Chill Out: Managing Your Anger

by Mike McKeown

The first (and most important!) step in managing anger is knowing what your triggers are and recognizing the early signs of anger. Once you understand that, you can learn techniques to enable you to calm down before a situation gets out of control. This gives you the freedom to manage your emotions in a healthy way rather than letting them manage you.


Here are a few things to help you manage your anger:

This is a critical piece. It’s the first step in the process. Many people that have reacted and responded with rage or anger most of their lives don’t see it until they are in the middle of it. 

When you recognize your anger, then you can look at what’s behind it. What is actually causing your anger? As I had mentioned in last week’s article, rage, anger, or rants can often cover up other feelings like embarrassment, guilt, or shame. If you grew up in a house where it wasn’t safe to express your feelings, anger is most often the acceptable go-to.

Short and sweet: If you don’t understend why you are getting angry or where it is coming from, then you can’t even begin to control your anger.

Relax and Recognize 
When you realize you are angry, stop and take note of it. Examine it. What does your anger feel like? Is it a knot in your stomach, a pain in the head, neck, or shoulders? Feeling flushed? Hear buzzing in your ears? Whatever your anger signs and symptoms are, figure out what you can do to settle those physical responses. Relaxation techniques like deep breathing, exercise, and guided imagery can help lessen the impact of angry feelings and get you more in control of yourself. The key here is to practice those techniques when you aren’t angry. If you get comfortable with them when you don’t need them, they will be easier to accomplish when you’re in the midst of your anger. Think about it. Most times when you are really angry or raging, you can’t control yourself.  If you practice these techniques, learn them and become comfortable with them while you’re calm, it will be easier to find them and apply them in your anger. Only attempting to use them when actually in a rage will make them ineffective at best and can, in some cases, make your anger worse.  

Change your Thinking
When you first start seeing the signs that anger or rage is imminent, stop, breathe and take a moment to think. Examine the situation and your impending response. Ask yourself, “Is getting upset going to fix anything or will it just make it worse?” Follow that up by asking yourself,  “Is this worth ruining my day over?” Often that’s what a temper, rage, or anger issue will do. It takes over your control and it can cause ripples throughout the rest of your day.  If you can recognize when you’re not thinking logically about a situation, you can replace these thoughts with more rational, calm and peaceful ones. This will give you the insight you need to act on these thoughts with rational, calm, thought.

Problem Solve
Often, our anger is caused by external problems in our lives. When this happens ask yourself,  “What is really making me this angry? How can I change the situation?” It’s important to recognize that these things cannot always be changed by us.  When we can’t change that core situation, the key is to change our response to the situation. It’s important to learn to respond rather than react. Reacting is usually knee-jerk, immediate, and not well thought out. A calm response that we’ve thought through will often diffuse the emotion around a situation. 

Step Away
If you can’t seem to get your anger under control, don’t hesitate to step away from things for a few minutes. This is an excellent time to get away from the triggers, other people, and take your mind off of the current heat of the situation. You can take a walk, watch a movie, or try some relaxation techniques that I mentioned above. Once you are settled and more calm, you can go back and look at the situation again. Being calm gives a new perspective. Taking that space and distance, on top of diffusing the potential explosion, can also give us a new perspective that could solve the problem. One note to consider with this technique is to be sure you’re not using this as a weapon or tactic against the others involved in the circumstance. Step away for yourself. Not to hurt them. If you are specifically using this to control others, it will not help you get your temper under control. 

People, Places, and Things.
Sometimes those extternal situations revolve around very specific and sometimes recurring, circumstances. Take a look at the people, places, or things that are causing frustration and anger. Once you identify the locations, people and situatioons, assess whether there might be a solution or not. Some examples might be to look for a different way to work, shut the door to your childrens messy room, set up a time when you arent too stressed to talk about important matters with your wife, and make sure you have some down time scheduled during stressful days. You aren’t always going to be able to solve every trigger or angry situation, but if you are aware of what’s happening, how it’s happening and what you are able to do, it will help your overal outlook considerably. 

Find Help
This is the most important piece of advice I can give you. If you struggle with anger or you are closely connected to someone who does, seek help from a counselor. You might even seek out  group therapy sessions. Counseling and therapy can be scary for some people to consider but counselors are there to help you. Not hurt you. If your anger is hurting the people around you or yourself, get help.

Learning to manage your anger takes time but it can be done. Remember, life is 10% of what happens, and 90% how we view what happened.

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