Anger is a natural human emotion. It flares up instinctively when someone cuts you off, when something threatens a person you love, when you get shortchanged by a coworker. And although anger itself is not innately “bad,” allowing it to direct the course of your life is. For some people, bursts of anger are few and far between. For others, learning how to not get angry is a lifelong process.
Do you fall into the second category? There’s no time like the present to start working on yourself. With just a few simple techniques in your emotional toolbox, you should easily be able to combat the pressure that builds when something angers you. If you’re trying to educate yourself on how to not get angry, here are five methods to consider.
1. Accept, Then Assess
With any strong emotion, it’s natural to want to push it away and bury it deep — especially if it hits you at work, where you need to be professional. The same is true of anger. Your gut instinct is probably to pretend you’re not angry, but that won’t help you push through it. Let yourself feel angry. Embrace it. Allow the fury to wash over you for a minute or two. Then, quickly shift gears to how to not get angry — or at least, angrier. Reassess the situation and decide if it really warrants your ire, or if you can move on.
2. Breathe Deeply
To push through anger, you may need a physical way to cope. After all, the body often physically reacts to rage. Maybe your start to sweat, or feel like your heart is going to pound right out of your chest. In this instance, stopping to take a few deep, purposeful breaths could help soothe your nervous system so your physical reaction to anger melts away. A mini meditation session could be helpful, as well. Then, once you’ve calmed down, you’ll be ready to respond to the situation without any venom.
3. Take a Break
If stepping back doesn’t alleviate your anger, maybe you need to step away entirely, at least in a sense. Escape the current situation for a few minutes by turning your attention to a lighthearted distraction, like a silly YouTube video of a pair of furry friends or your favorite up-tempo song. The positive vibes from this small break may be all you need to take your anger down a few notches and get back to normal.
4. Prep for It
Irritation is part of life. There’s no way to avoid it. But you can do a few things to help yourself better cope when it arises. Dr. Emil Cocarro, head of the University of Chicago’s psychiatry department, explains everybody has a different emotional baseline. Some people are naturally calmer, and others get agitated easily. But it’s not all about your chemistry. When you take time to exercise and relax regularly, you’re calmer at baseline, so it’ll take a greater amount of stress to get you to your boiling point.
5. Harness It
Anger can be a helpful emotion when you know how to use it. In fact, anger can motivate you to jump into action. Take the passion you feel from your anger and transform it into something positive. Harness it and the courage it creates to finally ask your boss for a raise, to call your elected representatives about policy change or to stick up for yourself in a personal relationship.
You can’t avoid anger any more than you can avoid breathing, but you can learn how to cope with it. Arm yourself with these tools, and the next time you feel a wave of irritation about to engulf you, take this opportunity to practice. See which of these approaches works best for you, and log it away for future use when your internal temperature begins to rise.
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