Strategies for keeping anger at bay (part 3)
If you feel that your anger is getting out of hand, and is damaging your relationships, and you are acting in ways that seem out of control and frightening, explore how you can implement any and preferably all of the following. They fall into categories: expressing, calming or repressing.
Calming and repressing the anger involve taking care of yourself, building up your tolerance for frustration and changing your mindset, like maintaining a positive outlook. Expressing the anger means reviewing the way you communicate your anger.
Acknowledge you might need to learn how to manage your anger.
Listen if more than one person around you tell you that you have a problem. You are either angry too often or in too big a burst, or both. Let this mature in you, and organize to deal with it.
Express the anger: Learn techniques for assertiveness
There’s an art to saying no and not letting little things blow out of proportion. Assertiveness is about being self-assured without aggressiveness, that is stating your boundaries, needs, and rights firmly enough, without ever disrespecting the other by ignoring their rights and needs. In essence, you express negative feelings in an appropriate way. Some of us believe that assertiveness and aggressiveness are the same things. Not so. Plenty of social and communication training skills are available out there to teach you assertiveness such as CBT, conflict management, anger management and more. By being assertive, you do not build frustration and resentment; you do not bottle up upset. In turn, you won’t blow up later.
Calm the anger: slow down.
When you’re angry, you can’t think properly, and you can’t express yourself properly. Being assertive, that is expressing your boundaries, expectations and disappointments only happen when you have a measure of calm. You can choose to leave a situation immediately, as soon as you see it develop. You can also learn to slow down and relax over the long term and train yourself to remain calm:
There are plenty of tips for mindfulness and quick relaxation on the net, and books to teach you relaxation techniques. Here are some:
• Using the power of the breath is immensely helpful. Breathe deeply, and slowly, from your diaphragm; breathing from your chest won’t help. Picture your breath coming up from your stomach area.
• Slowly repeat a word or phrase such as “relax,” “breathe,” “let go,” “take it easy.” Repeat it to yourself while breathing deeply until you feel calmer.
• Visualize a relaxing experience, from either your memory or your imagination.
• Practice gentle, nonstrenuous yoga-type exercises to relax your muscles.
• Check your pulse regularly: first, know your baseline or rest rate. If you exceed 90 beats per minutes without doing any exercise, chances are you are building up to an explosion. In that case, practice the above exercises.
Relaxation techniques also allow you to develop empathy through mindfulness or consciousness of what is going on around you. Practice these techniques daily. Learn to use them automatically when you’re in a tense situation.
Calm the anger: Change the way you think.
Thinking gets exaggerated when you’re angry.
• Replace self-talk such as “this is terrible, “awful”, “ruining the day” by words and thoughts such as “it is frustrating.”, “I’m upset about it.”, “it is not the end of the world,” and so on.
• Remove the words “always” and “never” from your speech. These words help you justify your anger but are hardly ever true. So instead of “this *#$ car never works,” choose “the car’s not working.” And instead of “you’re always late”, select “you are late.” The previous sentence alienates and humiliates people. The latter states a fact.
• Remember this mantra: “getting angry is not going to fix anything”.
• Remind yourself: “ no the world is not out to get me. I am just going through a rough spot. “
• Remember that when angry, you are demanding that things go your way. You want fairness, appreciation, agreement, in essence, you must obtain what you want. Is this “always” a rational expectation? We all want that, but, we also know that we may be disappointed as not all our desires can be met at all times.
• Interrupt your thought cycles. Anger start when a small situation is blown out of proportion. Ask yourself: “am I giving it too much importance?” Smile at the situation when you realize you have overblown it.
Express or calm the anger: Journaling.
• To stop the anger from taking hold, you need to know your triggers, what events or persons cause you to react. An event (trigger) brings an emotion (anger) and thoughts (such as measuring the unfairness of the moment), which in turn lead to behavior (screaming, etc.).
• Write down what was happening around you every time you got angry. The more you know about the causes, the more you can act.
Calm the anger: Interrupt your anger cycle.
• Practice slow breathing as soon as you feel your tension rise. Don’t breathe deeper, but longer than usual inhales and exhales. Breathe from the diaphragm, not the chest ( the latter is too shallow).
• Take 3 to 20 minutes to do a physical activity. A brisk walk is enough.
• Distract yourself.
• Ask yourself: does this situation truly require my attention and my energy? (most of the outbursts start with a very small thing)
Calm the anger: Problem Solving
Sometimes, our anger and frustration are caused by very real problems in our lives. Anger, in that case, is often a healthy, natural response to these difficulties. Not every problem has a solution, so don’t add to your frustrations by seeking a solution that doesn’t exist.
Instead of focusing on finding the solution, concentrate on how you handle and face the problem. Make a plan, and check your progress along the way. Resolve to give it your best, but do not punish yourself if you can’t solve the issue immediately.