Anger Management Techniques to Help you Control your Rage

Despite the potential for destruction, psychologists consider anger to be a normal and even healthy human emotion - it is anger after all which primes you to meet and overcome threats to your well-being. It is only when anger gets out of control that it can lead to problems—problems at work, in your personal relationships and in the overall quality of your life. If this is has been happening all too often, it may be time to look through a few anger management techniques which will help you to control your anger and express it in a positive way.

Be assertive, not aggressive

Anger is a natural, adaptive response to threats, according to the American Psychologists Association. In its healthy manifestation, anger inspires powerful feelings and behaviors, which allow humans to fight and to defend themselves when we are attacked. Thus the instinctive way to express anger is to respond aggressively. And yet it is neither always possible nor desirable to physically lash out at everything that annoys you – on one hand there are laws and conventions of civil society and on the other, the matter of personal and physical safety which should control how far you can express your rage. In matters where the anger is directed at circumstances around you like the rude behavior of a co-worker , staff at a store or perhaps a traffic jam, it is better to express your emotions assertively instead of aggressively. This is the healthiest way to express anger. To do this, you have to learn how to make clear what your needs are, and how to get them met, without hurting others. For instance if a server at a cafĂ© is purposely delaying your order, you can tell him/her calmly but firmly that while you realize things are busy, you will not tolerate rude or malicious behavior. Being assertive doesn't mean being pushy or demanding; it means being respectful of yourself and others.

Focus on something different

Another common strategy to manage anger is to inhibit or suppress it at first then and convert it into more constructive behavior. So, before you react to an infuriating situation, take a few moments to breathe deeply and count to 10. Better still, stop thinking about it, and focus on something positive. Slowing down can help defuse your temper and it will also help you think before you speak so that you do not end up saying or doing something that you might regret later on. If necessary, take a break from the person or situation until your frustration subsides a bit. Once you are feeling calmer, you can use the previous approach and take an assertive stance instead of reacting aggressively.

Do not suppress anger continually

At the same time though, suppressing anger does not work in the long run. Forcing such powerful feelings to remain inside can turn your anger inward—on yourself.  Anger turned inward may cause hypertension, high blood pressure, or depression. Unexpressed anger can create personality problems. It can lead to pathological expressions of anger, such as passive-aggressive behavior where a person gets back at others indirectly, without telling them why, rather than confronting them head-on) or a personality that seems perpetually cynical and hostile. People who are constantly putting others down, criticizing everything, and making cynical comments haven't learned how to constructively express their anger. Not only are they more likely to be socially isolated but they probably don’t have many successful relationships either.

Use humor

Very often the cycle of anger-aggression-more anger can be effectively broken by humor. When you feel yourself in the grip of powerful negative emotions, imagine yourself or the person treating your unjustly in a ludicrous costume or situation. If you can, draw a picture of what the actual individual or thing might look like. This will take a lot of the edge off your fury. But while can be relied on to help unknot a tense situation, there are some cautions as well. Firstly, don't try to just "laugh off" your problems; rather, use humor to help yourself face them more constructively. Second, don't give in to harsh and bitter sarcasm since that's just another form of unhealthy anger expression.

Beware of trigger situations

It's best to find out what it is that triggers your anger, and then to develop strategies to keep those triggers from tipping you over the edge. for instance if you are particularly touchy about your body shape and find yourself at a party where people are discussing diets and figures, excuse yourself from the group and seek company of people who are talking about things less stressful for you. Likewise avoid foods and beverages that you know raise your stress levels and make you more anxious or hyperactive.

Work out

If you regularly find yourself teetering over the edge of self-control, try and get involved in a busy workout regimen. Regular strenuous physical activity will go a long way in releasing unspent energy which often expresses itself as aggressive behavior. In fact Physical activity can also be provide an instant outlet for your emotions, especially if you're about to erupt. If you feel your anger escalating, go for a brisk walk, run or dance to your favorite music. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that can leave you feeling happier and more relaxed than you were before you worked out.

