How we express our anger is often something we model from behavior we were exposed to in our childhood. Someone who grew up in a household in which one or both parents would yell and become aggressive when mad at someone or something, might display this same behavior in his or her own adulthood. Or, a person who was rewarded to stop a temper tantrum might continue this behavior thinking they will get a positive response. If you find yourself at a point in your life in which this impulsive behavior is causing problems with relationships with your loved ones, with friends, at work or school, it’s time to make a change. Just as we can learn how to express anger from others, we can also learn to change our reactions.
What Should I do?
First and foremost, if you find yourself in a situation in which you are losing control of your response, leave. Utilize calming techniques by walking away from the person or episode that is causing the anger. If you are in a big family event, take a walk around the block. If you are in a boardroom meeting, excuse yourself and go have a drink of water in a quiet spot to help decompress. This doesn’t mean you should take off for the day, but rather gather yourself and return when you feel like you can express your thoughts in a controlled, effective way.
Numerous studies show that internalizing your feelings isn’t the answer either. In fact, this behavior can lead to depression, substance abuse, eating too much or not enough, stress and gastrointestinal issues. It’s important to get your feelings out on the table in a polite but assertive way. Then listen to the other person’s perspective without interrupting and do your best to put yourself in their shoes. Sometimes what we hear someone saying is not exactly what he or she means. Paraphrasing what you just heard back to the person can clarify their point and help you to find a middle ground.
Redirect your anger to make a change in yourself and/or in the world. It takes practice and determination to overcome old bad habits. Learn to identify what triggers your anger and do something to help calm yourself down. This can include exercise, hobbies, or finding a cause to get behind that might help your community.
Most importantly, seek support. Taking an educationally based anger management course will teach you the techniques you need to lower your stress level, increase your empathy, speak more effectively and gain a new perspective on how to think about things. If you are too busy to add a weekly class into your crazy schedule, then try taking one online. The online format enables participants to learn from the comfort of their own home whenever they have free time. There is no timeline that you have to follow, so you determine how slowly or quickly you get through the information. An 8 or 12 class is all many of us need to get rebooted into a calmer, healthier and more well balanced lifestyle. There is no question that it is time well spent!