Unless you’re a Tibetan monk, surrounded by nothing but other peaceful Tibetan monks, chances are you run into people and events that make you just plain angry sometimes. And that’s okay. Anger is a very common human emotion, and in many instances, it can serve as a compass that guides you to better choices and situations.
For instance, if you feel yourself become angry on more than one occasion at work while interacting with your boss, it may be an indication that you need to learn to communicate your ideas better, not take things personally, or even find a job and work environment that is better suited to your skills and personality.
But while anger can serve as a guide to some people, to others anger is like an uncontrollable monster. It wreaks havoc on everything it encounters, including personal relationships, especially when you are afraid of it and don't express it in healthy ways.
If you are one of those people who get carried away with angry emotions or stuff them until you explode, it’s important that you learn how to manage your feelings and reactions to those feelings. Here are 4 everyday exercises you can do to manage your anger.
1. Recognize It
Your very first step to control your anger is to recognize when it is creeping up on you. Be honest with yourself and admit that, for whatever reason, you seem to be getting very angry very quickly these days. Pay attention to the events of your life and your reaction. When you feel that feeling coming on, recognize it. What does it feel like? What are some of the triggering events that usually bring it on?
The very act of being aware of the anger in the moment can help dissipate it. When you recognize it, tell your anger, “I control you, you don’t control me.”
2. Reframe the Situation
When we haven’t slept well, have low blood sugar, or we’re just in a grumpy mood for whatever reason, it’s entirely too easy to see a situation in a way that is not realistic. When you are called to anger, stop and reframe the situation to see if there is a better explanation for a triggering event.
For instance, if someone cuts you off in traffic you have two options: You can assume they did it intentionally to tick you off, or you can reframe that to come up with a better explanation: it wasn’t intentional, they didn’t see you.
While getting cut off in traffic is never pleasant, you have the ability to rethink the situation so it is less angering. You can reframe any situation that might trigger you. Try it.
3. Take Deep Breaths
You’ve probably heard countless times that breathing deeply in stressful situations can relax you almost immediately, but have you ever tried it? Slow, deep breaths can have a profound impact on our entire body, relaxing our muscles and slowing our heart rate. Give it a try the next time you feel your anger rising. You will be shocked at how effective deep, slow breathing is.
Your imagination is powerful. We knew this as kids, but for some reason puberty seems to have dulled our awareness of this.
As you breathe deeply, visualize a pleasant environment or situation. You could imagine you are back in your grandparent’s house, the smell of gingerbread cookies in the air and the sound of the radiators hissing on a December morning. Or you could imagine you are on a tropical beach. Hear the waves lapping against the white-sand shore… smell the sea breeze and see the palm fronds swaying overhead.
Your consciousness doesn’t know real from imagined situations. As you imagine yourself someplace that is peaceful and happy, your body naturally reacts as if you are actually there and actually peaceful and happy.
These are just some of the exercises you can use to manage your anger. If you still feel overwhelmed by your emotions and you’d like to speak to someone about your anger issues, please contact us. We’d be happy to discuss counseling options with you.
(PC: Alain Bonnardeaux on Unsplash)