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In the fast-paced, high-stress lives we lead today, many of us are prone to losing our temper. Everyday frustrations like relationship troubles, kiddie tantrums, office drama, health issues, unexpected events, or even minor things like being interrupted or someone cutting you off in traffic can build up over time to make us short-tempered.
Anger is a healthy and cathartic emotion, and totally normal. It becomes problematic, however, when your anger become toxic or destructive, causing you to be cruel to others and bitter and unhappy with yourself.
How Anger Impacts Your Life And Your Health
Physically, anger can increase your heart rate and blood pressure, cause headaches, indigestion, and sleep issues, and make it difficult for you to focus.[ref]What is Anger. Blinn College.[/ref] Chronic anger also has emotional manifestations that range from mild irritability, passive aggressive behavior, cynicism, and being hypercritical of others to aggressive or violent behavior and even uncontrollable rage.[ref]Controlling Anger. University of Washington.[/ref] No matter how you look at it, toxic anger can affect your mental and physical health and your relationships with other people.
Is It Always Bad To Get Angry?
No. It is very normal to get angry. When you feel angry, it is essentially a signal from your brain that you are becoming annoyed and upset, which is meant to help you better understand what is making you angry. Regulated anger can also act as a motivator and energizer and can make you become more assertive with other people.[ref]Anger Management. US Department of Veterans Affairs.[/ref]
What Causes Anger?
Although we think we are driven to anger by external factors, the emotion itself is really a function of our own interpretation of an event or situation. For example, a bad driver who cuts you off in busy traffic isn’t the cause of your anger; how you choose to react to the driver is what determines whether you get angry or not. For this reason, researchers argue that angry feelings occur due to angry thoughts.[ref]Controlling Anger. University of Washington.[/ref] It is therefore up to you to choose how you process external stimuli that can trigger angry thoughts which lead to angry feelings.
This is where anger management techniques can help. Using specific strategies, you can better predict and understand your own anger. So let’s take a look at 10 proven techniques that can help you manage your anger in a positive manner.
1. Count Back From 100
You’ve heard the age-old advice of “Count to 10” before you speak or act. Experts now say that it’s better to count backward from 100 by 7s because that requires more focus than counting to 10 (too easy).[ref]Anger Management Techniques. West Virginia University.[/ref]
[pullquote]Count back from 100 by 7s – 100, 93, 86 …[/pullquote]
When something triggers you to have angry thoughts, resist the urge to speak (or send an angry email) immediately. Instead, count backward from 100, take a deep breath, and speak when you feel relatively calmer. This minimizes the chances that you’ll say something you’ll instantly regret. It also allows you to clear your head before you speak.
When you do speak, try to be clear about what is aggravating you. Yelling at people or acting aggressively will not help them understand why you’re getting angry. Which leads us to the next technique…
2. Use “I” Statements
When you get angry, make it about yourself by using “I” statements instead of blaming it on others. For example, “I feel upset when you don’t offer to help with the dishes” is more effective than “You never help around the house.” Or, “I am feeling stressed because I don’t have your presentation yet” is better than “You are holding up the whole team.”
Psychologists say that this technique helps you address your anger in a non-confrontational and non-accusatory (yet assertive) way that does not hurt others.[ref]Are ‘I’ Statements Better than ‘You’ Statements?. Psychology Today.[/ref] The goal is to share your concerns and express your frustration in a calm and respectful manner.
It’s not always easy to speak like this. So you may need to follow the next tip…
3. Leave The Scene For A Short Stroll
Another oft-used technique is to physically step away from situations that you find aggravating. So whether it’s a coworker or friend making an off-color joke, your kids not putting away their toys after you told them a dozen times, your partner saying hurtful things, or receiving a rude email, it helps to leave the scene briefly and compose yourself. Take a stroll outside. Don’t drive a vehicle. Once you’ve calmed down a bit, you can return to the situation and use those “I” statements to express yourself without blowing a fuse.
What do you do when you can’t leave the scene?
4. Take A Deep Breath (Or 10)
Breathing deeply from your diaphragm helps relieve stress and clear your head.[ref]Controlling anger before it controls you. American Psychological Association.[/ref] Imagine your breath coming from deep within your gut and not your chest. Take several deep breaths before you start speaking in a volatile situation and you’ll instantly feel calmer and more in control.
