11 Ways to Overcome Anger

Anger is something that virtually all of us have within us and is something best tackled by ourselves and our own actions.

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Anyway here are 11 ways to calm your anger!

1. Ask: “Am I improving the situation?” This works especially well with the Big Girl. If I get angry with her, she has a complete melt-down. It’s unpleasant, but her reactions have sure helped me get better control of myself. Now, when I have the urge to snap, I think, “Is this going to help the situation?” And the answer is always NO.

2. Find “an area of refuge.” I lifted this phrase from a sign near an elevator at Yale Law School—it struck me as funny. Research shows that when people’s thoughts are unoccupied, brooding sets in. So I try to “find an area of refuge” in my mind; that is, to dwell on serene thoughts instead of brooding and fussing. Along the same lines…

3. Distract myself. Indulging in “overthinking”—dwelling on trifling slights, unpleasant encounters, and sadness—leads to bad feelings. I can enrage myself by obsessing on some petty annoyance. In what the Big Man calls the “downward spiral,” I begin to rail about every negative episode in recent memory. Now I deliberately distract my thoughts, usually by thinking about some writing question.

4. Ask: am I mad at myself? Martha Beck makes the interesting argument that we brood on other people’s faults when we subconsciously identify with them; what we condemn in other people is what we condemn in ourselves. So now when someone is making me angry, I ask myself, “Can I accuse myself of the same fault?” In a telling bit of psychology, I’ve noticed Beck’s observation to be very true for other people, but not so much for myself! Do I suspect a bit of self-denial might be going on…?

5. Laugh. Humor is the answer to everything (humor and exercise). Now when I absolutely can’t hold back my anger, I at least try to insert a joke, or make fun of myself, or assume a lighter tone as I rant on. So instead of sniping out a comment like “Can you PLEASE just answer my emails so I can deal with these horrible logistics issues?!” I might say something like, “I’m thinking of getting a homing pigeon that will fly to your office and rap on your window with its beak until you send me an answer.” The added advantage of this approach is that no matter how the other person responds, I feel less angry and more light-hearted when I adopt a lighter tone.

6. Get some exercise. Physical activity can help reduce stress that can cause you to become angry. If you feel your anger escalating, go for a brisk walk or run, or spend some time doing other enjoyable physical activities.

7. Take a timeout. Timeouts aren’t just for kids. Give yourself short breaks during times of the day that tend to be stressful. A few moments of quiet time might help you feel better prepared to handle what’s ahead without getting irritated or angry.

8. Identify possible solutions. Instead of focusing on what made you mad, work on resolving the issue at hand. Does your child’s messy room drive you crazy? Close the door. Is your partner late for dinner every night? Schedule meals later in the evening — or agree to eat on your own a few times a week. Remind yourself that anger won’t fix anything and might only make it worse.

9. Unplug. Technology encourages us to react quickly. The minute we get that text or feel the phone vibration, we’re racing to respond. Reacting impulsively is a trigger for angry outbursts. Set aside time each day to be free from checking email, social media sites, and text messaging.

10. Train your mind to respond slower. Think, speak, drive, text, listen, cook, eat, and walk slower. When you slow down, you’ll feel more in control of your options and your inner life.

Leave post-it reminders on the computer, your car dashboard, and your front door. Our brains are not trained to remember many things, so write it down.

11. Sleep on it! Honestly, if I had to choose just one option to manage anger, it would be getting sufficient sleep. Sleep deprivation is a huge culprit in negative moods, including anxiety and depression.

Commit to going to bed earlier during the week. It’s nearly impossible to make calm, measured, responsible choices if you can barely keep your eyes open.

Bottom line: You have everything you need to change. With daily commitment, practice, and patience, you’ll increase problem-solving abilities so you can manage your anger, rather than have your anger manage you.

Remember, living in the past causes depression. Living in the future causes anxiety. Living in the here-and-now enables you to make healthy choices to increase emotional well-being.