Anger is a normal emotion that everybody feels. But understanding and controlling anger is not something we’re always good at. When it gets out of control, uncomfortable, destructive and even violent situations can be the result – and that’s a place no one wants to be.
You need to find ways to be assertive enough to express yourself and your emotions, but to prevent a negative scenario from erupting. Here are a few things to consider:
Future project: What is going to be the end result if you get really mad? Are you going to hurt someone or hurt yourself? Are you going to temporarily or permanently damage a relationship that means a lot to you? Can you slow yourself down before it gets to that point?
Yes, you can. We’ve all heard about counting to 10 before your thoughts turn into actions. You can also count backwards from 20 to give yourself more time to calm down and think things through. Another helpful technique is to take several deep breaths, and even walk away from the situation until you’re feeling more in control.
Identify your triggers: Maybe your anger is rooted in stress and/or fatigue, and you don’t have the self-discipline to control it. Perhaps other emotions, like fear, embarrassment, insecurity or hurt are finding expression through your rage.
Self-talk can be helpful once you know what your triggers are. When you’ve calmed down a bit, you can view the situation more objectively and remind yourself of things you need to hear, like, “Stay calm.” “Be assertive, not aggressive.” Often, another person may be deliberately trying to “push your buttons.” You can diffuse this by reminding yourself, “S/he’s only trying to make me mad and I’m not going to play that game.” Find a mantra that works for you and use it.
Use observation and distraction: How many times do we distract our kids when they’re getting out of control? It’s a tried-and-true parenting technique and it can work for adults, too. We can usually tell when our kids are starting to “lose it,” in part because they're too young to know about understanding and controlling anger themselves. That's a skill they'll acquire over time, and they learn a lot about that from their parents. So how you fare in this department affects not only yourself, but also your kids.
A child's signs of anger often echo yours. Check yourself for these signs that can help you in understanding and controlling anger . . . your voice is getting louder. Your heart starts beating more rapidly and you feel heat rising or a tightness in various parts of your body. You start breathing faster. Once you see these signs, now is the moment to distract yourself until you can express your feelings more calmly. Distraction can take many forms; find whatever works for you. Maybe take a walk or go for a run. Hop in the shower. Bake. Do chores. Listen to music or play an instrument, if that’s your thing. Don’t do anything that could accelerate your anger, like driving a vehicle.
Self-assessment: When the situation is over and done with, review how you handled it and pat yourself on the back for the positive things you did. Consider what worked, what didn’t and what you can do the next time anger is threatening to derail you, because understanding and controlling anger effectively can be a benchmark coping skill in your relationships.
Like any acquired skill, understanding and controlling anger more effectively might take some time and effort, but it’s worth it if you can improve your efforts to express yourself assertively, not aggressively. Your relationships will be healthier and happier.
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