Getting angry is a part of life. None of us will live a life free of stressors, and sometimes, whether we want it to or not, anger bubbles up as we try to deal with our stress. Anger is natural, but the behaviors that come out of anger can be scary, hurtful, and harmful. Below are five ways to deal with being angry.
Remember: “It’s okay to feel angry” is NOT the same as “It’s okay to slam doors and yell at people.”
Sometimes, we equate the feelings that we have with the behaviors that are associated with them. We feel like we can’t be angry because we feel awful when we yell at our loved ones. What we need to do is unhook these two pieces, and practice allowing ourselves to have our feelings, while also not allowing them to control our behavior. What we are trying to do with this article is NOT to get rid of or prevent your anger; we’re saying it’s okay to feel angry, so let’s think about what you’ll do in response.
Learn what it feels like when you are angry
You might feel yourself becoming physically uncomfortable. Or taking really deep breaths, or clenching your jaw, or making fists. You might just have the sensation of being really on edge. Learn what anger feels like in your body, and learn to recognize and label it.
Practice kindness and patience with yourself when you are angry
It doesn’t feel good to be angry, and we can find ourselves doing all kinds of things to try and feel better (some of which might be lashing out at others – which feels satisfying in the moment, but often leads to increased conflict, and even regret). Try a few phrases you can use, such as “it’s natural to get angry” or “I’m allowed to be upset.” Rejecting the feeling isn’t going to make it go away, and often only makes it worse. Notice it’s there, and allow it to be.
Step back for a moment when you are angry. Try:
- Walking away. Commit to stepping away from the situation, even for a few moments. You can still go back and express your concerns. In a minute. Try leaving the situation and going for a walk, sitting quietly, or listening to music.
- Commit to one minute of sitting quietly and breathing. Just one minute. When we get angry, our bodies can be flooded with adrenaline and our blood pressure can spike. Give your body one full minute to slow down before responding.
Practice different ways to let others know that you are angry
Use humor. “I’m about to Hulk out right now, I need a minute.” “I’m one spark from a full explosion, I’ve got to walk away for a second.” This can validate that the anger is there, but help you take the edge off as you communicate it to others.
Use a signal. This requires a little coordination ahead of time, but talk to your loved ones about a signal you can give that lets them know you need a minute. Talk about what the gesture will be, and what will happen after (e.g., “If I throw up the Time-Out signal, I’m going to walk away; please let me have a minute and I’ll come back when I’m ready”)
Practice a good apology
Sometimes, you’re going to lose your patience, and you’re going to act in ways that you don’t feel good about. While it’s good to practice all of the above strategies, there will be no perfect achievement of them, and you’ll make mistakes. Practice a good, genuine apology that includes:
- Taking responsibility for what you did (“I lost my patience and yelled”)
- Acknowledging that it hurt others (“I’m sorry that I hurt your feelings”)
- Acknowledging that it is not consistent with how you want to treat others (“It’s important to me to treat you with kindness”)
- Asking forgiveness (“Do you forgive me?”)
Author: Mollie Burke
Dr. Burke is a Psychologist at Hope Springs Behavioral Consultants. Her theoretical orientation is Existential-Humanistic. She acknowledges the inherent struggles, difficulties, and hardships of life. However, her approach also emphasizes the incredible ability of human beings to endure these issues to lead purposeful and intentional lives. Basically, she believes that life is hard, but humans are amazing. (We think she is pretty amazing too.)
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