Everybody gets angry, but out-of-control rage isn’t good for those around you, and it plays havoc with your own body. Here are some tips to help you ‘simmer down.’
Simple relaxation tools such as deep breathing and relaxing imagery can help calm down angry feelings. If you are involved in a relationship where both partners are hot-tempered, it might be a good idea for both of you to learn these techniques.
Some simple steps you can try:
- Breathe deeply, from your diaphragm. Breathing from your chest won’t relax you. Picture your breath coming up from your ‘gut.’
- Slowly repeat a calming word or phrase such as ‘relax’ or ‘take it easy.’ Repeat it to yourself while breathing deeply.
- Use imagery; visualize a relaxing experience from either your memory or your imagination.
- Non-strenuous, slow exercises such as yoga can relax your muscles and make you feel much calmer.
Practice these techniques daily. Learn to use them automatically when you’re in a tense situation.
Cognitive Restructuring for Anger
Simply put, this means changing the way you think. Angry people tend to curse, swear, or speak in highly colorful terms that reflect their inner thoughts. When you’re angry, your thinking can get very exaggerated and overly dramatic. Try replacing these thoughts with more reasonable ones. For instance, instead of telling yourself, ‘Oh, it’s awful, it’s terrible, everything’s ruined,’ tell yourself, ‘It’s frustrating, and it’s understandable that I’m upset about it, but it’s not the end of the world and getting angry is not going to fix it anyhow.’
Be careful of words like ‘never’ or ‘always’ when talking about yourself or someone else. ‘This machine never works,’ or ‘You’re always forgetting things’ are not just inaccurate; they also tend to make you feel that your anger is justified and that there’s no way to solve the problem. They also alienate and humiliate people who might otherwise be willing to work with you on a solution.
For example, suppose you have a friend who is constantly late when you have made plans to meet. Don’t go on the attack; think instead about the goal you want to accomplish–getting you and your friend there at about the same time. Avoid saying things like, ‘You’re always late! You’re the most irresponsible, inconsiderate person Iíve ever met!’ The only goal that accomplishes is hurting and angering your friend.
State what the problem is, and try to find a solution that works for both of you; or take matters into your own hands. For example, you might set your meeting time a half-hour early, so that your friend will, in fact, get there on time, even if you have to trick him or her into doing it! Either way, the problem is solved and the friendship isn’t damaged.
Remind yourself that getting angry is not going to fix anything, that it won’t make you feel better (and may actually make you feel worse).
Logic defeats anger, because anger, even when it’s justified, can quickly become irrational. So use cold hard logic on yourself. Remind yourself that the world is not ‘out to get you,’ you’re just experiencing some of the rough spots of daily life. Do this each time you feel anger getting the best of you, and it’ll help you get a more balanced perspective.
Angry people tend to demand things: fairness, appreciation, agreement, willingness to do things their way. Everyone wants these things, and we are all hurt and disappointed when we don’t get them; but angry people demand them, and when their demands aren’t met, their disappointment becomes anger. As part of their cognitive restructuring, angry people need to become aware of their demanding nature, and translate their expectations into desires. In other words, saying ‘I would like’ something is healthier than saying ‘I demand’ or ‘I must have’ something. When you’re unable to get what you want, you will experience the normal reactions–frustration, disappointment, hurt–but not anger. Some angry people use their anger as a way to avoid feeling hurt, but that doesn’t mean the hurt goes away.
Problem-Solving for Anger
Sometimes our anger and frustration are caused by very real and inescapable problems in our lives. Not all anger is misplaced, and often it’s a healthy, natural response to these difficulties. Some people have a cultural belief that every problem has a solution, and it adds to their frustration to find out that this isn’t always the case. The best attitude to bring such a situation is to focus not on finding the solution but rather on how to handle and face the problem.
Make a plan and check your progress along the way. (People who have trouble with planning might find a good guide to organizing or time management helpful.) Resolve to give it your best, but also not to punish yourself if an answer doesn’t come right away. If you can approach it with your best intentions and efforts, and make a serious attempt to face it head-on, you will be less likely to lose patience and fall into all-or-nothing thinking, even if the problem does not get solved right away.