Vent, don't stew
If you are angry with a politician, policy, or other public injustice, do something about it. In one study, researchers from the University of Wisconsin tracked the brain-wave patterns in students who had just been told the university was considering big tuition increases. They all exhibited brain patterns signifying anger, but signing a petition to block the tuition increases seemed to provide satisfaction. Put simply, working to right a wrong is life-affirming and positive. Stewing in a bad situation without taking action is the opposite. In fact, this study shows that expressing your anger can actually make you happier!
Don't beat up your pillow
Forget about punching a pillow, a wall, or the object of your anger. Contrary to popular belief, these common reactions don’t decrease your anger. In fact, studies find, they only increase your hostility. And getting angry over little things can dramatically spike your risk of a heart attack.
Take three deep breaths
When you’re angry, your body becomes tense, says Robert Nicholson, PhD, assistant professor of community and family medicine at Saint Louis University. Breathing deeply helps you learn how to deal with anger by lowering your internal anger meter. Try these stress management tips.
Understand your anger
Think like a detective and track down clues about the kinds of situations, people, and events that trigger your anger, says Dr. Nicholson. Once you’re aware of them, try to avoid them if possible. If you can’t avoid them, at least you’ll know to anticipate them, which will give you more time to prepare for them so they don’t affect you so negatively. Next time you start to feel the anger boiling up inside you, try these seven tricks to help you work through your frustrations without complaining.
Don't lose it
Whoever loses it, loses. Losing your temper makes you look like the bad guy to everyone else, no matter who is really at fault, says Southern California psychotherapist Tina Tessina, PhD, author of It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction. To learn how to deal with anger, visualize a scene in which you got angry and replay the tape several times, each time envisioning yourself responding a different way. You’re actually rehearsing different reactions and giving yourself new options. The next time you’re close to losing your temper, one of these options will pop into your mind, providing you with a better response.
Go for a walk
When you get really angry, walk away from the source. A five-minute walk outside or another calming activity like yoga are both great coping strategies for how to deal with anger. If your anger stems from the traffic jam you’re stuck in, turn up the radio and sing at the top of your lungs. The idea: Create a mental and/or physical escape from the situation.
Picture a red stop sign in your mind or wear a rubber band on your wrist and snap it whenever you find your anger beginning to boil. Then take a few minutes to put the issue into perspective and ask yourself if it’s worth the humiliation that comes from becoming overtly angry.
Know the signs
Recognize your own personal signs of escalating anger. Those might be clenched fists, trembling, flushing, or sweating. Then use deep breathing to regain control of yourself before your anger erupts, suggests Catheleen Jordan, PhD, a professor of social work at the University of Texas at Arlington. If you’re not sure about your own anger warning signs, ask a friend or family member. They’ll know! (Check out these nine different types of anger and find out which one you may be!)
Give yourself a pinch
Pinch yourself every time you hear yourself using the words “never” or “always.” The all-or-nothing mentality only shortens your fuse even more, which doesn't help you learn how to deal with anger. Instead, suggests Dr. Nicholson, look at things in shades of gray instead of black and white. Acknowledge that sometimes life is unfair and sometimes the person who is making you angry does the wrong thing. But don’t fuel the fires with phrases like “always disappoints” or “never comes through.”
Try this routine
Take “self-control” time. It works to get children to calm down, says Jon Oliver, author of Lesson One: The ABCs of Life, so it should work with angry grown-ups too. Here’s how to do it: Sit up proud and relaxed wherever you may be (a couch, the floor, a chair, etc.). Place your feet flat on the floor in front of you. Extend your hands palm down and place them gently in your lap. Make sure your elbows are naturally back by your sides. Relax your shoulders so the muscles around them are neither tight nor tense. Breathe deeply in through your nose and exhale through your mouth to help your body relax into this position. Close your eyelids lightly and continue breathing deeply. When using self-control time as a regular part of the day, it should last approximately three minutes. When using it as a way to help regain self-control, it should last approximately one minute. Check out these 14 other five-second strategies for shutting down stress!