We’ve all felt intense bursts of anger. You’re driving to a job interview you worked so hard to get — and you’re stuck in traffic. It’s Friday afternoon and your boss is wondering if you have some bandwidth to take on an extra project…or two…for Monday morning’s meeting. You’ve planned a birthday party at the park because there’s no way 25 people can fit in your studio apartment — it’s raining. You find yourself wondering how to get over anger.
It’s inevitable that you’ll feel this way again, and many times in similar situations or with people you know well, respect, and love. We all will. Annoyances that get you heated are part of life, but with them comes the opportunity to practice responding to anger calmly and productively. This is important because, while anger is a normal emotion and we should expect unfortunate events to incite it, strong feelings of anger and resentment aren’t always healthy, especially if you can’t let them go.
Anger that’s extremely heated or looms over you for extended periods can feel similar to an overstuffed suitcase, one that weighs you down and demands a considerable amount of energy to carry around. That kind of burden can also lead to conflict and animosity, interpersonally and among family, friends, and co-workers.
The good news is that you can learn to control and alleviate your anger when it arises. Below are five steps to follow to stop feeling angry.
We have a tendency to assume that others’ actions are driven by their characteristics (the person is mean, thoughtless, or irritating) rather than because of the circumstances that lead them to take those actions (the person was having a bad day, was distracted, or didn’t get enough sleep) — conversely, we tend to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt and blame circumstance for own aggravating actions. Even if you do not agree with it, trying to understand the other person’s perspective will help rationalize their actions and allow you to understand why they did what they did, giving you some peace of mind.
You need to understand the problem before you can solve it. Check in with your body and ask yourself a few questions: Were you having a bad day already? What is it that’s making you irritated? It could be that what’s annoying is simply the straw that broke the camel’s back and not the issue that should take full responsibility for your anger. Are you interpreting the person’s actions correctly? Is it a repeat offense that seems magnified because it’s the final straw? Look for all areas where you may be projecting your anger and then create a plan to diffuse it. Understanding the situation, looking at it from multiple angles, will help create an action plan.
Anger is a force of energy, and when you’re angry, your muscles tense up and send heated signals to your brain. Exercise of any kind will help alleviate the physical tension and make you feel better physically and mentally. You can hit the gym for a hard workout, go for a walk or simply do some jumping jacks wherever you are. A few minutes of stress relief is all you need. It’s simply about getting your body moving to get to your normal, happy self.
Instead of focusing on what’s making you angry, shift your mind to think about the opposite — something that cheers you up. Watch an episode of your favorite comedy or scroll through the Instagram feed of memes that always put a smile to your face. The positive energy that comes with laughter relaxes the body and triggers necessary endorphins — the chemicals that promote an overall sense of well-being. You’ll likely find that the time you spent focusing on something else distracted you from your anger, calmed your mind, and lifted your spirits.
Oftentimes what makes us angry is out of our control (traffic, for example) and that’s exactly why our blood boils — we feel trapped in a situation with no way out. But other times, there’s something we can do about it. If you decide to confront a situation that’s making you angry, be sure to do it respectfully, logically, and after cooling down. Be clear and specific with your requests but also express your feelings. Using words like “it makes me feel…” help the other party from becoming defensive. Coupled with a specific example, the other party will have a better picture of why you’re angry. “For example, I felt frustrated today when you were late picking me up because it made me late for my dentist appointment.”
It’s never easy to stop being mad — your brain will make you believe you’re fully warranted to stay mad — but anger is rarely productive. It can hurt others while hurting you physically and mentally. The best thing you can do is take control of the situation, via your thoughts and emotions. Once you own your part, you can use that awareness to create more peace in your life moving forward.
Originally published on Talkspace.
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