Here’s the thing: Anger is normal. We all have those days that are completely infuriating. We receive bad news or things don’t go as planned. This, on top of trivial things, can cause us to overreact with rage. Now, there’s another thing we have in common here: we all also have the ability to better manage that anger. Whether it stems from something silly, like a bad hair day, or something more serious, like getting let go unexpectedly from your job, you can learn to express your anger more effectively. Whatever the case may be, the following tips will help you do just that:
1) Practice deep-breathing.
First, if you can feel that anger bubbling up inside, take a few minutes to yourself to just breathe. Crystal Smith, a Licensed Professional Counselor at Thriveworks Counseling in Sterling Heights, MI, offers specific breathing tips: “Try breathing for four seconds in through the nose, four seconds holding the breath, and four seconds breathing out through the mouth. This should be done two or three times in a row to reduce a person’s heartbeat and help restore critical thinking,” says
2) Walk away.
Once you’ve taken some time to focus on your breathing, take a step back and put some energy into sorting out your feelings. “A person might need to walk away from what is upsetting them,” explains Smith. “Simply taking 5 to 10 minutes to do something else can help reduce the feeling of anger. I would also recommend reflecting on the automatic thoughts that occur when angry. By tuning into the thoughts that we tell ourselves about what is making us angry we can increase our awareness of these thoughts and work to reduce the negative impact they have.”
3) Use “I” statements to express yourself.
Now, when it comes to talking to others about your anger, it can be helpful to use “I” statements, so as not to offend the individual or place inappropriate blame. “When communicating anger it is important to start with ‘I’ statements and focus on how you feel in the moment,” advises Smith. “Try to express the impact the situation has on you without blaming others. It is also helpful to approach others from the benefit of the doubt perspective which allows for an open approach to communication in difficult situations.”
4) Focus on what’s in your control.
It’s also helpful to focus on what’s in your control and to accept what isn’t. Kimberly Hershenson, a Licensed Master Social Worker, gives an example: “Make a list of what you can’t control regarding your situation (e.g., deadlines, your boss yelling at you) and what you can control (e.g., managing your time, setting up a meeting with your boss to discuss your issue). Then, focus on what you can control to make a change and accept what you cannot control.”
5) Do some mindful journaling.
“Mindful journaling is also an excellent way to keep your anger in check,” says Dr. Sal Raichbach, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. “The idea is to record your emotions as you’re feeling them and write your way through the process of feeling, accepting, and letting it go. When you’re angry, putting pen to paper forces you to recognize and feel your emotions without having an outburst. Plus, the act of writing is calming in itself, especially when it is entirely expressive.”
6) Channel your anger into something good.
Finally, try to channel your angry feelings into something positive. “Channeling anger into something good can be a helpful and therapeutic process,” says Smith. “You might try cleaning the house, doing yard work, or reorganizing your space with the extra energy created by anger. Focusing on creating a solution to what is causing the anger can help create a sense of control and give direction to the anger which can be very helpful in managing anger.”
If your anger is out-of-control and the above techniques don’t help, consider meeting with a mental health professional to learn about your specific triggers and how to better manage your outbursts. “Many of us have been raised to believe that angry feelings are not welcome while most other emotions are invited in, including happiness, fear, sadness, worry, surprise, and anticipation,” Dr. Fran Walfish, a Family and Relationship Psychotherapist, explains. “When not expressed, the anger builds up internally. The person either becomes explosive or holds it in and feels tremendous anxiety containing powerful unpleasant emotions. If this is you, you may benefit from a series of therapy sessions to learn how to express strong feelings directly in the moment so that they don’t build up and sabotage your own ability to stay balanced and calm in your everyday life.”