Taking Care of Yourself

10 Steps to Controlling Your Anger

Amanda Page Mar 21st, 2013 (updated Aug 29th, 2014)
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Anger, to an extent, is a completely normal emotion. But if your anger becomes disruptive to your job, personal relationships, or health, your entire quality of life could quickly decline. Here are some small steps towards controlling your anger and becoming a happier person.

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Understand your emotions
Understand your emotions

When we are angry we internally experience feelings of frustration or impatience, such as when we’re stuck in traffic or waiting in a long line.  Aggression is the external manifestation of that anger, which could include laying on the horn in traffic or making sarcastic remarks.  Anger is normal, but aggression should be limited.  Take a step back and observe your thoughts about an angering situation.  You can control your reaction.

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Take a timeout
Take a timeout

Step back before reacting.  Try taking some deep breaths, counting to ten, or--if possible--removing  yourself from the situation entirely.  Taking time to think things over can help defuse your temper and prevent hostility from occurring.  If nothing else, your anger will have diminished with the time that has passed.

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Weigh the outcomes
Weigh the outcomes

If you lash out impulsively, what are the possible costs?  Are there any benefits from being hostile?  Consider the consequences for everyone involved.  Will you lose a friend? Upset your family? Harm your reputation? Is it possible that you are wrong to be angry? Taking the time to look at the future gains and losses could help you better manage your emotions.  

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Understand yourself better
Understand yourself better

Do you know why something makes you angry or aggressive?  Perhaps a negative thought pattern is making a situation worse than it should objectively be.  For instance, do you tend to turn a mere inconvenience into a catastrophe? Examine your thoughts and determine whether such an event is even worth being upset about in the larger picture.   

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Change the focus
Change the focus

Instead of focusing on what’s making you upset, abruptly shift your focus to potential solutions.  Anger won’t fix anything and can only exacerbate a negative situation.  Is your friend always late for coffee outings?  Schedule later get-togethers and send them reminders.  

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Know your thought process
Know your thought process

Anger often does not stem from the actions of others, but rather from an internal monologue.  A negative thought pattern can become a bad habit that drives harmful behavior.  For instance do you always look to blame someone else when bad things happen?  Do you assume others are intentionally upsetting you?  Or do you overgeneralize a situation, saying for instance, “everyone always attacks me.”

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Avoid triggers
Avoid triggers

You are probably aware of the people, places, and situations that bring out your worst.  And while such stressful things don’t excuse excessive anger, avoiding them whenever possible is a proactive step in minimizing the anger in your life.  Break down your regular routine and identify what exactly tends to set you off – certain weekly activities, the morning commute, etc.  

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Focus on the physical
Focus on the physical

The next time you feel angry, try focusing your attention on the physical senses you are feeling as a result.  Perhaps your racing heart, the surge of heat in your face, or your shortness of breath.  It may seem counterintuitive, but this will alleviate the emotional intensity of a situation and help you realize that nothing is worth making yourself feel physically ill.   

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Be healthy
Be healthy

If you struggle with anger or even stress management, making diet and fitness adjustments can help immensely.  Try eating a diet full of stress fighting foods including nuts, leafy greens, and berries.  Exercising can work wonders for stress relief and can release pent-up energy to help cool your anger.  Try adding short sessions of mindfulness meditation

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Look at the bigger picture
Look at the bigger picture

Question your anger before you become upset.  How important is the situation in the grand scheme of things? How appropriate is your response? Will it ruin the rest of your day? Are you really angry or are you masking other emotions such as embarrassment or jealousy? Take time to figure this out because reacting first can make it harder to take back later.