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The other day I was poisoned at a restaurant. The waiter served me a rice bowl covered in garlic (to which I’m intolerant) despite assuring me earlier that it would be “fine.” One bite in and I knew I was toast. As my stomach began to churn, foreshadowing the illness to come, my blood began to boil. When the manager forced the waiter to apologize, I lost my cool. Using what my kids call my “angry voice,” I chewed him out for being too lazy to write down my order and check with the kitchen. Looking back, I wish I’d had anger management techniques to help prevent me from blowing my top.
Anger is a normal, and sometimes helpful, emotion. Left unchecked, however, it can damage our health—and relationships. “Anger can manifest from irritability all the way to rage,” says Howard Drutman, Phd., a psychologist in Roswell, Ga.
Without anger management skills, one’s fury or rage can become constant, having a negative impact on life at home, school, or work. Being overly angry can cause a person to lose jobs, friendships, or romantic partners, Dr. Drutman says. It can also cause physiological problems such as hypertension, high blood pressure, and depression. (To learn more about anger’s effects on health, read our post: “Do You Have Anger Issues? Losing Your Cool Can Harm Your Health.”)
The take-home: Everyone could benefit from anger management techniques—and it’s never too early (or too late) to start.
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Q: How Do I Stop Being Angry All the Time? A: Create an Anger Management Plan
If you find yourself (or a loved one) easily angered, it may be time to take action. Sometimes anger is unavoidable. Stressful situations (or people) can cause unpreventable angst. Be prepared for the unpredictable by developing coping mechanisms and an action plan to help deal with uncontrollable elements. A study in Cognition & Emotion found that those who believed their behaviors could improve an anger-inducing situation were less angry than those who thought they were helpless to alter their circumstances.
With that in mind, take a look at these 15 anger management strategies. You just might find the first step in bringing you back to calm before your rage spirals out of control.
1. Consider dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT).
This treatment involves learning new techniques to recognize anger triggers and strategies to help remain calm in stressful situations.
2. Pursue cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
CBT is a method of psychological therapy that attempts to correct ingrained patterns of negative behaviors and thoughts.
3. Try psychodynamically oriented psychotherapy.
Also known as insight-oriented therapy, this strategy helps patients focus on their unconscious thoughts. The goal: to make them more self-aware and create an understanding of their behavior (both past and present) so they can alter it.
4. Take a breather.
“One strategy that is used in marital/couples therapy is to learn to take a break and walk away from a confrontation until one is calm,” Dr. Drutman says.
A study published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition found that 20 minutes of meditation is enough to combat the negative effects of anger, even in patients who are new to meditating. Those who meditated experienced slowed breathing and heart rate and decreased blood pressure—all markers of relaxation—when faced with memories of an event that caused anger.
ANGER ISSUES MAY SIGNIFY AN UNDERLYING PROBLEM
According to Howard Drutman, Phd., a psychologist in Roswell, Ga., “Anger is often a symptom of other mental disorders”—for example, personality disorders, depression, or anxiety. If your anger is spiraling out of control or seems unreasonable, it may be time to seek help from a professional. To learn more, read our post “Do You Have Anger Issues? Losing Your Cool Can Harm Your Health.”
6. Think positively.
Research proves the power of positive thought. This anger management skill can increase your life span, lower blood pressure, and reduce feelings of hostility. Check your thoughts multiple times throughout the day, experts say. If they’re skewing toward the negative, try to put a positive spin on things. Tip: Watch a comedy or hang out with friends who make you laugh. Laughs, like yawns, are contagious.
7. Admit you’re angry.
Be aware of your emotions and fess up when you feel the anger rise. Grab a piece of paper and a pen or log your feelings in an electronic note. The simple act of recognizing what’s causing you angst can be cathartic. Calmly admitting your irritations to those involved will help you slowly come to terms with your anger issues.
Yes, just breathe. Take slow, deep breaths to calm yourself when you feel your temper begin to flare. Close your eyes, count to 10, and see if you still feel as irate when you come back to reality.
9. Recognize the good—and show gratitude.
Keeping a gratitude journal has been proven to help people reduce stress, feel calmer, and sleep better. Take time to log the things for which you’re grateful (a sunny day, supportive spouse, or healthy kids, for instance) and try to focus on these when you’re feeling the tension rise.
We all know exercise is good for us. Whether you run, kick-box, jump-rope, or walk, getting regular physical activity can help keep your blood pressure, emotions, and stress levels in check. This anger management tool also can be a good way to release excess tension and anger.
11. Stick up for yourself.
Many people become passive-aggressive when they’re struggling with anger management issues. Instead of bottling your irritation (which can lead to an explosion), try to calmly and assertively tell people when you’re feeling overworked, underappreciated, or unsupported.
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12. Discover the “why.”
Anger is often your body’s signal that something is wrong. Take a moment to unmask why you’re feeling this way and come up with a plan to rectify the situation or prevent it from happening in the future.
13. Stop holding a grudge.
A study by researchers from Hope College in Michigan found that being angry with someone increased the volunteers’s blood pressure and heart rates. Forgiving that person (even if only in their minds) lowered these levels.
14. Keep your cool.
It’s easy to overreact when you’re feeling irate. Don’t jump to conclusions, or act on your anger, or use words you can’t take back. When things get rocky or heated, take a second to think through the situation before responding. Choose your words carefully and try to see things from the other person’s point of view.
15. Seek professional help.
See a psychologist when your anger becomes a problem. “A psychologist can help the angry individual figure out the triggers of their anger and personalize a treatment approach to increase coping skills and learn self-soothing skills,” Dr. Drutman says.