Anger is an unpredictable thing. It can rise out of nowhere or be the result of a long line of un-addressed annoyances. Everyone feels anger. From a raging teenager to an elderly monk, there’s no escaping the fact that humans get angry.
However, as you may know, anger is not always a fantastic emotion to have. Anger sometimes makes you less appealing as a person; it affects your work, your private life and your sense of well-being. This is particularly true when you feel constantly on the edge of having an emotional breakdown.
Here are seven steps that you can implement to help you rein in your anger demons. Hopefully, this helps you obtain the control you need to be less stressed and avoid a rage-filled day-to-day lifestyle. No promises regarding traffic, however.
Step 1: Just breathe
When you’re angry beyond belief, there’s nothing more that you can do than just breathe and take back control of your body. Slowly breathe in and out. Simple as that.
Yoga practitioners use a technique called “the cooling breath.” It involves rolling your tongue, breathing in through your mouth and out through your nose. It certainly cools. But if you can’t roll your tongue, try doing the same in-and-out breaths with your tongue pressed to the back of your teeth instead for instant relief.
Step 2: Take a break
If it’s your boss, your co-worker or even a friend who is causing your anger, just go take a break. Chances are if you’re having some anger management issues, you’re going to need a five-minute breather to stop yourself from saying or doing something you’ll regret.
Is it a long term solution? No. But it can be a part of one. Breaks are a tool you use when anger and rage are too much at a particular moment in time. Go outside, get a drink, have a smoke or whatever, then go back with clearer eyes and a cooler mind.
Step 3: Visualize your way to calmness
“Visualize” doesn’t mean to fantasize taking your rage out on the person who’s causing your angry state. Although that is satisfying, and certainly something everyone indulges in, it’s not the best thing to help you calm down.
Instead, try this technique that’s often used: Imagine a bath full of boiling, steaming water, and physically visualize yourself cooling the water until it’s nice and warm without being hot. This technique gives your mind something to focus on, and it is an active attempt to calm yourself down that should work.
Step 4: Count to 10
This tried-and-tested technique actually works. When you feel your inner Bruce Banner ready to spring into Hulk mode, go ahead and count to 10.
The reason behind this technique is simple: It forces you to actively calm your heart rate and inner rage by counting a simple sequence with complete self-awareness. The technique ensures that you’re aware of your own anger, and it makes you more likely to calm down because of it.
Step 5: Channel your anger into your passion
Passion is a wonderful thing. It motivates millions, generates projects and creates relationships that make life all the more worthwhile. Anger, while not the same as passion, can be channeled the same way. It is always better to create something rather than destroy it.
A 2006 study found that people who are slightly angrier make better cognitive choices. Hence, utilizing that anger might help plow through work and make you more productive, if only for a little bit. So go ahead, and channel your anger into your work.
Step 6: Be a little aggressive
This sounds like a counterproductive way to control your anger, but sometimes anger is necessary. Holding your anger in will only make you less psychologically healthy in the long run. Have you ever seen a seemingly normal person suddenly start having a breakdown in the middle of a Starbucks? That’s what holding onto anger can do to you.
Try to channel your rage in a constructive way. Go take a karate class, do Zumba or play a team sport. Anger itself isn’t dangerous, it’s what you do with it. So if you “need” to destroy something, do some cleaning around your home, and tear up anything you don’t need or want anymore. Just make sure you use your aggression to your advantage, and you’ll soon have a handle on it.
Step 7: Go forth and help others
There’s nothing better than helping others without any thought for yourself. When you’re struggling to deal with the little red monster, going out and actively doing something that puts your focus on other peoples’ emotions and circumstances can be the perfect antidote to serious stress.
You don’t have to run a marathon, but getting coffee or lunch for a busy colleague works wonders for calming you down. A good deed helps to move the focus away from an annoyance, or a trigger that invoked your rage, to something calmer and more positive. Plus, fostering positive relationships with others discourages them from do something that might annoy you in the first place.