The field of anger management is constantly evolving as researchers learn more about anger. Anger management approaches with the best evidence of success focus on learning how to reduce the intensity of the anger, thinking differently about events that make you angry, and expressing yourself in constructive rather than counterproductive ways. You can’t always change the people and events that make you angry, but you can learn to control your reactions and respond more effectively.
Relaxation: Reduce anger’s intensity
When we’re angry, we tend to act fast and jump to conclusions, and those conclusions may or may not be accurate, especially in the rush of adrenaline that comes with anger. The solution is to slow down, especially when in a heated discussion or situation. Don’t say the first thing that comes to mind. Consider asking for a time-out and returning to the conversation after a break.
Knowing how to relax can help in angry moments. Simple relaxation exercises like deep breathing or imagining a relaxing situation can help you cool off and reduce the physical and emotion intensity of the anger you’re feeling. Listening to calming music also works. Then you can make better choices about how you want to respond.
Simple relaxation steps to try:
- Breathe deeply from your “gut” rather than your chest
- Repeat a calm word or phrase like “relax” or “calm down” while breathing deeply
- Picture a relaxing experience, either from memory or imagination
- Slow stretching can also relax muscles and make you feel calmer
- Listen to relaxing music
Our relaxation response is like a muscle: the more we use it, the stronger it gets. Try planning time for yourself to relax every day. Scheduling downtime, especially at points of transition between work and home, not only allows you to regroup and refuel, but it also allows you to spontaneously brainstorm and think through solutions to ongoing problems. This can create more daily harmony and lead to bigger changes over the long term.
Being angry generally makes our thinking exaggerated, illogical, and dramatic. Here are some ways to think differently about the irritations that trigger anger:
- Change your self-talk. Avoid words like “never” or “always” and replace exaggerated thoughts like, “This always happens to me,” to more rational ones like, “It’s not the end of the world.”
- Recognize that the world is not “out to get you.” Remind yourself that things will not always go your way and that doesn’t have to be anyone’s fault.
- Pick your battles. Are there things you can let go of and forget about? Ask yourself what will really matter tomorrow, next week, or a year from now.
- Manage your expectations. Are you expecting too much of yourself and others? Perfectionism can be a source of frustration. Ask yourself if it’s “good enough.”
- Use your sense of humor. Sometimes taking yourself less seriously can provide immediate comic relief.
Problem solving: Express anger in positive ways
Not all anger is misplaced. Sometimes our anger and frustration are caused by very real problems in our lives. If your daily commute through traffic leaves you in a state of rage and frustration, give yourself a problem-solving project—map out a different route, one that’s less congested or more scenic. Or find another alternative, like a bus or commuter train. Anger can also motivate us to make positive changes. If an injustice makes you angry, look for ways to put your energy toward a change, like volunteering for a good cause.
You also might notice that the same routine seems to trigger frustration and bad temper. Maybe you and a coworker always seem to clash, or you and your partner tend to argue when trying to get the kids ready in the morning. If you notice patterns in when you get angry, try shaking up the routine. Choosing a time and place for important conversations can make a big difference in resolving issues. Maybe you and the coworker can get away from work for a cup of coffee. Or you and your partner can agree not to discuss issues in the morning, but plan an outing without the kids instead.
When its beyond our control
While problem-solving skills can help us manage our anger in some situations, many of us share a cultural belief that every problem has a solution. It can add to our frustration to find that this isn’t always the case. The best attitude when a situation is beyond our control is to focus on what we can control—our own response.
When we make a serious attempt to face problems constructively, we are less likely to lose patience and fall into all-or-nothing thinking. We can choose where to put our energy, focusing on problem solving in areas where we have some control and learning to let go in those areas that are beyond our control.