It may seem that anger is increasing everywhere you turn, whether in people around you or in the world in general. There isn’t much you can do to change other people’s anger. But there are a few things that may help you with your own irritation or rage.
Holding on to anger can lead to emotional distress and wear a person down. If you struggle with anger, a compassionate counselor can help you address its causes and explore new coping strategies. These tips, which involve things you have control over, can also help you make a difference in your anger.
1. Make your physical health a high priority.
We’ve all seen how cranky kids can get when they are hungry, tired, or have been sitting still for too long. As adults, we may be better at hiding this type of agitation, but physical discomfort still affects us. Going for long periods of time without eating, running on sleep deprivation, or sitting for hours in an office or your car, can easily lead to an irritable mood.
Anger and its preceding emotion, fear, are run by the concern that something may go wrong or become out of control. One way to counter these feelings is to pay attention to what is going right in your life.
Eating nutritious food every three or so hours during the day, sleeping eight hours every night, and not going for more than two days without exercising are some steps you can take that can help minimize outbursts of anger.
Drugs and alcohol can also take a toll on physical health and may lower thresholds of tolerance and the ability to give others the benefit of the doubt. Avoiding these can also help you minimize anger and irritability. Taking care of your physical health can help you better about yourself, which is likely to lead to your having more generous feelings to those around you.
2. Remember anger is a secondary reaction to fear.
Traditional anger management techniques may fail to work because they do not address the underlying cause of the anger itself. Anger is not a primary emotion. It only comes after (sometimes very, very quickly after) feelings like fear or hurt. Anger is a protective emotion. It gives us a feeling of power when we’re afraid we’re in danger. When we are afraid of being hurt, embarrassed, left, inconvenienced, taken advantage of or fired, anger may be triggered in an attempt to keep us safe.
To combat this, focus on developing coping skills for your fears. Coping skills can make controlling the subsequent anger much easier. For instance, giving yourself extra time to drive to work can help minimize the fear of being late. Learning to take yourself less seriously can provide relief from the fear of being embarrassed. Developing your self-confidence and believing you could find another job can reduce the fear of losing your current one.
Cultivate the belief you will be able to handle whatever life may bring your way. Attending individual or group therapy can help you build confidence and believe you will be able to find solutions to whatever comes along. You have handled many difficult situations in the past. You will be able to do the same in the future.
3. Develop an attitude of gratitude.
Anger and its preceding emotion, fear, are run by the concern that something may go wrong or become out of control. One way to counter these feelings is to pay attention to what is going right in your life. Practice gratitude by taking notice of the blessings that show up every day. Keep a gratitude journal of what you’re grateful for each day. Make it a habit to comment on the unexpected pleasures or joys that happen to you, no matter how small they might be.
Some things you might notice:
- A bill that was just a little less than you thought it would be
- A parking space that opened up just as you arrived
- The natural beauty of the world around you
- Comforts in your day, such as good coffee, a delicious meal, or a good book
- A compliment someone gave you
- A friend or family member you are grateful to have in your life.
Practicing gratitude changes neuropathways in the brain. You can literally rewire your brain to notice what is going right with your life rather than what is going wrong. Practice complimenting yourself and others. Doing so will help you focus on what is safe and good.
Using these three techniques may help you feel calmer and more at peace. Remember to be kind to yourself. If you have long practiced responding with anger to the frustrating situations in your life, it may take some repetition to develop a new response. Commit to a calmer life. You deserve to have serenity no matter what is going on around you.
Kini, P., Wong, J., McInnis, S., Gabana, N., & Brown, J. W. (2016). The effects of gratitude expression on neural activity. NeuroImage, 128. pp. 1-10. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26746580
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