receive numerous health benefits, such as
- Lower blood pressure
- Diminished side effects of a chronic illness like cancer
- Helps with IBS symptoms
- Helps women going through menopause
- May help you quit smoking
- Some say it helps attention disorders
- Lowers your anxiety
Studies also found that meditating daily decreases anger as well as reducing your concern about your anger. It’s a healthy anger management strategy to regain your peace and calm.
7. Diffuse it with humor
It’s been said that laughter is good medicine. Researchers suggest this is true. They found that laughter and fun have psychological benefits. Laughing actually changes the chemicals in your brain to relieve stress and help you better deal with pain. It’s essential to find ways to laugh. Laughing at situations that tend to make you angry or upset is a good way to diffuse a situation. Try to incorporate laughter into your life. Read funny books, watch a funny video or movie. Allow the excellent medicine of your laughter to relieve your stress and anger.
8. Find a resolution
Lashing out in anger is never a good idea. If you’re feeling angry about a situation or mad at someone, it’s crucial to allow yourself some time to cool down before you respond. Seek to resolve the situation in a calm, self-controlled way. Take a walk outside or go shoot baskets on the basketball court for ten to fifteen minutes. Take a deep breath, so your mind and body to return to a peaceful state.
Once you’ve calmed down, voice your concerns in a peaceful way. Use non-attacking language, don’t get defensive, but speak truthfully. Anger rarely solves problems. Keeping a few strategies in your pocket will be useful when you’re tempted to erupt into anger.
9. It’s okay to step away (at least for the moment)
Taking a break before you get angry is a healthy practice. Maturity is knowing yourself well enough that you can step back to gain control. Reacting in anger rarely solves a problem, but it often creates more problems. So commit to not give in to your anger, but to step away until you’re calm enough to talk with the person or to solve the situation in a quiet way.
Some therapies suggest deep breathing exercises or visualizing yourself in a relaxing place like a beach or the mountains to help you relax and let go of anger. It allows you to step away without actually going anywhere.
10. Work off the steam with exercise
Studies found that exercise can help with anger management. Aerobic exercise not only reduced anger in kids and adults but also diminished and protected them against the physical side effects of rage like high blood pressure and cortisol overload.
Whether you jog a couple of miles a day or take classes at your local gym, finding a way to get aerobic exercise on a consistent basis is a great way to manage your anger and protect your health. Exercise releases endorphins that affect your brain. They trigger positive effects equivalent to that of morphine.
11. Choose your words wisely
We talk all day to our friends, family, and co-workers. We talk about the weather, the ups and downs of the stock market, or our recent purchases at the store. We’re communicators by nature, but sometimes we don’t think before we speak. We’re prone to vent when we get frustrated. Words can be uplifting or harmful.
Choosing your words wisely is a helpful anger management technique. This activity forces you to stop and think before you speak. It gives you a few minutes to reflect and choose your words correctly.
Anyone who has been hurt by something someone has said knows how important it is to choose your words carefully. It takes practice and self-control not to give in to your impulse to announce the first thing that comes to your mind. But as you develop this technique, you’ll find that you not only lower your angry reactions, but people will value what you have to say more. Your words will have more weight without being harmful.
12. Choose an attitude of gratitude
Gratitude is being thankful or appreciative. The habit of being grateful, studies found, improves your feelings of well being and helps you better deal with stress. It also influences your health in these ways:
- Lowers your blood pressure
- Enables you to deal with fear and anger
- Helps you deal with a chronic illness like cancer or HIV infection or diabetes
- Fights depression
Many people create a gratitude journal to record their gratitude. List things you’re thankful for every day. You may feel grateful to have finished a project at work, or you feel thankful you had a chat with a friend.
Thankfulness has no size limits, both big and small things matter. Over time, you’ll find yourself looking for things you’re grateful for as you practice daily gratitude. Plus, a journal is a great way to remember all the many ways you are blessed. Counting your blessings is a great way to fight off anger and regain your peace.
13. Identify the positives
Are you a “glass is half empty, or glass is half full” kind of person? Depending on how your view life helps you deal with anger and stress. Staying positive can affect your health and your mind. Studies show that those who are more positive in their outlook are more resilient when experiencing difficulties in their life.
They’re also more creative and apt to find solutions to problems. Look for the positives in your life. Choose to see situations as not as bad as they could be. Step back and see something good, even in the midst of a chaotic situation. There’s always a silver lining hidden in the dark clouds. Putting your situation in perspective can keep you from getting anxious or angry.
It’s also helpful to choose to acknowledge what you can control and what you can’t control. This can help you let go instead of giving in to anger.
14. Recite a calming mantra or prayer
Prayer or a calming mantra helps reduce stress and anger. One study found that these two increased hope and reduced anxiousness in patients who had heart problems. Focusing on your issues and onto something outside yourself calms your heart and mind. It gives you peace. Whether you pray or chant, find time every day to practice this habit. Find a quiet area outside or in a private corner at home to do this.
Add some pictures of nature, plants, or a small water fountain to add to the calm atmosphere, so it’s easier to pray or chant. Turn off your phone and computer. Make a conscious decision to set aside the time every day that’s just for prayer or mantra. It can change your life.
15. Identify the triggers that make you angry (and avoid them!)
Everyone has different things in their life that triggers anger. It can be big or small things, but you know yourself well enough to know what makes you upset.
You may find it irritating when people don’t answer their emails in a timely way or when someone leaves their stuff all over the place. Whatever triggers your irritation and anger, find ways to avoid them if possible. Obviously, you can’t stop people from not doing the stuff they do or don’t do, but you can choose your response. Look for creative solutions to help you avoid triggers.
Maybe you only look at your emails once an hour or ask someone else to be the “bad guy” that forces people to answer your emails. By removing yourself from the situation, you create a way to avoid getting angry but still solve the problem.
Anger is something familiar to us all. Learning how to manage your rage takes strategy and self-control practices. Positive things like exercise, prayer, and laughing help stave off your anger. Writing down what you’re grateful for or taking a moment to step away when you’re tempted to be angry is also simple but effective practices. Whatever you choose to do, stay with it for several weeks. Don’t try to implement all the suggestions at once. Pick one or two at first. You’ll be surprised how you handle things differently by instituting a few changes. Little changes often produce significant results. So don’t give up, hang in there and find which ways work best for you.
More importantly, when we practice the techniques described above, we invite peace and contentment, instead of anger and other negative states of mind.