9 Mental Tips To Help You Calm Down When You're Feeling Really Angry
Anyone who's ever completely lost their cool and let rage takeover knows how bad it can be when you let anger get out of control. That's why it's so important to know how to talk yourself back down when you feel your blood boiling.
According to the American Psychological Association, anger is defined as "antagonism toward someone or something you feel has deliberately done you wrong." Although, as APA points out, anger can be a good thing because it can be motivating and even force you to stand up for yourself, there are plenty of times when it can be not so great.
"Catch early signs of anger so you can do something about it before it gets out of control and you are too up to come back down," Lata K. McGinn, PhD, co-founder of Cognitive Behavioral Consultants and professor at Yeshiva University, tells Bustle. "Do you feel heat rising through your body? Does your heart pound? Do you tense up? By noticing early signs you can do something to help reduce your anger and more effectively use the other tips."
Although some of us may be naturally prone to anger more than others, we can all benefit from knowing how to get ourselves back on track when we're feeling really angry. Here are nine ways to do that, according to McGinn.
1. Take A Moment To Recognize The Thought That Made You Angry
"At the first sign of increased frustration or irritation, take a few deep breaths and catch the thought that just went through your mind right when you got angry and ask yourself if you are correctly perceiving the situation," says McGinn. "Chances are that the filter in your lens may be inadvertently making you angrier than it needs to be."
Instead of dramatically breaking the first vase within your reach, breathe, breathe, breathe. Your anger might not be totally justified after all.
2. Don't Let Yourself Take What's Making You Angry Personally
"You may be assuming that you are somehow being personally slighted, humiliated," says McGinn. "Tell yourself that what just happened may not be personal at all and you may be simply misperceiving it as a personal attack. This could have happened to anyone and not just you."
For example, getting enraged because it's raining on your wedding day isn't a personal attack on you. The weather isn't out to get you, so getting angry about it is a waste of energy on your part. Also, rain is supposed to bring good luck to weddings... and a bit of mud too.
3. Remember That Life Isn't Always Fair
"You may be perceiving what happened as unjust or unfair, or as having broken a rule, which will only make you angrier," says McGinn. "Sadly, life is not always fair and just. Tell yourself that unless someone has done something illegal or immoral, it does not rise to the level of a 'should,' 'ought' or 'must.'"
If you can take things down a enough to remember we live in an imperfect world that doesn't solely exist to piss you off, according to McGinn, you can avoid being enraged. You'll be annoyed, sure; but you won't be all fired up and looking to start an argument — or five.
4. Come Up With Alternative Explanations For The Behavior Of Others
"You may be assuming the worst or assuming that the person with whom you are angry has malevolent intentions to hurt you," says McGinn. "Instead, come up with as many benign alternative explanations for what just happened even if you don’t believe any of them."
Although there may not be a reason for everything that causes anger, there's a good chance there's an explanation.
"For example, if a driver cuts you off on the road, tell yourself he is not doing it because he is trying to show you he is better than you, he may simply be rushing home because he is late or because his child is sick at home," says McGinn. Again, like rain on your wedding day, it's not all about you; the driver isn't out to get you.
5. Put A Kibosh On The Swearing
Yes, there are benefits to swearing, but there are also downsides to it too, especially when you're trying to calm yourself down.
"Chances are you may be using some choice labels or expletives in the situation (That xxxhole!) in this situation," says McGinn. "That will simply increase your anger. Stop and go back and simply describe what happened (I can't believe that driver cut me off!). You will notice that your anger will come down a notch immediately."
6. Analyze The Stakes
"You may be perceiving this as a higher stakes game than it needs to be," says McGinn. "Is this important? Does it rise to the level of such importance? If stakes are low, let it go. It is not worth your time and attention."
In other words, you need to choose your battles in life: what's worth your time and what isn't.
7. Put Your Pride Aside
If you let your pride get in the way when you're trying to calm yourself down, then all bets are off. Things don't always go as planned and things don't always play in your favor, but it doesn't mean you can't handle it.
"For example, it may not be ideal if the maître de seats you near the kitchen," says McGinn, "but sometimes rather than demanding that you get seated elsewhere, enjoy your meal by focusing on the company."
McGinn says that if you learn to adjust and go with things when they don't go your way, instead of fighting them, kicking and screaming, it will help reduce your anger in the long run.
8. Don't Give In To The Anger
"Do the opposite of how you feel," says McGinn. "It will magically reduce your anger. Even if you feel very angry, behave the exact opposite. Smile, make jokes, empathize with the person, try to put them at ease. It will work wonders."
You're not ignoring how you feel, but you're also not letting those emotions get the best of you. Those feelings remain, but you're not giving into them and that's a good thing when it comes to anger management.
9. Understand That Your Anger Affects You More Than Others
"Remind yourself that by getting angry and lashing out, you are harming yourself more than the person in front of you," says McGinn. "Anger is not good for your heart health and if you act out, you may experience negative consequences (the other driver may experience road rage in turn and crash into your car)."
You may think your anger is only skin-deep, so to speak, but it really isn't. As McGinn points out, although anger affects heart health, it doesn't stop there. Anger can also lead to increased blood pressure, tense muscles, forgetfulness, decreased digestion, and other ailments. Why open the door to these things, when you can avoid them by doing some breathing techniques and not taking things so personally?
Anger is normal. You will be angry dozens, if not hundreds of times in your life. Again, that's OK. But it's how you handle your anger, especially when you're feeling really angry that matters. Rage may be normal in its own right, too, but it sure as hell is a waste of energy.