How to Tame Your Anger and Handle Your Hot Buttons
Anger is a normal human emotion that can range from slight irritation to strong rage. With all the stress, pressures and worries of today, there are many things and many people out there that can set you off, drive you crazy or push your buttons.
How anger is expressed is key to maintaining healthy relationships and minimizing additional aggravation and stress. People who get overly angry (or defensive, irritated, furious, outraged, argumentative, ticked off or frustrated) will likely blow any chance of resolving problems. Anger is often handled poorly – but it doesn’t have to be. Knowing how to recognize, tame and express anger appropriately – and how to proactively control some of your hot buttons – can make a big difference in your life.
Here are five ways to tame your anger:
1. Recognize When it Starts
What do you notice first when you begin to feel angry? A racing heart? Elevated blood pressure? Perhaps the forceful feeling of fiery words ready to jump out of your mouth? These are physical signs of anger. Pay attention to the hidden signs of anger, too, like tense muscles, frustration or sarcasm.
2. Identify the Cause
One of the key steps to overcoming anger is to identify the object of your anger. What makes you angry? The cause of your anger may or may not be obvious. Many people who struggle with chronic anger aren’t even sure what they’re angry about. It is necessary to identify the cause of the anger and take proactive steps to resolve it.
3. Resist Jumping to Conclusions
Analyze your thinking for incorrect assumptions. Many times, we become angry because we assume an idea is true when it is not. These underlying assumptions warp our thinking, yet we believe we’re basing our attitudes and actions on truth. Separating the past from the present is also key to not jumping to conclusions. You may be angry about things your family or friends have done to you in the past, even decades ago. This is called residual anger.
4. Realize Underlying Causes
Ask yourself questions about your physical condition: Am I tired? Am I hungry? Do I feel physically bad? Then ask questions about your psychological state: Am I stressed about something else or toward someone else? Am I anxious or worried about something else? The answers to these questions might help you calm down quicker.
5. Control the Energy of Anger
Anger has tons of energy behind it. Finding a way to express that energy in a beneficial way is crucial. Exercise is a terrific option, and a benefit to your fitness as well. Anger expressed in an unhealthy way leads to numerous health problems, so nearly any kind of physical activity can be a great outlet for angry feelings.
And here are six steps to handle your hot buttons:
- Stop – Don’t react! It’s easier said than done, but that’s exactly what your angry or negative person won’t expect. We tend to fight back at the first indication we are under attack. Resisting this hair-trigger tendency is the first step to handle situations or people that push your buttons. As soon as you feel anger start to build, take time out to calm down.
- Breathe – To help yourself calm down, focus on your breathing to keep from lashing back and to give yourself a chance to rationally collect your thoughts. Count silently to 10 if you need to.
- Think – Choose your words carefully. Spoken words and actions of anger can be very harmful and often leave scars of pain that are not easily undone.
- Listen – A conversation is often more productive if you will, early on, be quiet and hear the other person out. Be still and try to understand their opinion. This relays respect and models better communication skills. You are not agreeing; instead, you are listening for the message behind the words. Ask questions to clarify exactly what is going on.
- Affirm – It is probably best to begin the talk with taking the initiative to affirm, or validate the reality of, what is good in the other person and in the relationship itself. Acknowledge that you heard what was said and any positive motive or meaning behind the (seemingly stern) position he or she is taking. It is helpful to repeat back what you heard. Example: “If I understand you correctly, you are concerned that …”
- Speak – When you talk to your button-pusher, speak from your experience and life. Verbalize anger appropriately. This means using “I” messages instead of “you” messages. “You” messages express blame, as in, “You make me want to scream!” As a result of you messages, the other person usually responds defensively and is not open to hearing our feelings or ideas for solutions to the problem. Tone is also highly important, as you negate the words you are saying with the way you sound. A warm tone conveys safety and care, and that stands the best chance of keeping your button-pusher from becoming even more wary or defensive than they already are.
In practicing how to tame your anger, it is also important to know what you control. In truth, no one can “make you angry,” even though they can provoke you. You can control your response to people and circumstances. Accept the fact that most things in the world are out of your control. If you try to continually control your family, friends or circumstances you will find the result frustrating.
If you or a family member are struggling with anger issues, they’re not likely to go away by themselves. Contact Centerstone for more information on effectively dealing with the powerful emotion of anger.