You’ve been cut off on the road, a colleague didn’t say hello, your husband left dirty laundry on the bedroom floor – there are plenty of reasons for anger. How to behave in these moments, so that it does not destroy you and your life?
Sometimes we think that feeling anger is a bad thing. It isn’t. It is a natural reaction when we feel threatened. Our heart starts beating faster, our face turns pale or colourful, and our breathing quickens.
From an evolutionary perspective, such emotions prepare the body to fight a predator or to flee immediately
But there is a flip side to this coin: anger uses too much energy. The stress it causes can wreak havoc on the body. Excessive aggression, whether expressed or suppressed, increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. It’s also hard to think clearly when your mind is clouded by rage and adrenaline is running high.
Here are a few tips to help you manage your anger without hurting yourself.
1. Acknowledge that you are experiencing anger
The first step is awareness. Acknowledge your feelings. Some of us find it easier to separate ourselves from anger, emotionally distance ourselves and not identify with it. You are not the embodiment of this emotion.
2. Breathe with your diaphragm, slowly and deeply
Anger provokes a state of autonomic arousal, deep breathing helps to neutralise it. Exhalations should be longer than inhalations.
3. Ask yourself what is in danger
What is at risk: your body, personal or professional relationships, financial status or self-esteem? Are you at risk right now? If so, act urgently. Take care of yourself.
4. Don’t jump to premature conclusions
Perhaps the colleague who didn’t say hello to you was preoccupied with his or her own thoughts or wasn’t feeling well. Try not to jump to conclusions such as “he doesn’t like me” or “nobody likes me”. It is better to ask how he is doing, either now or later.
5. Revise expectations
Often we live with unrealistic expectations and don’t even realise it. But can things only work out the way we want them to? We dream of a harmonious life, but reality is full of obstacles. It is time to finally recognise that we will have to face difficulties every now and then, and then when we meet them, anger will not flare up with such force.
Let go of thoughts like “he shouldn’t have done that” and categorical statements with the words “always” or “never”
Let’s say you hate standing in traffic. It’s understandable – who would like to sit in a car for hours, travelling at eight kilometres per hour? But what do you usually tell yourself in such cases? That it shouldn’t be like that? That other drivers are idiots? That only fuels the anger.
Look on the bright side: “Well, it’s part of life in the big city” or “At least I can listen to an audiobook”. Chances are your anger will subside.
6. Learn to apply cognitive restructuring
You don’t want to exclaim, “This is awful, I can’t take it!” Try saying, “Yes, it’s unpleasant, but I can solve this problem.” The two approaches produce very different results.
Try not to dramatise the situation, do not think that someone wishes you harm
Understand the difference between a wish and a demand. When talking to others or to yourself, use the phrases “I would like” or “I would prefer” instead of “I insist” and “you must”.
7. Ask yourself what your anger is based on
Anger helps us feel “strong” and “tough”, but showing vulnerability is not easy. But by analysing your pain, you can understand yourself better. Anger often masks other emotions, such as sadness or fear.
8. Don’t use anger as motivation
It is believed that anger should be vented, but this is a mistake. You can influence the behaviour of others in this way, but such changes won’t last. Who would like to be bullied?
9. Practice self-compassion
Admit to yourself that you are experiencing unpleasant feelings. This experience is familiar to everyone on the planet in one way or another. Being aware of this fact will help you manage your anger without hurting yourself or others. Your emotions should not control your actions.
Take up jogging, Nordic walking or yoga. This will help reduce the concentration of hormones that cause stress and anger and increase serotonin and dopamine levels, and therefore improve your mood.
11. Talk to a close friend
A person who knows you well can look at the situation differently and help you do the same.
12 Recognise your feelings and needs
When expressing feelings, use “self affirmations.” Do not criticise or blame others. Try to accept feedback from others without taking a defensive stance or getting into an argument.
13. Focus on the solution
Once you have realised that you are angry and understand why you feel threatened, focus on finding solutions to the problem. This way you will channel your energy in a peaceful direction.
14. Use anger as a cue
My dad and I used to get into heated discussions a lot. When my mother would ask, “Why are you fighting again?” my father would reply, “We’re not fighting, we’re just passionate!” We expressed our emotions without anger or resentment.
The things that hurt you may suggest how you could be of service to the world
Are you saddened by the homeless animal situation? Help a dog shelter. Are you outraged by the plight of the underprivileged? Volunteer at a social assistance centre.
15. Practice mindfulness
Don’t judge yourself for being angry – this will only make you more irritable and exacerbate the problem. Try to accept the fact that you are angry. Don’t let anger control your actions, but don’t deny it either.
Acknowledge the anger and refrain from judgement. Your goal is to understand what is going on. You can then use the tips above to mobilise, focus and channel the anger in a constructive way.
Anger itself is not a bad thing, but we must be able to control it so that it does not poison our lives and relationships with others.