Are you one of those people who has anger control issues? When you are mad, does your anger come out faster than steam releasing from a pressure cooker? Does the notion of “count to ten before you speak” seem impossible to imagine for you? If so, you may need some help in learning how to control your anger outbursts. Because not only do these anger outbursts hurt those around you, they also hurt you.
Let’s examine the ‘whys’ behind your anger outbursts, and then look at some productive ways to control these.
Anger is a natural and normal response to certain situations
People become angry when they perceive injustice, unfairness, incompetence or a just situation that appears to be out of their control. There are some people that are quick to become enraged. This type of instant reaction is unhealthy and needs to be managed so that whatever is making you angry can be addressed and resolved in a positive way, with no hurt feelings or unhealthy side effects to your personal health.
How can you control your anger outbursts?
1. Identify what is making you angry
You can put a name on the source of your anger without having that source control you. Merely telling yourself you are upset (in a calm fashion) can help control your anger outbursts. If you are angry at another person, you can say to them “This situation is making me angry. Give me a couple of minutes to gather my emotions and cool off.” This is much better for you than to start yelling and screaming at that person, which only serves to escalate the angry emotion and pour fuel onto the fire of your ire.
2. Write it down
Are you upset because the airline lost your luggage and no one seems to be doing anything to find it for you? Step back, grab a pen and paper, and write down what you’d like to see happen.
As you write, you are giving yourself a moment to break down clearly the situation, which can help you come up with steps to take to find a resolution.
In the example here, you might go back to the airline agent with your list of how you’d like to get this fixed. Control your anger outbursts by writing them down works better than yelling at the employee, which only serves to make them reluctant to help you.
3. Shake it off
Or, get physical. To avoid an anger outburst, take that feeling outside. Take a walk, a run, go to the gym or the swimming pool. Anger makes adrenaline, and you can consume this adrenaline with a physical sport. Better to use it to help get you in shape! After 30 minutes of movement, you will notice that you no longer feel that peak level of anger that was inhabiting you earlier.
4. Alternately, take deep breaths
Another positive way to control your anger outbursts and eliminate the urge to scream and shout is to look inward. Get yourself to a calm, quiet space where you can take a series of deep restorative breaths. Circle those breaths in and out, inhaling deeply through the nose and exhaling fully through your mouth. 10 of these will help reduce your level of anger and get you back to a more civilized state of being.
5. Pull back and put some perspective between you and the anger
If you feel an outburst coming on, take a step back and ask yourself if this is worth getting so upset about. Lost luggage will be found (or paid for…new wardrobe for you!). Did someone cut in front of you in the line at Starbucks? Let it go, it isn’t worth the altercation.
Imagine in your head some things you are grateful for today. Imagine what is going well for you in your life. Tell yourself how lucky you are that you have the time and resources to be in a Starbucks, ordering some delicious coffee. This will help diffuse the anger and control your anger outbursts.
6. Make sure you get enough sleep
One primary contributor to anger outbursts is lack of sleep. When we don’t sleep enough, or the quality of our sleep is not good, we have a short fuse, ready to ignite at the slightest perception of unfairness. Pay attention to your need for sleep. Turn off your phone, tablet, or screen a couple of hours before you go to bed. Do not stay up late binge-watching your favorite series. That will help control your anger outbursts.
Getting a good eight hours of sleep each night will help you stay even-tempered.
7. Have a plan in advance
Can you predict when certain situations might spark an anger outburst? Write them down and come up with possible solutions. If, for example, you tend to blow up when having to interact with your bank, see if you can do your banking online. If you know your mother-in-law is going to push your buttons at the next family meal, rehearse some ways you might diffuse the situation and control your anger outbursts before you blow up at her.
“Mother, I know you mean well, but this is a subject I’d rather not talk about with you since we know we cannot see eye-to-eye.”
8. Practice assertive statements
Many times we have trouble controlling our anger outbursts because we’ve let the situation go too far without expressing our own needs. A good way to counteract this is to practice voicing what you need. If your kids are running around the house and shouting in loud voices, ask them to please stop and take their game outside.
Don’t ignore the racket until it becomes unbearable (and you yell at the children). Got a co-worker who constantly hums to himself? Rather than grit your teeth until you just can’t anymore, tell him that his humming makes it difficult for you to work, and could he please stop? These are better, more friendly ways to address irritating situations before they cause you to blow up.