Anger can damage relationships and derail your decision-making unless you take steps to come to terms with it
Anger is a natural emotion – it can help you to heal from trauma when it’s focused, but it can also lead to psychological issues and reduce your quality of life. You don’t have to live with anger all the time – that’s not a healthy way to be – and there are steps you can take to come to terms with your anger.
Finding healthy ways to heal your anger is a critical step in learning to manage it instead of stuffing it down below the surface. Let’s talk about what you need to start healing your anger.
Recognize, Don’t Hide Your Anger
The first step? Recognizing your anger. Anger can be defined as a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility. Those are pretty descriptive words, right? We’ve all felt anger at some point in our lives.
It’s a strong emotion – when you feel a sense of antagonism toward someone or something you believe has deliberately treated you badly. When it reaches full-blown status, it can be hard to control.
Recognizing your anger is the first key to healing it. Noticing your early signs of anger is the key to stopping it from erupting like a volcano. You probably have felt angry at times when it wasn’t safe or healthy to express it. You know the signs – your face gets hot, your breathing may quicken, and you can feel your brows knitting together into a frown on your face.
When you feel the telltale signs of anger coming to the surface, you’ve still got time to stop the eruption. You can use the power of your thoughts and your free will to redirect that energy to a calmer and more constructive expression.
You can’t heal what you won’t recognize – and there are additional signs of anger that can help you tune in to it.
Anger can initiate many different physical reactions in your body. Here are just a few of them:
- Faster, Shallower Breathing
- A Rapid Heartbeat
- An inability to remain still – physical twitching or restlessness
- Tension In Your Body – your shoulders, your neck, or other areas
- Pacing Or Tapping of Your Feet
- Clenched Jaws or Fists
- Trembling or Shaking
When you notice these reactions during an encounter with another person or an event in your life, they’re telling you that your level of anger is rising. Knowing these signs and how they manifest for you is the early warning system you should pay attention to. When you catch them early, you can slow down or even halt the more harmful physical responses.
Once you recognize your anger, you’ll need some tips for helping you slow it down before the eruption happens – try one or more of the following:
Tip #1 for Slowing Down Your Anger: An Exercise Break
Physical activity can help to decrease stress, one of the aggravating factors that push us toward explosive anger. Try getting outside for a walk or even going for a run can help to turn down the heat on your reactions by redirecting your energy toward positive physical effort.
You can literally stimulate your body to help decrease your emotions – especially when your anger is rising rapidly. Concentrating on moving your limbs, feeling the ground beneath your feet, the breeze in your face and hair, and the sounds and smells of your environment can be a pleasant distraction and also removes you from factors that could aggravate your anger.
Tip #2 for Slowing Down Your Anger: Quiet Time
If exercise isn’t an option for you, taking a “time out” by removing yourself from the stressful situation can also derail an angry response. Just 5 to 10 minutes of quiet time where you focus on your breathing (deepen it) and change your focus (look outside at the weather, the neighborhood, or at a garden setting) can also provide a pleasant distraction and a calming effect.
Quiet time that provides you with a “getaway” can be the trigger that allows you to remain in control instead of turning your anger inward. Some psychologists recommend using humor to help dissipate anger, but when your environment doesn’t provide a reason or source for laughter, getting still can achieve the same results.
Tip #3 For Slowing Down Your Anger: Utilize Self-Care Time
Looking for a way to diffuse your anger and the subconscious blame that can accompany it? Try taking some self-care time. Part of the anger you feel can be the blame you take onto yourself for allowing the vexing situation to happen. We often refuse to give ourselves a break and think we should have “seen it coming.”
Perhaps you had a role in the situation that wasn’t helpful – did you initiate the conflict? Were there red flags that you disregarded? Should you have stepped away from the experience a few minutes earlier?
Even if the answer to all of those questions is Yes, resist the impulse to blame yourself. Use your self-care time to avoid blaming yourself, because that will prevent you from truly healing your anger. Release that negative energy by writing about the situation in your journal and using time and distance to help you see what was really going on.
If you’ve already assigned blame to yourself, STOP IT. Taking on the blame for the situation – especially if other people were involved in helping the situation “heat up” – puts too much on your shoulders. It’s very likely that you’re NOT 100 percent responsible.
Tip #4 For Slowing Down Your Anger: Practice Quick, Meditative Relaxation Techniques
You can tap into a meditative and relaxing state in just a few moments, wherever you happen to be. These kinds of quick activities can help you on your job, during your commute, or when you can step into an empty room for a few moments as part of your getaway.
Try one or more of these relaxation skills to help you stop your anger from rising:
- Deep-Breathing Exercises – counting to five on your inhalation and exhalation, and extending your count as you calm down
- Imagining A Peaceful, Beautiful Scene – a garden or a waterfall, a walk on the beach or by the shore
- Repeating A Calming Mantra – “I am calming down” or “I am in control” or “I can express myself without anger”
- Listening To Soothing Music – try classical or jazz
- Doing Chair Yoga – research a few poses that encourage relaxation and calm
There are many other options – use these as inspiration to create your own list of relaxation techniques that appeal to you and that you can easily remember. Consider putting a list of techniques into your smartphone so you’ll always be able to access them.
You can even record your own voice repeating calming phrases with your favorite music behind them for a customized, take-anywhere solution for those times when you need a pleasant distraction and coping technique.
Tip #5 For Slowing Down Your Anger: Practice Forgiveness
One of the most necessary steps – but certainly not the easiest – is to forgive the individual (or individuals) who have offended or angered you. All the tips I mentioned earlier will work, but they are temporary solutions. The most permanent answer is for you to find and manifest forgiveness. This can also include forgiving yourself for the part you played in the situation or the blame you assigned to yourself.
Forgiveness is a mindset, and therefore, within your influence. Practicing forgiveness as a way of life rather than an occasional, one-off incident is key to its effectiveness. Consider forgiveness as your ticket to putting down the burdens of your past offenses and releasing them and the hold they have over you.
Seeking revenge keeps the offense and the hurt at the forefront of your mind and your heart. How can you break the emotional and psychological hold the event had over you if you keep it close to your heart and keep thinking about it?
I won’t promise that it will be easy to forgive – I certainly continue to work at it in my own life – but with consistent practice, you WILL get better at it. Continued fantasies about revenge keep you bound to the incident from your past and the associated negative emotions. There are far better things to put your time, heart, energy and spirit into.
Releasing the past hurts and those negative feelings will lift the weight from you in a way you can’t imagine until you DO IT. Healing your anger for those past incidents doesn’t mean you have to forget about them – oh no – what it does mean is that you keep what you’ve learned from them and let go of the anger.
Holding on to past anger doesn’t help you, and it doesn’t truly harm the person who harmed you. Resentment and anger fester in your own heart and the person who upset you probably doesn’t even realize it. They’ve gone their own way, living their own life, and you’re stuck holding on to the anger.
Take off the chains of your past anger and leave them behind. Give up the fantasy of revenge – in fact, write down the fantasy in your journal and then let it go. Better yet – write it on a separate piece of paper and either burn it or flush it down the toilet, releasing the anger along with the physical representation of the incident.
Releasing your anger creates room for forgiveness and positive emotions to come in and take its place. What you focus on will grow – turn your focus toward the life you want to build and the person you want to be instead of remaining tethered to a past event that is not serving you.
Your energy is better spent making plans to manifest your dreams and goals – take the first step toward achieving them by releasing your anger and moving forward. You’re worth the work and the effort to let go of the past – you can’t live there, so let it go and walk into a brighter, happier, more productive future.