When I was a kid, there was a PSA on TV from time to time that went something like this: “When you feel yourself getting tense. Stop. Two. Three…. Breath. Two. Three…. Think your way to sense.”
Despite the cheesy phrasing, timeouts are a good thing for adults, teens, and kids alike. They can help us calm down when we’re frustrated. So, the next time you’re feeling angry, take a break, count to five, or walk away from the person you are frustrated with until your anger dissipates.
By Dr. Ryan C. Martin
Ryan is the chair of the Psychology Department at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and a nationally known anger researcher. His work focuses on healthy and unhealthy expressions of anger, including how we express anger online.
Ruminating is the tendency to go over and over an angering event in your mind. We think about what we could have said, should have said, etc. Though ruminating isn’t all bad (it helps us process negative events to make sense of them), it’s not particularly good for us and it is important to find ways to keep it under control. Here are four strategies to stop ruminating.
Engage in activities that foster positive thoughts (e.g., exercise, a hobby).
Problem solve by coming up with one concrete thing you can do to address the angering situation.
Think less about the event and more about the core feeling that might be driving the anger (e.g., are you feeling angry because you are hurt, sad, scared, etc.).
Relaxation has been long-known as a treatment approach for anger problems. Muscle relaxation, meditation, deep-breathing, etc. are part of almost any standardized treatment approach. One particular type of relaxation (though, it’s much more than that) is yoga, which includes all the important treatment components of relaxation.
One of the first things you should do when you’re angry is sort out why you are feeling that way. Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes, it’s complicated. Sometimes it’s reasonable to get angry but you’re feeling much angrier than most people would in that circumstance.
We all have different hot-button issues. For some, it’s being slowed down. For others, it’s not being recognized for their work. Trying to figure out why you’re feeling a certain way and what it says about you can go a really long way to helping you deal with your anger.
We usually get mad because there’s a problem. We want things to be different than they are and we get angry when we decide that someone is to blame for that difference.
A good way to manage anger then is to think about how we want things to be and what we can do, if anything, to make things how we want. Are you angry about the way you’re being treated by a friend or family member? Is there anything you can do to get them to treat you differently? Are you angry about how long it takes your kids to get out the door to school each morning? Are there ways you can work with them to solve that problem?
Note that the way to the desired outcome is rarely to yell, scream, or swear at people. There’s nothing wrong with a good rant every now and then, but usually the solution to an angering problem is some sort of level-headed focus on the solution.
One of the best things you can do if you think you have an anger problem is to keep track of your angry feelings. At the end of each day, write down the times you got angry, what caused it, what types of thoughts you had, and what you did with your anger. A journal like this, sometimes called a mood log, can shed some light on the types of situations that make you angry and help you find ways to deal with those situations.
Most of my work looks at how we can understand and manage our own experiences with anger. However, there’s another side to this, since we all have to talk to, or work with, angry people all the time. Those interactions can be challenging—so here are 5 ways to deal with angry people.