“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned”. ~ Buddha
Anger, and its less explosive little brother annoyance, are emotions that everyone has the potential to feel at some point. And, they can be important signals that something needs to be attended to. However, rather than attending to anger as a warning sign, many people hang onto anger and become consumed by its fire. Stress, which we’re all familiar with, goes hand in hand with these feelings of upset, rage and discontent.
Learning to recognize and tame your anger can improve the quality of your relationships as well as your general mood & happiness. Taming your anger can also has significant health benefits. Studies show that constant stress or aggravation is linked to a range of issues including overeating, insomnia & depression and that angry outbursts increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes!
We have every reason to tap into our powers of self-control & mindfulness and learn to make a healthy shift away from anger when it arises.
Here are 9 tactics to try when your anger needs taming:
#1 – Recognize it, Stop & Shift. Seems obvious and simple, but when you’ve been bitten by the anger bug this isn’t always so. When we’re angry or annoyed we have a tendency to lose sight of ourselves and what’s really going on. Usually, we’ve fallen into a state of upset without noticing. Feeling annoyed? Stop right there! Check in with yourself & recognize you’re angry. Take a few deep breaths, a walk, or count to 10 – whatever it takes to bring you out of the negative self-talk about what is making you mad and back to yourself. Sometimes, this is enough to allow yourself to make a conscious decision to let go of whatever is bothering you and release any anger. However, if this doesn’t work, move on to step 2
#2 – Ask Yourself Why? Why are you angry, anyway? What is it exactly that is making you feel this way? Deciphering the cause of your discomfort is another step towards establishing a more healthy reaction towards it. If you don’t know why you’re angry, it makes it very hard to create change. Take some time to figure it out. If you have an answer, say it out loud to yourself “I’m angry because…”. This can quiet the negative chatter in your mind and help you acknowledge your feelings. Then you can mindfully decide what action you need to take. If your grievance is actually quite petty and not really deserving of your anger, then this exercise will help you recognize that & make it easier to let it go.
#3 – What really matters to you? Ask yourself what matters to you most in life. What are the things that really matter? And what are you angry about? How much does this thing really matter in the grand scheme of things? Often, it doesn’t when compared to your top priorities. Reminding yourself of what’s important to you can help put things into perspective and make whatever’s getting your goat seem way less of a big deal.
#4 – Seek solutions. You are very clear on why you are angry and it’s not just some silly thing that you can let go of easily. At this point, try thinking about some potential solutions for resolving the issue that is making you angry. If there isn’t anything you can take action on right away, perhaps there is the possibility of a solution in the future. Allow yourself to open to the idea of there being resolution or another way.
#5 – Connect with Gratitude. Maybe you have a very legitimate reason to be angry. Something really awful and terrible has happened and it’s up there with the things that matter most to you. Chances are, though, that there are probably some other things that matter to you just as much, or close to it, that are going well. Breathe and remind yourself of those things; allow yourself to be grateful for them. Give yourself a break from thinking about the bad stuff & focus on the good. This doesn’t mean pretending that everything is ok, it’s recognizing that there are other things happening simultaneously that are still good. Don’t forget those things. They are precious & important – let yourself be grateful for them. Connecting with your gratitude will raise your vibration into a space of higher positivity and will help release some of your anger.
#6 – Find your Compassion. Compassion is an excellent tool for diffusing anger. Often times, we’re angry due to another person’s actions. None of us are perfect and we all make mistakes – some larger than others – but try to find your compassion for this person. Try to understand where they are coming from, put yourself in their shoes, or imagine what might drive you to act the same way. Trying to understand the actions of another is a gateway to compassion. Perhaps underneath it all you are angry with yourself. If you’ve made a mistake, learn from it and forgive yourself. Compassion is healing and helps to open your heart, which your anger will have closed.
#7 – Be your own Role Model. You “know better.” You want to let it go, be grateful and connect with your compassion, but you just can’t seem to. In this case, work on being an example for yourself and others. How do you want to act? How do you want to behave in the situation? How would someone you admire behave? Act that way and behave that way! If you have already acknowledged that you are angry and you don’t feel that there are any good solutions for it, put your energy into taking the non-angry actions that you would like to be able to take naturally. It might feel awkward at first, but this is a classic “fake it till you make it” situation. Sometimes, we create behavioral habits that are hard to change, you are now working at creating new ones, and practice makes perfect!
#8- Let it out. You’ve assessed your role in the situation and you’ve tried to shift away from your anger, but you are still angry and you feel that your anger is very legitimate. At this point, it’s likely that you need to take some very mindful and careful action to release your anger so that you can move on. Anger can cause us to do some crazy things that we often regret, so it’s important that if you are going to try this step that you’re doing so from a place of right mind and that you’ve tried many other steps first. Often times, expressing your frustrations to someone you feel safe with and who is willing to listen can help you to release your anger. Physical activity can also help release the built up energy that comes with anger. Whatever action you take, just be sure that it’s one focused on releasing your own energy and not on punishing or inflicting your anger upon others. Choose an activity that will not negatively impact others, but will help you to let off steam. Once you’ve let out some of that extra energy, you may feel more clear headed and ready to move on.
#9 – This too shall pass. No other tactics seem to be working for you? Remind yourself that nothing is permanent, the good or the bad. Your bad mood, situation, hurt feelings or whatever it is that has got you all riled up, will shift and change eventually. There are many things that we have no control over in life. If we keep struggling to gain control of those things that are outside of ourselves, we’ll just continue to get frustrated. Take comfort in knowing that ‘this too shall pass’. Sometimes, we just have to ride the wave and see what comes next, do our best to hold out through the storm and eventually, things will be different than they are now. Allow this knowledge to ease your mind and help you to let go of your anger.