Before You Lose Control: Take These Steps for Managing Your Anger
Losing control isn’t pretty.
The things that fly out of your mouth or across the room can be embarrassing.
The damaged relationships or mangled property can be difficult to repair or permanently destroyed.
There’s not much to redeem that kind of anger. Except that it teaches us lessons. The primary lesson?
Understand your anger before it eclipses the best parts of you and your connections to other people.
Here are a few steps for managing anger before you lose it:
Learn to take deep breaths.
Prepare for angry moments by learning how to calm the surge of angry emotions and bodily responses.
Deep breathing, imagery and meditation, or techniques that include repetition of a calming word or phrase are often extremely helpful in a tense moment.
Research indicates that yoga and other stretching-based, deliberate exercises help soothe and release tension.
Learn to step back from the angry thoughts.
Out-of-control anger is filled with irrational thoughts and over-the-top behavior. To get a handle on the drama, try thinking differently. Basically, this is an exercise in changing your thoughts. Change ideas like “everything is wrong,” or “he/she never does anything right” for “I’m really upset about what’s happening,” and “I’m frustrated by his/her behavior.”
Try challenging your thinking. Remember how unsatisfactory it is to deal with the emotional fallout, alienation and damaged communication created when you allow exaggerated, or accusatory, thoughts to make trouble.
Thinking calmly and anger rarely exist together in the heat of an argument. Choose to make calmer parts of you your ally. Push back against rising anger. Deliberately remind yourself that you’re not a victim. Ask yourself if what you are thinking is really true. You can choose to lose control, or take a moment to be silent and still before acting. You can set aside demands, hurts, and offenses by paying attention to unmet needs and desires, and put them in perspective. Balanced thinking can overpower anger.
Learn to solve what you can and understand what you can’t.
You might be completely justified in your anger and frustration. Your problem or interaction may very well be in the way of your best interests. And you may be annoyed enough to lose your cool.
You have a right to be angry, but you also have a responsibility to yourself and others to deal with unresolved issues productively. Not doing so just exacerbates the problem and makes you feel worse. Not every problem has a solution, but every problem can be faced with dignity and respect.
Approach anger-generating problems with a plan. Life challenges and interpersonal disputes are works in progress that require tolerance. Avoid all-or-nothing thinking. Give it your best, but don’t punish yourself or others for slow progression. Patience and tolerance quickly soften hard feelings.
“Reset” with humor.
Learn to defuse anger.
Humor balances perspective. It takes the edge off. It helps dial back the heated emotions that threaten to boil over by highlighting commonalities, and what’s unreasonable, and unimportant. Laughter refocuses attention on relationship rather than the dispute.
Keeping a sense of humor will allow for more productive discussion and goodwill, despite the difference of opinion, effectively dissolving tension.
Learn to properly read the situation.
Reign in your reaction to what or who is bothering you. Ask yourself if you have all the facts, know the real story behind the “offense”. Try hard not to jump to conclusions, and pause to observe the big picture, and underlying issues.
Slow down and really consider whether the next exchange needs to be a contentious one. Focusing outward, and a careful response, can lead to managing your anger more effectively and create a sense of empowerment and choice.