How can we keep heated emotions from getting the better of us? The key is to recognize when a situation is escalating and keep our feelings in check. Mindpath Health’s Alli Garner, LCMHC, offers five tips to help you get anger under control.
Anger is an emotion that all of us experience – some more often than others. When we get angry, we tend to say things we may regret later. Learning to manage anger doesn’t mean ignoring your anger or repressing your feelings. Rather, it involves learning to recognize anger, manage it, and express your emotions in a healthy way.
Change may not happen overnight, but it is possible. Here are five tips to help you cool down when emotions run high.
Take a timeout
If possible, give yourself the space and time to calm down. This time out can prevent you from acting impulsively. It can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths, meditating, going for a walk, or just sitting in silence. When you feel more collected, consult with the other parties involved to decide if it’s the right time to resume the discussion. In situations where you can’t walk away, the following tips can help you manage your emotions:
Think before you speak
It’s easy to say something you will regret later. Collecting your thoughts before you express your anger can help assert your message without needlessly attacking others. Journaling can help, as can practicing what you are going to say and how you are going to say it.
Practice active listening
It can be hard to reach an agreement with someone with whom you strongly disagree. Active listening shows that you are present in a conversation and trying to understand the other person’s perspective. Active listening techniques include making eye contact, noticing non-verbal cues, asking questions, and reflecting on what a person is saying. It might not change your mind, but it may help you learn empathy and give you new insights. This empathy might allow your future responses to be less reactive.
Don’t hold a grudge
Be forgiving. If you allow yourself to feel negative feelings, it crowds the space you have for positive feelings. Forgiving yourself or someone else can help you learn from the situation and strengthen your relationship.
Know when to seek help
Handling our anger and other emotions can be challenging. Left unchecked, angry feelings can cause you to withdraw, lead to aggressive behavior, and impact your well-being. It can also negatively affect your relationships and daily life. A mental health provider can help you address the underlying reasons for your anger and provide tips and tools to help you cope and communicate better.
Remember, it is virtually impossible to eliminate feelings of anger. Nor would you want to. After all, sometimes that anger is justified. Learning to assert yourself in a clear and respectful manner allows you to react in a way that is appropriate while still salvaging your relationships.