Do you get angry when someone cuts you off in traffic? Does your blood pressure go high when someone talks to you badly?
Anger is a normal, healthy emotion. But it’s unhealthy when it flares up all the time or spirals out of control. Chronic, explosive anger has serious consequences for your relationships, your health, and your state of mind. The good news is that getting anger under control is easier than you think.
The emotion of anger is neither good nor bad. Like any emotion, it’s conveying a message, telling you that a situation is upsetting or threatening. It’s perfectly normal to feel angry when you’ve been mistreated or wronged. Anger becomes a problem when you express it in a way that harms yourself or others.
If you have a hot temper, you may feel like it’s out of your hands and there’s little you can do to tame the beast. But you have more control over your anger than you think. You can learn to express your emotions without hurting others.
Many people think that anger management is about learning to suppress your anger. But never getting angry is not a good goal. Anger is normal, and it will come out regardless of how hard you try to tamp it down. The true goal of anger management isn’t to suppress feelings of anger but rather to understand the message behind the emotion and express it in a healthy way without losing control. When you do, you’ll not only feel better, you’ll also be more likely to get your needs met, be better able to manage conflict in your life, and strengthen your relationships.
Mastering the art of anger management takes work, but the more you practice, the easier it will get. And the payoff is huge. Learning to control your anger and express it appropriately will help you build better relationships, achieve your goals, and lead a healthier, more satisfying life.
Everyone has a physical reaction to anger. Be aware of what your body is telling you, and take steps to calm yourself down.
Recognize your anger signs
Your heart beats faster and you breathe more quickly, preparing you for action. You might also notice other signs, such as tension in your shoulders or clenching your fists. If you notice these signs, get out of the situation if you’ve got a history of losing control.
Count 10 to 0
Counting 10 to 0 gives you time to cool down, so you can think more clearly and overcome the impulse to lash out.
Breathe out for longer than you breathe in, and relax as you breathe out. You automatically breathe in more than out when you’re feeling angry, and the trick is to breathe out more than in. This will calm you down effectively and help you think more clearly.
Exercise can help with anger
Bring down your general stress levels with exercise and relaxation. Running, walking, swimming, yoga and meditation are just a few activities that can reduce stress. Exercise as part of your daily life is a good way to get rid of irritation and anger.
Looking after yourself may keep you calm
Make time to relax regularly, and ensure that you get enough sleep. Drugs and alcohol can make anger problems worse. They lower inhibitions and, actually, we need inhibitions to stop us acting unacceptably when we’re angry.
Writing, making music, dancing or painting can release tension and reduce feelings of anger.
Talk about how you feel
Discussing your feelings with a friend can be useful and can help you get a different perspective on the situation.
Let go of angry thoughts
Try to let go of any unhelpful ways of thinking. Thoughts such as ‘It’s not fair or People like that shouldn’t be on the roads make anger worse.
Thinking like this will keep you focused on whatever it is that’s making you angry. Let these thoughts go and it will be easier to calm down.
Try to avoid using phrases that include:
- Always (for example, “You always do that.”)
- Never (“You never listen to me.”)
- Should or shouldn’t (“You should do what I want,” or “You shouldn’t be on the roads.”)
- Must or mustn’t (“I must be on time,” or “I mustn’t be late.”)
- not fair
Make the relationship your priority
Maintaining and strengthening the relationship, rather than “winning” the argument, should always be your first priority. Be respectful of the other person and his or her viewpoint.
Focus on the present
Once you are in the heat of arguing, it’s easy to start throwing past grievances into the mix. Rather than looking to the past and assigning blame, focus on what you can do in the present to solve the problem.
Be willing to forgive
Resolving conflict is impossible if you’re unwilling or unable to forgive. Resolution lies in releasing the urge to punish, which can never compensate for our losses and only adds to our injury by further depleting and draining our lives.
Developing your conflict resolution skills
The way you respond to differences and disagreements at home and at work can create hostility and irreparable rifts, or it can build safety and trust. Learning how to resolve conflict in a positive way will help you strengthen your relationships.
Once you can recognize that you’re getting angry, and can calm yourself down, you can start looking at ways to control your anger more generally.
Get professional help
If you feel you need help dealing with your anger, join anger management courses or counseling that could help you.
Know when to seek professional help
If your anger is still spiraling out of control, despite putting the previous anger management techniques into practice, or if you’re getting into trouble with the law or hurting others you need more help. There are many therapists, classes, and programs for people with anger management problems. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. You’ll often find others in the same shoes, and getting direct feedback on techniques for controlling anger can be tremendously helpful.
Consider professional help for anger management if:
- You feel constantly frustrated and angry no matter what you try.
- Your temper causes problems at work or in your relationships.
- You avoid new events and people because you feel like you can’t control your temper.
- You have gotten in trouble with the law due to your anger.
- Your anger has ever led you to physical violence.
Remember, you can’t eliminate anger and it wouldn’t be a good idea if you could. In spite of all your efforts, things will happen that will cause you anger; and sometimes it will be justifiable anger. Life will be filled with frustration, pain, loss and unpredictable actions of others. You can’t change that; but you can change the way you let such events affect you. Control your angry responses can keep them from making you even more unhappy in the long run.
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