5. Use Relaxing Imagery And Self-Talk
Using relaxing imagery (imagining your happy place, real or imaginary) can calm you down, as can calming self-talk such as “it’s not a big deal,” “relax,” “take it easy,” “this too shall pass,” and so on.[ref]Anger Management Techniques. West Virginia University.[/ref]
6. Use Stress Relievers And/Or Distractions
Distracting yourself with other stimuli when you find yourself on the brink of anger is an excellent technique. The logic is that if you do something you enjoy, it’s harder for you to get/stay angry. Popular distractions that work include listening to music, reading a book, playing with your pet, solving a puzzle, painting or engaging in other artwork, playing video games, cooking, and watching a movie/TV show.[ref]Anger Management Techniques. West Virginia University.[/ref] Basically, anything you find therapeutic and relaxing can help!
7. Exercise, Meditate, And Practice Yoga
Any form of physical activity – for instance walking, jogging, running, hitting the gym, kickboxing, or martial arts – can regulate anger issues. Exercise releases endorphins, the “feel-good” hormone, in your body. This can improve your mood and calm you down.[ref]Anger Management Techniques. West Virginia University.[/ref]
Meditation and yoga are also scientifically proven to build mindfulness, promote compassion and acceptance, and cultivate self-awareness – all of which ultimately help you overcome toxic anger.[ref]How to Overcome Destructive Anger. UC Berkeley.[/ref]
Asanas such as shashankasana (hare pose), balasana (child pose), and paschimottanasana (seated forward bend pose) are supposed to help relieve anger. So will pranayama (deep breathing), specifically bhramari (humming bee), sheetkari (hissing), and nadi shodana (alternate nostril) pranayama.[ref]Jagadish, K. R. I. Nature’s Way: A Complete Guide to Health Through Yoga & Herbal Remedies. Times Books International, 1999.[/ref]
8. Try Ayurvedic Remedies
According to the ancient Indian medicine of Ayurveda, an excess of pitta (a type of energy) in the body causes anger (krodha) and anxiety.[ref][ref]Ayurveda. University of Maryland Medical Center.[/ref] A variety of cooling herbs such as ashwagandha, brahmi, and basil (tulsi) can balance the pitta energy and calm the nervous system, thereby aiding you in managing your anger and stress more effectively.
Consuming ashwagandha root extract has been scientifically proven to reduce anxiety, stress and lower cortisol levels.[ref]Chandrasekhar, K., Jyoti Kapoor, and Sridhar Anishetty. “A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults.” Indian journal of psychological medicine 34.3 (2012): 255.[/ref] Ashwagandha extract is readily available in the form of both herbal tea and dietary supplement capsules. Do remember to consult an experienced Ayurvedic practitioner so you get the dosage right.
Basil (tulsi) is also an effective adaptogenic and antidepressant herb that can address psychological stress.[ref]Cohen, Marc. “Tulsi-Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons.” Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine 5, no. 4 (2014): 251.[/ref] Tulsi tea is a great herbal tea to sip once or twice a day. Incorporate into your daily routine and give your immunity a boost as well!
Another effective herbal remedy to lower stress and anxiety (and thereby anger) is brahmi oil. Brahmi oil has been traditionally used to calm the nervous system, lower anxiety, and treat insomnia.[ref]Vinjamury, Sivarama Prasad, Manjusha Vinjamury, Claudia der Martirosian, and Judith Miller. “Ayurvedic therapy (shirodhara) for insomnia: a case series.” Global Advances in Health and Medicine 3, no. 1 (2014): 75-80.[/ref] A gentle scalp massage using brahmi oil mixed with a little coconut oil can help relax you and lower your stress levels.
9. Get Writing
Pour your heart out into a journal. Write down what’s making you angry and why, elaborating on your feelings. Journaling your feelings can be an incredibly healing and comforting experience and can help you understand the causes of your anger over time so you can investigate possible solutions.
10. Seek Professional Help
Consider anger management counseling if you see that your anger is getting out of control and ruining your relationships. A qualified therapist will be able to help you pinpoint the causes of your anger, understand how to manage it, and channel it in positive ways.
It goes without saying that not all of these techniques are going to work for everyone. Each person is different, with different triggers for their anger, so some of these strategies might be more effective than others. Remember that the point is never to eliminate anger, but to manage it in a manner that minimizes your frustration and unhappiness.