From Stealth Health
Anger doesn't have to derail your life. Find out numerous ways to diffuse this reaction and save your relationships.
1. Forget about punching a pillow, a wall or the object of your anger. Contrary to popular belief, these common reactions don't decrease your anger. In fact, studies find, they only increase your hostility. Take three deep breaths. When you're angry, your body becomes tense. Breathing deeply helps to lower your internal anger meter.
2. Get some perspective. Is this person or situation really worth spending your emotional energy on? Risking your health over? Putting your dignity and peace of mind at risk?
3. Know why you feel angry. Think like a detective and track down clues about the kinds of situations, people and events that trigger your anger. Once you're aware of them, try to avoid them if possible. If you can't avoid them, at least you'll know to anticipate them, which will give you more time to prepare for them so that they don't affect you so negatively.
4. Keep in mind that whoever loses it, loses. Losing your temper makes you look like the bad guy to everyone else, no matter who is really at fault. To get better at controlling your anger, visualize a scene in which you got angry and replay the tape several times, each time imagining yourself responding in a different way. You're actually rehearsing different reactions and giving yourself new options. The next time you're close to losing your temper, one of these options will pop into your mind, providing you with a better response.
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5. Picture a red stop sign in your mind or wear a rubber band on your wrist and snap it whenever you find your anger beginning to boil. Then take a few minutes to put the issue into perspective and ask yourself if it's worth the humiliation that comes from becoming overtly angry.
6. Recognize your own personal signs of escalating anger. These might be clenched fists, trembling, flushing, sweating. Then use deep breathing to regain control of yourself before your anger erupts. If you're not sure about your own anger warning signs, ask a friend or family member. It's pretty likely they'll know!
7. Take "self-control" time. It works to get children to calm down, so it should work with angry grown-ups too. Here's how to do it:
- Sit up straight and relaxed wherever you are (a couch, the floor, a chair, etc.).
- Place your feet flat on the floor in front of you.
- Extend your hands palm down and place them gently in your lap. Make sure your elbows are naturally back by your sides.
- Relax your shoulders so that the muscles around them are neither tight nor tense.
- • Breathe deeply in through your nose and exhale through your mouth to help your body to relax into this position.
- Close your eyelids lightly and continue breathing deeply.
- When using self-control time as a regular part of your day, it should last for approximately 3 minutes. When using it as a way to help you to regain self-control, it should last for approximately 1 minute.
8. When you get really angry, walk away from the source. Then take a 5 minute walk to get some fresh air, or do something else that provides calm and relief. If your anger stems from the traffic jam you're stuck in, for example, turn up the radio and sing at the top of your voice. The idea is to create a mental and/or physical escape from the situation.
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9. When dealing with angry family members, find a way to make them laugh. This is a trick family therapists often use. So, for instance, take a quick digital photo of yourself with a silly or contrite expression, print it out and put it on a family member's pillow. Or do some silly dancing together, or hide a gift in the mashed potatoes served at dinner. The point is to do something together that is lighthearted and fun. Not only does this defuse the anger, but it reminds everyone that you are in this family together, for ever.
10. Remember that anger is really a messenger. So ask yourself exactly what is bothering you right now. Use the anger as a simple indication that something can and should be changed to improve things in the future.
11. Remember, too, that displays of anger don't accomplish anything except to anger or intimidate others. It is not a disciplinary tool, a communication method or an emotional weapon. Anger is a damaging, personal, emotional state that is symptomatic of an underlying problem. So don't ever let yourself use anger as a threat - particularly with your children. Your anger should be your problem, not theirs.
12. When you're angry, look at your watch. Let the second hand sweep around the dial for at least 2 minutes before you take any action. By then, you'll have had time to think and you can act in a more appropriate way.
13. Write a forgiveness letter or e-mail. You don't even have to send it. Just the act of writing down your feelings will lighten the load of anger you've been carrying. If you want to resume your relationship with the person or people with whom you've been angry, however, do hit the send button. One major American study found that when volunteers thought about a person they were angry with, their blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension leaped. But when they imagined themselves forgiving the other person - just imagined it - their blood pressure, etc. didn't rise nearly as much.
14. Embrace empathy. True empathy means getting into another person's head and heart both to understand and feel that individual's experience. You can do this in numerous ways: by visualizing the situation through the other person's eyes; by writing a story from the other person's perspective of the situation; by telling the story to a friend but taking the other person's perspective.
15. When you're angry with your parents, think about your children. How do you want them to feel about you when they're your age? Wouldn't you want them to understand that you were only doing the best you could at the time?
Acknowledge some core truths about people:
- Most people act out of the belief that they are doing the right thing.
- Most people are not malicious, mean-spirited or backstabbing.
- Most people are more sensitive and insecure than they let on.
- Most people aren't very good judges of how their actions affect others. In other words, we're neither villains nor saints. We're all just people - struggling to lead happy, healthy, meaningful lives in a complicated world. Yes, even the people who anger you. With this in mind, forgiveness comes much easier.
16. Get angry with the person who can make a difference. There's nothing to be gained by becoming angry with the poor soul who is simply caught in the crossfire. This advice is particularly important when you're dealing with people who work in the service industries. Is it the fault of the salesperson that something you need is out of stock? No, but his or her manager could probably fix things.
17. Understand that someone, somewhere, is gossiping about you, because that's what people do, but understand also that it has absolutely no impact on your life.
18. Take responsibility for your anger. Recognize that it's your choice whether or not you become angry.
19. Talk about your anger. This is different from expressing it; talking about it means unloading and decompressing with a friend, going over the situation with a neutral observer who can bring some perspective to the situation, or even talking out loud to yourself about it (preferably when no one else can hear you).
20. Get on your bike and go for a half-hour ride. Or jump up and down on a trampoline. Or go for a vigorous swim. Or attack the weeds in your garden. Any kind of vigorous, intense physical activity helps to dissipate anger.
21. If you are angry with a politician, policy or some public injustice, do something about it. In one American study, researchers tracked the brainwave patterns of students who had just been told the university was considering big tuition increases. They all exhibited brain patterns signifying anger, but signing a petition to block the increases seemed to provide satisfaction. Put simply, working to right a wrong is life-affirming and positive. Stewing in a bad situation without taking action has the opposite result.
22. Pinch yourself every time you hear yourself using the words "never," "always," etc. Such thinking leads to a black-and-white, all-or-nothing mentality and that, in turn, shortens your fuse. Instead, look at things in shades of grey. Acknowledge that life can be unfair and that sometimes people do the wrong thing. But don't fuel the fires with phrases such as "always disappoints" or "never comes through."
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