When people are angry, they are physiologically aroused (their heart-rate is increases, their muscles are tense, etc.). One way to address that is to take long, slow, deep breaths, using the diaphragm rather than the just the chest. Deep breathing is one of the best ways for people to relax, especially in a tense moment.
Anger, especially chronic anger, often leads to muscle tension, stiffness, and soreness. One approach to dealing with such tension is to stretch out those areas you tend to carry such tension (shoulders, neck, etc.).
There’s three steps to this process: (1) Identify your tension areas. Where, specifically, do you tend to get tight when you are frustrated. (2) Adopt a more comfortable and less tight posture. (3) Actively stretch those areas that are uncomfortable.
An “I” statement is a way of communicating frustration while minimizing blame and criticism. For instance, if you’re taking a trip and your flight is delayed, you can convey that frustration with a “you” statement like “You’ve delayed my trip” or an “I” statement like “I’m frustrated that my trip is delayed.” The latter is less likely to escalate the tension already present in the conversation and will make it easier for the two parties to come to a reasonable solution.
People often find themselves thinking about angering events for days at a time. Such rumination only fuels the fire. Instead, try distancing yourself from the situation. Looking at your anger from an outside perspective will be help you see if your anger is reasonable or not. This simple mental exercise will likely reduce your anger and decrease any other negative thoughts you might be having.
If you find yourself consistently angry about another person’s failure to meet your expectations it may be a good idea to focus on the overall goal you are trying to achieve.
For example, if your goal is to meet a friend for dinner and leave enough time to catch a movie, but your friend is often late (making it hard to catch the movie in time). You could just ask him or her to meet you earlier. Leaving yourself, and them, enough time achieve your ultimate goal will leave you relaxed instead of tense. Paying attention to the big picture can help you plan ahead and avoid being angry when things don’t work out.
While blowing up is rarely the answer, holding your anger in isn’t good for you either. It may make you even more angry as time goes by. Instead, the first thing you should do is try to calm yourself down by whatever works for you (time to yourself, deep breathing, counting, etc.). Once you’re thinking clearly, make sure you EXPRESS your anger to whoever or whatever made you mad in a non-confrontational way. This will calm you down even more and help reduce anger quicker than trying to hold it in. Plus, it may help you solve whatever the problem was that started all of this in the first place.
An old joke begins with a police officer being called to a home by neighbors concerned over a shouting match in the home next door. As she approaches the front door she hears shouting from the home and a television is thrown out of the second story window crashing at her feet. Instead of becoming angry and increasing the tension of the situation she knocks on the front door and an angry male voice responds, “Who is it?!”. She yells back, “T.V. repair!” making the man laugh and diffusing the tension a little, allowing her to enter the home more safely.
In a tense situation, a joke could lighten the mood and put your feelings back into perspective. If you find yourself angry and not sure why, it may be a good idea to try to find the humor in the situation. Avoid sarcasm though, as this is not typically a constructive use of humor and may further hurt feelings.
Often, anger is alerting you to a particular problem. One thing to do then is to solve that problem. If you are routinely finding yourself angered by being stuck in traffic, find an alternate route or leave a little earlier or later when there is less traffic. If you are frequently frustrated by a computer program that doesn’t work the way you want it to, find a better program or work with your IT people to make that program work better.
Whatever the solution, the point is that dedicating a little time to solving the problem is better than letting the problem frustrate you day in and day out.
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.