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Think about the last time you responded to someone or something that was making you angry. Did you take some deep breaths and walk away from the situation until you could calm down and discuss it? Did you absorb it by not saying anything at all, hoping it would go away? Or, did you react in a loud, aggressive manner? I once worked in an office in which the VP of Marketing just could not contain his emotions. Employees were afraid to talk to him, he often screamed and yelled and one time he even walked down the hall throwing yellow file folders filled with paper in the air as he stormed out. It was something you might see in a movie and we couldn’t believe we were actually witnessing it. All the time and energy the group had put into devising a new marketing program for a client was strewn all over the office. We shook our heads, cleaned it up and the next day he acted like the scene never happened. This went on for over a year until he finally was transferred out of the department and everyone sighed with relief. Now that it’s many years later, I can see that this behavior didn’t bode well for him. He never got himself under control and was eventually let go because of a huge corporate downsizing. For the next couple of years he looked for a similar position in the same industry, but he had established such a bad reputation that he couldn’t find one and ended up retiring.

In this particular situation, the manager had grown up in a hot-headed Italian family and this is the way he learned from his adult role models to deal with any obstacles that got in the way of the outcome he was looking for. However, what he never came to realize is that he didn’t need to spend his entire career in this pattern, and neither do you. Research shows that we can learn techniques to regulate ourselves. Instead of responding to immediate impulses, we can change this response by improving our self-control.

Self-control is not something that everyone has from birth. Instead, it can be developed by becoming aware of our actions and taking personal responsibility to resist negative urges. So, if you feel like you don’t have any self-control, it’s most likely true but with practice, it is something you can master.

Experts agree that are some basic tips to consider when trying to embark on learning this new skill:

1. Meditate. Sit quietly for 1 minute to 10 minutes every morning, close your eyes and count your breaths to 10, over and over again. Take time to focus your thoughts to gain an inner calm.

2. Stay hydrated and eat small meals throughout the day. If you let yourself get hungry and you blood sugar level drops, you are more likely to act thoughtlessly.

3. Get enough sleep. This helps to improve your memory and make you feel more clear and in a better mood.

4. Exercise. Getting moving helps the body to reduce stress and improve mood by releasing endorphins that trigger a positive feeling in the body. If you are feeling particularly angry, go for a run, play some tennis, enjoy a swim, or do some housework before responding in an uncontrolled manner.

5. Educate yourself.  Reading books on anger management, taking anger control classes or meeting one on one with a therapist can provide the skills you need to address and overcome the detrimental behavior.