Rich Oswald, L.P.C.
Psychiatry & Psychology
Speaking of HealthUnnamed pain: Coping with ambiguous lossApril 10, 2023
Do you fume when someone cuts you off in traffic? Does your blood pressure rocket when your child refuses to cooperate? Do you lash out quickly and later regret so doing? If so, you're not alone. Everyone experiences anger from time to time.
Anger is a normal and even healthy emotion. Like all emotions, it gives us insight into how we just perceived an event. But it's important to deal with it in a positive way. Uncontrolled anger can take a toll on your health and relationships.
If you're often feeling angry, or if those feeling are causing problems at home or at work, here are seven tips to help you regain control:
1. Think before you speak.
One of the best tactics is to take a pause before reacting. If your heart is pounding and you feel like yelling at your friend, family member or the guy who just pulled in front of you in traffic, stop. Take a breath. Count to 10. Do whatever it takes to avoid lashing out and saying or doing something you'll regret.
2. Once you're calm, state what upset you.
What is the more correct feeling in response to what happened? Identify the deeper feeling. Maybe you feel unimportant because your spouse didn't help clean up the kitchen after you made dinner. Or you feel used because your son borrowed your car and returned it with a nearly empty gas tank — again. Address the circumstance and person clearly and directly, using an "I" statement. For example, say, "I'm upset that you left me without enough gas to get to work" or "I resent it when I work to prepare a meal and you don't help clean up afterward."
3. Use humor to release tension.
Lightening up can help diffuse tension. Use humor to help you face what's making you angry. Laugh at yourself for unrealistic expectations you have for how things should go. Laugh at yourself but avoid sarcasm. It often aims to hurt others to make a point about how you are feeling. Don't be passive-aggressive either.
4. Take a timeout.
Timeouts aren't just for kids. Being self-aware about your energy level is helpful so you can take care of your needs and be the best you can be. Give yourself short breaks during times of the day that tend to be stressful. A few moments of quiet time might help you feel better prepared to handle what's ahead without getting irritated or angry.
5. Get exercise.
Physical activity can help reduce stress that can cause you to become angry. Exercise is often prescribed to improve mood. The endorphins produced from physical exertion are natural pick-me-ups and stress reducers. If you feel your anger escalating, go for a brisk walk or run, or spend some time doing other enjoyable physical activities.
6. Practice relaxation skills.
Using any, or all, of your six senses to provide relaxing input can improve calmness. Practice deep-breathing exercises, get a warm drink, smell some pleasant scents, go outside and feel the crisp air, stretch your muscles, imagine a relaxing scene, listen to calming music or repeat a calming word or phrase, such as "Take it easy." Yoga and meditation also are good tools to use to help you stay calm. When you're taking care of yourself, it's easier to deal with the challenges life throws your way.
7. Don't hold a grudge.
Forgiveness is a powerful tool. Holding on to the offenses of others and hoping they will feel your pain or repay you for their error only affects you. If you allow anger and other negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice. But if you can forgive someone who hurt you (i.e., write the debt owed you to zero) you release the weight and are no longer bogged down and hoping for "pay-back."
Learning to control anger is a challenge at times for everyone. If changes like these aren't enough to help you control your anger, reach out to a mental health specialist for support. Seek help for anger issues if your anger seems out of control, causes you to do things you regret or hurts those around you.