Anger is a very normal emotion that we all feel. It is useful to seek treatment when anger is interfering in functioning: at work or school, in relationships, with self-esteem. The good news is controlling anger and regulating emotions is treatable with some proven strategies. There are many solutions that will all help reduce anger and outbursts.
7 Calming Strategies
- Relaxation techniques: Deep breathing (from your diaphragm), imagery, muscle tensing and relaxing, yoga or stretching. Breathing can be a key way to regulate your body, and then regulate your anger. These practices are most useful when done regularly, outside of the angry situation, and as often as possible to develop a consistent practice of relaxation. Breathing can take up to 10 minutes to be effective, and that duration of time can seem really long during an angry moment. Hang in there!
- Distraction: Take a time out, distract with something else different than the stressors. It can be especially challenging to settle down standing right in front of the cues to your anger. The most effective way to distract is to throw yourself fully into the new activity with all your senses, mindfully. If you choose to take a walk, noticing your surroundings (sights, smells, sounds – maybe even something you haven’t noticed before), your connection to the ground.
- Change your thinking: Consider the negative judgments and extreme interpretations that may be present with your anger. Search instead for the facts, embrace a curious mind that includes other ways to look at your negative thoughts. For example, instead of thinking of how without a doubt the person your anger is directed at did that specific unfair behavior on purpose to you, adopt a curious interpretation of where they may be coming from. This may be looking at the facts about that person, the facts about intentions of humans generally (maybe that everyone is doing the best they can). Additionally, decrease demanding thoughts (often expectations of others or situations) that are often present with anger.
- Problem solve: If you can solve your problem that is setting off your anger, solve it. Focus more on the solutions or the efforts you can make to solve it rather than the ruminating about the problem or the anger, which perpetuates more anger and negative mood. This may start with factually identifying the problem to solve – be careful here not to name the problem in an emotional, catastrophic, or untrue manner. Next, name the goal you have in the situation and then the steps you can take to solve it to get to your goal.
- Use humor: Instead of focusing on how things should be your way, notice how unreasonable or unimportant the anger may be – in an easy manner. Do NOT just laugh off anger with humor, but use humor to find more helpful ways to cope. BE AWARE of sarcastic humor that can increase judgments and anger.
- Self-care: Get exercise, eat healthy, and maintain quality sleep to ensure your baseline of coping is at an effective state. This can sound easy to do but can be very difficult to maintain. A good starting point can be education on behavior interventions to increase exercise, nutritional and mindful eating, and recommended sleep tips.
- Improve communication: Learn the necessary pause to manage anger- so you can respond rather than react. Once you are calm (and ideally only then), share your anger in a non-judgmental way. Non-judgmental communication includes sharing facts of the situation, interpretations as interpretations, avoiding accusations or blaming statements about intentions of behaviors (for example, I know you did this for this reason), accurate expression about emotions, and making clear and reasonable requests.