If you find yourself in a situation in which you feel the anger intensity rising to high levels, you need tell yourself to stop and think before you react and lash out. Ask yourself a couple of questions: What are the ultimate consequences of my response if I choose to act out my anger? What other alternatives do I have that may not be compatible with an angry reaction? Do these alternatives have positive implications from which I can benefit? How would others respond in this situation? What would my partner/friend tell me to do in this situation? What would they say if I will choose the alternative and not the angry reaction?
Finding the right balance between anger expression and inhibition is important for your psychological well-being. The following are a few activities and strategies that help find that balance. Each individual is unique and as such you need to find out and adapt the strategies that are best fitting to you and your life.
Anger coexists with muscle tension. Muscle relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, meditation and positive imagery can reducing the physical tension build-up and help you calm down. Daily exercise also reduces body tension and helps get the “anger out” in a positive, healthy, productive and socially accepted way. Many people choose to express their anger through competitive sports, martial-arts, boxing, running and etc. It also provides a sense of peace and balance. In situations in which you feel that the anger raises, you can choose to divert your attention by doing manual work such as gardening, washing windows, scrubbing the sink, cleaning your house… By focusing on the task at hand and at the same time physically working out a sweat, the frustrations and anger will slowly reduce. Another acceptable form of anger expression is though creative expression such as singing, painting, sculpturing, music and writing about your emotions and thoughts. Writing can be cathartic. You can choose to write diary entries, poems, stories and even revenge fantasies. Channelling your angry energy and thoughts into more creative channels helps divert the anger and even achieve a sense of contentment. You can also find effective self-soothing activities that will help you feel better such as a long bath, massage, playing with your pet, watching a funny movie, taking a walk on the beach, listening to music etc.
If you know that you have tendency to get angry, you need to make sure that you will have support network available to you when you need it. Talking to family members and friends, whom you trust, can help you calm down. Sometimes just the mere expression of the anger in words and the actual hearing of the sentences coming out your mouth make things get a different proportion and reduce the intensity of the anger felt. The expression of emotions and thoughts in conversations will provide other point of views, another perspective on the situation, support, advice and make you feel better.
If you feel during your interaction with others that your anger is escalating fast and things are about to get out of control, then you need to remove yourself from the situation by asking for a time out. It is better and less embarrassing to walk away than to do impenetrable damage. Walking away from the situation gives you the opportunity to think extensively about your options, alternative solutions and what you should do and say after your return. You will need to prepare an action plan so you will know exactly how and what you will do during your time out. Think of where you should go to cool off, what you should do to calm down (i.e deep breathing, walking around), how long would you stay there and whom you can call for support. Use the time to calm down and plan ahead a more rational and effective reaction or solution rather than focusing only on the anger and intensifying it aimlessly. Focusing on te anger will only cause it to escalate even more ,which is defeating the whole purpose of a time out.
If you often get angry at home, plan the time out together with your family. Agree together that once you feel like your anger is escalating, you will tell them that you need a time out and the discussion will stop at that point so you could walk away. Agreeing on this option together as a family makes the family members more willing to accept it and be more respectful of your need to take that time out. Some people choose to have a signal like a word or a hand signal to let the other know that time out is necessary. By knowing ahead of time where you are and when you are expected to come back others will also be less worried about you. Time-out does not mean end of discussion. It only gives you the opportunity to calm yourself down, prepare yourself and to react better later. When you come back home, approach the other person again and decide together when that discussion can be resumed. Once the discussion is started, make the effort to keep an open mind, take the time to listen, breathe deeply and keep check of your angry feeling. Sit together as a family and try to actively find solutions to your problems. If you feel like you are getting angry again, don’t react but stop, think of the questions, answer them and/or count to 20 if it helps you before you say anything else.
In some contexts such as at work, time out can be seen as a sign of disrespect. In such cases you will need to think before you react, try to keep calm and keep a professional conduct. Once you can walk away then you can apply your strategies to calm down even more, before you will be ready come back.
It takes time to learn, practice and control new behavioural patterns. It takes time to learn to how to relax and to calm down. Knowing yourself, what makes you angry and your common reactions are the best prevention method as you can recognize the signals, plan ahead what you shall do or say should that situation will rise and put preventative strategies in action. Don’t give up! Practice, find alternative behaviours that work for you and enlist the help of your loved ones. Anger that escalates to abuse and violence is dangerous. In such cases family members safety is top priority and intensive professional help is a must. Reach out and get that help for yourself and for the sake of your family.
Please feel free to share in the comments area below your own effective anger control strategies.