Everyone gets angry sometimes. Anger is a normal reaction to being attacked or being treated unfairly. It can even be healthy if you use it to motivate you to make positive changes. However, dealing with anger constructively is hard. Too often, we lash out or act impulsively. This can have consequences from alienating friends and loved ones, to getting into legal trouble, to getting someone killed. If you don’t lash out or act impulsively, you may swallow your anger. Over the long run, this can lead to seething resentment or depression. These emotions aren’t good for you or anyone around you. Here are some tips for dealing with anger in a healthier, more constructive way.
Before anything else, learn to pause when you feel yourself getting angry. Whatever you do out of anger is not likely to be helpful. Just pausing rather than speaking or acting, even when your blood is boiling, can keep you from doing something you’ll regret. You’re not forfeiting the right to respond; you’re just delaying until you can respond more effectively.
Take a few deep breaths.
When you’re angry, your sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive, preparing you for a fight. You can counteract this by taking five or 10 slow, deep breaths. This stimulates your vagus nerve and activates your parasympathetic nervous system, calming you down. When you’re calmer, you are able to consider possibilities that are unavailable to you when you’re angry.
Examine your thinking.
Try to notice what you’re thinking about when you’re angry. You might be thinking something like, “How dare he!” or “What a rotten person!” You may feel like someone did something deliberately to hurt you. Quite often, angry thoughts are extremely distorted and self-centered. Most of the time, people aren’t deliberately trying to hurt you; they’re just careless or they’re trying to do what’s best for them. If you can take the other person’s perspective for a moment, you might realize you’re taking things a little too personally.
When you’re calm, talk things over.
Sometimes you will have a good reason for being angry. Maybe you feel like your partner doesn’t listen to you or your child is doing something dangerous. Wait until you’re calm and talk things over. Express yourself clearly and assertively, focusing on how you feel and avoiding accusations.
Learn to relax.
If you’re already stressed, anxious, and tense, you’re going to become angry more often. Since you’re already in threat mode, you’re more likely to interpret other people’s behavior as an attack. Find ways to relax regularly and relieve tension. Get some exercise, take a hot bath, listen to music, or find some way of unwinding at least once a day.
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