We’ve all had those moments. First, you feel your face start to tingle, then your heart begins to pound, and then you ball up your fists and feel like kicking a wall (or at least tearing to shreds that “service agreement” that after three weeks brought you no service at all.) Anger can be powerful– but there are healthy and unhealthy ways of dealing with it. Handle your frustration properly, and it can get your blood flowing and spur you on to make positive changes. Here’s how to tame your inner raging bull…1. Acknowledge It: Clenching your teeth while stuffing your feelings does no good for you, your mate, or your gastrointestinal tract. There’s nothing wrong with being angry. Admitting it—to yourself, or as calmly as possible to the person you’re locking horns with—can feel validating, and it’s the first step in working toward resolution.
2. Spell It Out: Still simmering after an awful performance evaluation? Writing down your feelings– yes, the prehistoric pen and paper can work as well, if not better, than the laptop—can be extremely helpful. In the process, you can sort out why you’re upset and what steps you can take work through the situation. Perhaps most important, putting your feelings into words can diminish their grip on you and help them work their way out of your system.
3. Get Physical: Biologically, anger looks quite similar to other forms of arousal. Get connected to your body, and channel the rage into an activity that can release tension—dancing, jumping rope, kickboxing and running are great examples. Do a primal scream (if you’re blessed not to share walls.) Instead of letting frustration burn you up, you can let it burn off. Sometimes the energy release of a good laugh, or a good cry, can also take the edge off.
4. Seek Perspective: If you’re still feeling steamed from that bully on the exit ramp or the backhanded tone from the bartender, it might be time to make a list of the things you’re grateful for. Gratitude meditations, or just sitting and focusing on what’s right in your life, are associated with increased fulfillment and diminished stress. Breaking out the yardstick to determine mountain from molehill can sometimes help clear your head.
5. Connect—Carefully: Sharing your feelings with a trusted person can often be very cathartic. Don’t make excuses for your emotions or buff them to a shine; just let them flow. But beware of the friend who just riles you up further; there’s a difference between letting you vent and fanning your flames.
6. Take Action: If it’s a serial aggressor that’s getting you down, chart out steps to improve the situation. A methodical, specific plan of action can lend a sense of control, helping stop the madness.
7. Watch It: Sometimes even when things seem resolved, anger can linger in the form of hypersensitivity, irritability, and insomnia. Increasing your mindfulness—or at the very least, keeping an ear attuned to your inner dialogue of thoughts and feelings—can serve as an early warning system for future conflicts. It can also help you determine if you’re carrying around the weight of that snarky email long after it’s good to do so.
Dr. Andrea Bonior is a licensed clinical psychologist, professor, and columnist. Her personal website is here.