You might have thought that anger management is only for people who are constantly filled with rage or are inclined to inappropriately lash out at others. However, anger is a very real and natural emotion that we all experience. Everyone could use a little help recognizing the signs of anger and how to healthily deal with it. We need to learn how to calm down without repressing our feelings, and to understand how we can express these feelings in a healthy and constructive way.
Here are a few tips that you can use to help the next time you feel any level of anger:
1. Look For A Productive Outlet For Your Anger
When we experience anger, it’s tempting to obsess about and to overthink the situation. This pattern tends to only escalate the feelings of anger and can turn them into rage or fury. Rather than focusing on the problem, try and consciously turn your focus to an instant and non-violent solution that you can use to immediately resolve the anger.
For example if your friend or partner has done something that hurt you, before getting enraged, pause, take a deep breath, and really consider how the two of you can work through this situation in a constructive way. Begin by following the 4 steps of Non-Violent Communication; Observation, Feeling, Need, Request. Express what you observe happening in a non-judgmental and non-critical way. Then say how that makes you feel, and use an actual feeling, not an idea. Then express to them what your need is underneath this feeling; for example, “When I notice you arriving one hour late for our dinner date, I feel hurt, because I need to know that you prioritize the time we spend together. Then follow this up with a request; “Would you be willing to make a greater effort to meet me on time in the future?” This form of communication allows you to express your actual feeling and need, rather than getting angry at the person you love. You can express to each other your feelings rationally and learn how to work it out in the future.
If it isn’t possible to find a calming means of communication to relieve your anger, then try new ways to let out your frustrations in a productive way, also known as sublimation, where angry impulses can be turned into something harmless and healthy for you. Physical exercise is a great way to do this; jogging, weight lifting, yoga, even listening to music. These are effective ways to healthily manage anger.
2. Cure Resentment With Forgiveness
It may seem counterproductive for us to forgive our offenders when we are still in the heat of our anger, but it is the most mature and beneficial to ourselves. Allowing another person to be the cause for our anger and our discontent ends up giving them power over our emotions. This can actually be more aggravating than the circumstance itself. No one is in charge of our feelings but ourselves, and it’s possible to manage our minds and our feelings in any circumstance.
It may help to think about it like this: staying angry at someone allows them to have that type of power over your thoughts and feelings. When you open and soften inside, and move towards forgiveness, this hold is released on you and you’re able to let go and gain the wonderfully feeling freedom that it brings.
Often times other people are not actually trying to anger us, and it’s very important to remember this. We may have had difficult experiences in the past with a parent, sibling or stranger that causes us to feel angry in the moment and to react easily, but it’s vital to remember that this person is neither the person from your past, nor are they likely trying to actually upset you.
If they are indeed trying to get a rise out of you, then often the best thing you can do is simply walk away and do not participate in conversing with someone who desires to see you suffer. You’ll thank yourself later for this act of maturity.
3. Use Relaxation Techniques
Deep breathing exercises and “relaxing imagery” are some of the relaxation techniques that are recommended by the American Psychological Association. These relaxation techniques are useful in managing your feelings of anger. Relaxing imagery works by concentrating your mind to visualize a space of peace, or somewhere you feel happy, and then feeling those good feelings that come with it. You can also visualize the situation working out in a healthy and peaceful manner, and having this positive focus can help the situation manifest.
When you combine deep breathing exercise with positive imagery, the results are more effective. Relax your mind and your senses by inhaling slowly and deeply from your diaphragm. Your tense muscles will start to relax and this is a great time to think positively and to focus on what will help you to feel good. During this practice, you are free from anger and your mind is focused on being productive.
4. Rely On Cognitive Restructuring
Cognitive restructuring is a process of changing your perception of a certain negative situation into a more constructive form. For example, let’s say you encounter a problem at work; a co-worker who is making things difficult for you. You may be tempted to think negatively about this co-worker, wondering, “What is their problem…why are they always doing abc…” But this negative line of thinking often feeds the feelings of anger and frustration, the opposite of what we are trying to achieve.
By practicing cognitive restructuring, we replace the negative dialogue with more rational and calming ones, such as, “Their behavior is not in my control, there’s no point in getting upset over what I can’t control,” and, “If I keep calm and focus on my own work, both of us will be in a better position.” Within the daily little things, this attitude can greatly help us stay focused, and keep calm in challenging circumstances.
5. Become A Better Listener
Being a good listening is a very important skill in terms of anger management. Why? Because when we are able to listen well to another, we often can enhance and promote healthy communication with the other who we are having the issue with. Compassion is born from understanding each other’s needs, and the only way to understand, is to really listen to their side of the story.
To become a better listener, practice being an active listener. Don’t interrupt the other when they are talking, reflect back what you hear them saying so they know you are understanding them and they ‘feel heard.’ This reduces the chances of misunderstandings happening and fosters empathy. It also alleviates the tension and buildup of anger, which usually occurs when both people feel the other is not listening to them. Be serious about listening to the other and understanding what they are saying, and you’ve already solved half of the problem.
If the person is being abusive either through language or physical action, then this is not a time to listen to them, but rather the time to end the conversation and walk away and to protect your feelings.
6. Use Peaceful Music For Anger Management
Have you ever had the experience of being upset, angry, or sad, and then you hear a certain song, and a wave of peace fills you? There are actually many peaceful songs that have been proven to relieve stress and to reduce anxiety, and the same is true for anger.
If you begin to get angry and need to let off some steam, take a few minutes to yourself and put on the headphones, and listen to some calming waves, some peaceful rainforest sounds, some light flutes playing by a river, and notice if your feelings don’t become a bit lighter. Music is an incredible resource for helping feelings to relax.