Make changes in the environment

Then again it could be your immediate surroundings that the real cause for irritation and fury. Problems and responsibilities can weigh on you and make you feel angry at the "trap" you seem to have fallen into and all the people and things that form that trap. If this is so, make small changes in your environment and schedule to feel calmer. Play relaxing music when you are tackling a particularly irritating problem or chore. Or including some "personal time" scheduled for times of the day that you know are particularly stressful. While these would not cause the unpleasant situations to vanish away, they would leave you calmer and more prepared to deal with them.

Adopt relaxation techniques

Simple relaxation tools, such as deep breathing and relaxing imagery, can help calm down angry feelings. There are books and courses that can teach you relaxation techniques but you can also practice some of them on your own. For instance, breathe deeply, from your diaphragm and not merely from your chest. Picture your breath coming up from your "gut." Slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as "relax," "take it easy." Repeat it to yourself while breathing deeply. Then again you can use pleasant imagery to calm yourself. Thus visualize a relaxing experience, from either your memory or your imagination and you will feel the anger slowly ebbing away. Again non-strenuous, slow yoga-like exercises can relax your muscles and make you feel much calmer. Once you learn the techniques, you can call upon them in a trying situation to prevent you from lurching to a full-fledged outburst.

Practice cognitive restructuring

In the long run, the only effective way to manage your anger is to change the way you think. For people who are naturally short-tempered or irritable, this would seem hard but it can be done. Angry people tend to curse, swear, or speak in highly colorful terms that reflect their inner thoughts. When you're angry, your thinking can get highly exaggerated and overly dramatic. Try replacing these thoughts with more rational ones. For instance, instead of telling yourself, "oh, it's awful,  everything's ruined," tell yourself, "it's frustrating, and it's understandable that I'm upset about it, but it's not the end of the world” beware of using always or never words – like this damn machine never works – this perception is not only untrue but quite unhelpful in solving your problems. Instead tackle challenging situations with cold logic. Remind yourself that the world is "not out to get you," you're just experiencing some of the rough spots of daily life. Do this each time you feel anger getting the best of you, and it'll help you get a more balanced perspective.

In civil life, everyone desires things fairness, appreciation and agreement; so it is natural for people to be hurt and disappointed when things don’t happen the way they should. Angry people though demand them, and when their demands aren't met, their disappointment becomes anger. As part of your cognitive restructuring, you need to become aware of your demanding nature and translate their expectations into desires. In other words, saying, "I would like" something is healthier than saying, "I demand" or "I must have" something. When you are unable to get what you want, you will experience the normal reactions—frustration, disappointment, hurt—but not anger.

Identify possible solutions

Not all anger however is misplaced - Sometimes, your anger and frustration are caused by very real and inescapable problems in everyday lives. One of the ways of dealing with negative emotions caused by such problems is to identify possible solutions. Instead of focusing on what made you mad, work on resolving the issue at hand. For instance if your child's messy room drive you crazy, just close the door. Then again, if 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. Since anger by itself won’t solve anything – and indeed might only make things worse – it is better to look for solutions which will not only take the focus away from angry emotions but actually result in something constructive.

Let it be

Sometimes though problems can get way beyond human effort and the more you try to make things right, the more frustrated you may feel at your helplessness. There is also a cultural belief that every problem has a solution, and it may add to your frustration to find out that this isn't always the case. The best attitude to bring to such a situation, then, is not to focus on finding the solution, but rather on how you handle and face the problem. Resolve to give it your best, but don’t punish yourself if an answer doesn't come right away. Recognize the fact that not all problems can be resolved by the all-or-nothing way. Sometimes more than reaching the final goal, true achievement lies in the amount of progress you have made, how far you have come from your troubled past.

Finally if you have tried all self-help techniques but still find yourself giving way to uncontrollable rage, it is better you look for help. This is especially necessary if the loss of self-control brought about by fury causes you to do things you later regret or hurts those around you. You might explore local anger management classes or anger management counseling. If you believe that there are serious underlying issues which are directly responsible for your anger, you may need help from a therapist or psychologist as well.

Reference:

  1. American Psychological Association - Controlling anger before it controls you