Seeing Red? 8 Ways to Keep Your Anger in Check￼
Have you ever gotten so worked up that you’ve experienced a feeling of scorching red hot rage? While it’s rare, I’m sure we’ve all experienced this at some point. But does this mean that there’s an underlying problem?
Not always. After all, it’s natural for us to get angry. It can be a normal emotion. However, it can have dire consequences when you can’t express your anger healthily and positively.
For example, when left unchecked or repressed, you can have outbursts where you damage physical property. Other times you’ll scream words to someone else that can never be taken back. And this could also lead to mental and physical health problems ranging from depression and anxiety to high blood pressure and heart conditions. And, you’ll also have difficulty focusing on anything else — whether you’re at home or work.
Thankfully, there are ways to keep your anger in check the next time you see red. In addition, it will be beneficial to your overall health and relationships when you do.
1. Recognize the warning signs.
To effectively manage your anger, you first must recognize the warning signs. When you do, you’ll be able to avoid getting angry yourself. Or, you may even be able to diffuse tense situations involving family, friends, or coworkers.
While not an extensive list, the most prevalent warning signs to be aware of include;
- Your heart starts pounding
- Rapid and shallow breathing occurs
- It feels like your face is flushed
- You suddenly feel hot or cold
- Teeth grinding
- Clenching of the jaw and fists
- Fidgeting or pacing
- Pain in the neck or head
- Tension in the arms, back, neck, and shoulders
- Stomach discomfort
2. Count to 10 and focus on your breathing.
Even though counting to 10 is a cliché, it is effective. Why? This interrupts the immediate reaction and allows you to reflect before responding.
You’ll feel relaxed and more in control if you take a few slow, deep breaths. Using this technique, you can break the cycle of being angry and lash out when you feel like a volcano that’s about to erupt.
3. Adopt a mindset that people are doing the best they can.
“We’re all trying our best to handle what the world is throwing at us, with the skills we’re able to access at that moment. None of us wants to be losing it,” psychologist Stuart Ablon told HBR. “Think to yourself, ‘This person I’m interacting with isn’t giving me what I want, but this person is doing the best they can right now.’
“If you can exude that, you will help regulate them,” he adds. “It’s incredibly contagious — the same way a parent who stays calm can soothe a crying baby, or a kindergarten teacher with supreme calmness can regulate a whole class.”
4. Keep a journal or log of your feelings of anger.
Anger can be much easier to manage if you know what’s making you angry. There are times when people feel irritable just because they’re stressed, sleep-deprived, or for another reason; more often, the anger is due to an identifiable cause. An anger journal will help you understand what’s behind your anger in either case.
Describe your feelings, what caused your anger, and what steps you took to deal with it. Then, when calm, think about the thoughts you had at the time, and jot these experiences down. You can then reflect on them to see if there are any anger patterns.
5. Move your body.
Feeling angry typically gives you a surge of energy. Engaging in physical activity is one of the best ways to put that energy to good use. So the next time you get angry, go for a walk or hit the gym.
Exercising regularly allows you to decompress as well. The reason is that physical activity reduces stress. In turn, this can help you manage your frustrations better.
What’s more, exercise is a simple way to take time out so that you can clear your mind. After physical activity, you may often find that you’re calmer and have a better understanding of your problems afterward.
6. Stick with “I’ statements.
“To avoid criticizing or placing blame — which might only increase tension — use ‘I’ statements to describe the problem,” advises the Mayo Clinic Staff. Describe the problem precisely and with respect. As an example, say, “I’m upset that you left the table without offering to help with the dishes” in place of “You never do any housework.”
7. Use humor.
In many ways, “silly humor” defuses rage. It helps you maintain perspective, for example. “When you get angry and call someone a name or refer to them in some imaginative phrase, stop and picture what that word would literally look like,” notes the American Psychological Association.
“If you’re at work and you think of a coworker as a ‘dirtbag’ or a ‘single-cell life form,’ for example, picture a large bag full of dirt (or an amoeba) sitting at your colleague’s desk, talking on the phone, going to meetings,” they add. When a name comes to your mind about another person, do this.
“If you can, draw a picture of what the actual thing might look like,” the APA suggests. “This will take a lot of the edge off your fury, and humor can always be relied on to help unknot a tense situation.”
8. Know when to stop.
Don’t take this as literally ending the relationship. Instead, if you find yourself in a heated conversation, don’t say or do anything that you might regret later. Even though every one of us has uttered hurtful or inappropriate words in a feat of rage, this can permanently sever a relationship.
Make no mistake about. If you’re careless about actions or words, there can be far-reaching effects. That’s why it’s essential to know when to stop. You can always circle back to difficult conversations when everyone is more levelheaded. And, in the scheme of things, not all issues are worth ending a relationship.
Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio; Pexels; Thanks!