What is anger? Anger is an emotion characterized by antagonism toward someone or something you feel has deliberately done you wrong. It can give you a way to express negative feelings, for example, or motivate you to find solutions to problems.
We all experience anger at one point or another - even the people that seem super calm all the time. The only difference between them and you is that they've figured out a way to channel their anger so it no longer commands all their attention and energy.
In this blog post, my hope is to help you achieve that as well so you can better approach the person or situation that is causing it, and find a creative solution.
1. Take deep breaths.
This first step is super simple.
I’ve taught it to both my girls from an early age. Whenever one of them would get upset about something, I didn’t rush over to fix the issue, I simply took them by the shoulders, looked in their eyes and asked them to take deep breaths. Not only did it help them calm down, it helped me take a moment to take a few deep breaths myself as I thought about how to handle the situation they had gotten themselves in.
My now 24 year old special needs daughter often does this on her own now. Being non verbal has its challenges, and some days are more difficult than others. According to University of Michigan Health, when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. The brain then sends this message to your body. Those things that happen when you are stressed, such as increased heart rate, fast breathing, and high blood pressure, all decrease as you breathe deeply to relax.
So let’s stop right now and take several deep breaths.
In through your nose, slowly out through your mouth; in through your nose, slowly out through your mouth; in through your nose, slowly out through your nose.
There you go! Good job!
2. Check your perspective.
We all have good days and bad days. It’s important to remember this when you feel anger at a person or a situation rise up inside you.
Think about a good day you recently had.
How did you feel?
What made it a good day?
Tell yourself that you will have a good day again soon.
This anger is not going to get in the way of that.
It is also important to see the situation from the other persons point of view. An article from Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences states that “seeing from another person's perspective helps you to understand things in a different light and opens up the path for a whole lot more of understanding and tolerance. Sometimes things appear to be big, but in the big picture, it is actually something small.”
So take a step back in order to check your perspective on the situation. It may help you see something you didn’t before.
3. Express your frustrations.
One tactic that I taught my younger daughter on how to deal with anger from an early age was to draw or write out what she was so angry about.
She is my justice warrior.
The defender of the underdog.
The one who would have made a great lawyer or social justice advocate!
Having her stop, take a deep breath, change her perspective and then express her frustrations through writing has saved her from much mental anguish.
Neuroscientist Matthew Lieberman at UCLA showed that when we put negative feelings into words, activity of our amygdala (the part of your brain associated emotion response and decision-making) decreases, process that may ultimately contribute to better mental and physical health. What’s more, the Harvard School of Public Health has evidence that shows that people who openly express their feelings are healthier than those who habitually suppress strong emotions. If writing or drawing is not your thing, do something physical like hitting a punching bag or hit a ball. Take up tennis, pickle ball or racquetball. Not only will you get a great workout, but you will get your frustrations out on a ball instead of a person.
4. Diffuse anger with humor.
Many people don't realize that anger is the driving force behind comedy.
One technique stand-up comics favor is to rant and rave about situations they find themselves in. Often these situations cause intense frustration and anger.
But being able to turn it into humor immediately diffuses the intensity.
If you’re not a stand up comic, find some good ones to listen to when you’re feeling anger begin to well up. You will see that you’re not the only one going through something, and the good comedians will have you laughing at yourself in no time.
5. Change your surroundings.
If you’re not ready to listen to a comedian, simply change your surroundings when angry.
Going into another room or better yet, going outdoors will help your mind reset.
When my girls were little and I was angry about something, I would go sit in my car in the garage for a few minutes. While there, I would take deep breaths, then sometimes I would cry or hit the steering wheel to get some frustration out.
The simple action of removing myself from the situation for a few moments would help me reset and be able to come back with a better mindset.
Today, pursue confidence by resolving to apply one of these techniques to help you when anger begins bubbling up inside you.
Your mental health and your loved ones will thank you!