On the one hand, talking with people about your anger can be useful and positive. It can give you some perspective, help you process what you are feeling and better understand your emotions, and even offer an avenue to receive some constructive criticism regarding how you handled a situation.
That said, that’s only true if you are looking for perspective, understanding, and constructive criticism. Most people aren’t. Most people are just looking for another person to agree with them that they should be angry. That’s ok every now and then but too much of it isn’t good for you. If you want to rant, go for it. But make sure you do some self-reflecting at the same time.
Triggers are those situations, people, places, etc. that tend to set people off. Everyone has a trigger or two and being aware of them is important. You don’t want to avoid your triggers, necessarily (though, sometimes that might be smart). But you do need to be aware of those situations that may require greater patience. When you do, you’re more likely to get through those situations unscathed and anger free.
I’ve written before about avoiding the angry email, but it’s worth repeating.
Sending an email when you are angry is almost never a good idea. You are very likely to write something you don’t really mean or to exacerbate the original problem by bringing your anger into the situation.
Instead, wait until you have calmed down and maybe even go talk directly to the person instead of sending the email at all.
Anger is an important emotion to feel. It alerts you to the fact that you’re feeling provoked or wronged in some way. Thus, it’s bad to deny that you’re angry. Telling yourself or others you are “fine” only minimizes whatever the problem is that caused the anger in the first place.
What should you do instead? Be honest with yourself and reflect on what is causing the anger. Admit to yourself that you are mad, think about why you are mad, think about the consequences of acting on that anger, and try and address the issue. This is all part of what it means to be emotionally intelligent.
I’ve discussed forgiveness here a few times (Five Questions with Forgiveness Expert, Dr. Everett Worthington; Anger at God; The Value of Forgiveness) so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I think it’s a valuable anger-reduction strategy.
The most important thing about forgiveness is that it helps you stop ruminating. Continuing to think about the provocation, or ruminating, is a big part of what makes anger so problematic for some people. Forgiving the person who has wronged you is an important step toward letting go of those angry thoughts.
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.
Physical activity has clear psychological benefits. This is particularly true with regard to our emotional well-being, as it’s known that exercise elevates mood. If you are feeling angry, take some time for your favorite physical activity. Even a brisk walk will do the trick.