Anger can often get a bad rep; it’s commonly thought of as a ‘bad’ or useless emotion. But it isn’t. Like all emotions, it gives us important insight.
Problems come, however, when we’re feeling angry too much of the time or we don’t deal with these feelings properly. It’s common to try to suppress anger or to let it all out in the heat of the moment. But these aren’t healthy ways of dealing with anger – for body or mind.
The key is to calm down enough to listen to what our anger is trying to tell us, and find healthy ways to process it.
Here are our tips to help you do just that:
1. Calm down
Often, the least helpful piece of advice someone can give you is to “calm down”. Being told to calm down can make you feel like what you’re feeling isn’t valid or important. And we know that’s not true – you are justified in however you are feeling right now.
But, it really will help you to try to keep your temper to a minimum. This doesn’t mean suppressing your anger – a certain level of anger can be healthy, but too much, and you’ve got a problem to contend with.
The key is to prevent yourself from making poor decisions that you may later on regret. It’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment and say or do something as a snap decision. But it’s in these moments that we’re actually at our most vulnerable.
2. Take some deep breaths
Taking a few deep breaths really can reduce your feelings of anger and change the outcome of a challenging situation. It changes our physical reaction and also gives our brain time to produce a thoughtful response.
This can help you to reassess the situation. Try to look at what has provoked you from a different, more positive, perspective.
Ask yourself some questions:
- Is this situation as terrible as it feels right now? Could I be exaggerating its significance?
- Can I see this situation from the other person’s point of view?
- Can I stop focusing exclusively on this negative situation?
- Can I refocus my attention on any positive aspects of this situation – such as lessons that can be learned?
3. Write it down
Getting these feelings out on paper (or on a keyboard) can be really beneficial. Once our thoughts are out onto a page, anger can stop stewing in our bodies. There is an added bonus to doing this; we can gain a certain sense of clarity from writing. So, you might find that your thoughts are much clearer from doing this.
However you choose to write is perfectly fine; it’s all personal choice. You might find relief from writing a letter, perhaps to the person that has caused you anger – you don’t have to send them the letter, but it can be helpful imagining that they will receive it. Or you might benefit from more creative styles of writing, such as a short story or poetry.
4. Get some rest
Don’t try to address anger when you’re tired or before you sleep. Since anger revs up your system, it can interfere with restful sleep and cause insomnia. If you can, it is better to examine your anger earlier in the day so your adrenaline can simmer down.
Also, being well-rested makes you less prone to reacting in the first place, allowing you to stay calm and balanced more easily.
5. Talk about it in a healthy way
Once you’ve allowed yourself to process your anger in a healthy way, you’ll find yourself clearer about how to move forward. If you decide that a conversation with the person you were in conflict with is necessary, it could be good to have a chat with a friend or family member first, to give you a second opinion.
Be mindful that you’re not doing this all the time, though, as it can be very emotionally draining on the other person to see you in this way regularly. Also bear in mind that they are likely to have your best interests at heart, so their opinion is likely to be biased in your favour.
Once you’re ready, and if you feel like the situation needs resolving, having a calm and collected conversation with the person that triggered your anger could be appropriate. That means watching out for passing blame or getting overly personal. Remember, the idea is to move past the initial conflict and reach a happier ground for you and the other party involved.
If you are struggling to manage feelings of anger regularly, then it is important to find support. Talking to a qualified counsellor can help.