STAYING CALM – SOME EFFECTIVE WAYS TO MANAGE YOUR ANGER
How to manage your anger-When we are in the heat of anger it can be almost impossible to calm ourselves down. At this stage, when we are fully and physically expressing our anger, it is too late to control it. First, it takes time for the body to recover and second, when we are angry our judgment is severely impaired and we might do or say something that we later regret or which could have wider reaching and lasting consequences for us.
It is far better to prevent our anger from building up in the first place, by effectively managing how it develops so that we never reach the hottest stage of the cycle. In this article I shall suggest some simple but effective techniques for helping ourselves to stay calm that can be used in many situations. These will be split into two part – techniques for staying calm when faced with ‘immediate anger’ (anger that is about to boil over physically or emotionally, leading us to lose control), and longer-term techniques we can use to stop stress and anger developing over long time periods.
TECHNIQUES TO COPE WITH IMMEDIATE STRESS AND ANGER
WALK AWAY FROM THE SOURCE OF ANGER – Staying near a source of stress and anger can add more stress and anger without our doing anything. The source might be a person, an object or a situation in any environment – home, workplace, social environment or on our daily travels. If at all possible, the best advice is to remove ourselves from this stress. This could mean excusing oneself from the situation, e.g. leaving the family dinner table and the room before growing too enraged. At work it could be that the report we have been typing for the past two hours is beginning to go wrong. Instead of struggling on while tired and adding to our stress by making more mistakes, we could have a break by walking out of the office, getting a coffee, or even simply sitting at the computer and having a quick look at the internet for a few minutes to relax ourselves.
CALM DOWN BY USING DEEP BREATHING – One of the signs of increased stress and anger is a quickening of the breath caused by increased heart-rate. Quick breathing is shallow breathing, which deprives the blood, and therefore the brain, of oxygen; our body responds with even quicker breaths, to try to increase the blood oxygen level, and the cycle continues. By breathing slowly and deeply we can break this cycle and allow ourselves to calm down. The way to do it is to take a long deep breath in through the nose, hold it for a second and then let a long deep breath out of the mouth over three or more seconds, repeating this several times. The time period will vary depending on how stressed we are and also on what time we have available. We might have only the journey in the lift on the way to meet somebody, perhaps twenty seconds. Or we might have 10-15 minutes to spare. It doesn’t matter: doing this even for a few seconds can take the edge off our anger and continuing for longer than that can greatly reduce our personal stress. We can even imagine ridding ourselves of the cause of our anger on the out breath – we can expel it.
IMAGINE A RELAXING EXPERIENCE WE HAVE HAD, OR SOMETHING CALMING – This technique can be used to great effect alongside the breathing technique discussed above. When we feel stressed, irritated, aware that our anger level is rising, imagining a situation in the past where we have felt relaxed can help us to relax in the present. Similarly, thinking about nothing at all can also be very effective. This sounds easy but is difficult to do in practice. Practice is the key to the successful use of both these techniques, and the results can be remarkably effective. Like many calming techniques they are most effective when practised in places where we are likely to be uninterrupted, for instance at our desk when the office is empty, sitting on the bus to and from work, trapped in a stationary car in a traffic jam or taking a walk alone. It can become like a daily meditation, and if we enter a situation in a calm frame of mind we are likely to remain calmer than if we start off tense. It goes without saying that this technique should not be used (or practised) when we require full concentration or when we are in an environment where we need to be alert.
The next techniques for calming us are long-term. By this I mean that they are ongoing practices we can use to limit stress and anger, preventing them from building up by doing certain things over a longer period of time.
MAKE SURE THAT WE GET REGULAR EXERCISE AND A HEALTHY BALANCED DIET – Regular exercise is not only essential for our physical health and wellbeing but also for our mental health. Exercise allows our brains to produce more dopamine (a natural stimulant) which lightens our mood and makes us feel happier. Taking regular exercise will help our general mood. Taking roughly 30 minutes of exercise – including walking at a fast pace – each day can reduce our stress and anger levels whilst making us healthier physically. Combine this with a healthy balanced diet and the results are even more impressive. It is beyond the remit of this article to advise on which foods to eat and in what quantities, and advice on healthy eating exists in many other places, but certain food additives are known to have a detrimental effect on our mood. It is well worth looking into this, as a healthy diet can have a marked positive impact upon our overall stress levels and our physical health.
TRY TO GET A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP – This probably sounds completely obvious but it needs to be stated. A good night’s sleep (6-9 hours for adults and around 9-10 hours for children) is recommended for general health. It reminds me of an old adage I once heard about sleeping times; ‘by nature 5, by custom 7, by laziness 9 and by wickedness 11’. Of course we are individuals and have our individual sleep needs. While it is not easy in our busy lives to get 8 hours each night, and even more difficult for teenage children to do so, all of us of whatever age need to get our recommended hours of sleep. Equally important is that we establish a regular sleeping pattern. By getting our full quota of sleep we will be more awake during the day, feel less tired and have improved concentration, all leading to less stress and anger.
TRY TO HAVE PERSONAL RELAXATION TIME EVERY DAY – Again, this is difficult to achieve within our busy daily schedules but taking even 20-30 minutes per day to do something we enjoy can help (a) to relax our mind and (b) to act as a stimulant, so we feel happier. At times we might feel we are simply too busy to take time out, we would be more productive doing other things. This might be true in the short term, but by not having this ‘switch-off’ time over a period of days we simply become more tired and less productive, leading to issues not properly resolved, chores left undone and therefore our stress increasing. This can easily lead to anger with ourselves, then expressed as anger towards others.
BE ORGANISED AND TRY NOT TO LET THINGS BUILD UP – This is my final piece of advice at this point. Being organised is the foundation of a relaxed life. Disorganisation – leaving bills unpaid, starting out for work too late, being late for appointments – leads to sudden unwanted stress and anger, damaging our health and having a dramatic negative impact on both personal and business relations. My best advice is to try to keep up to date with everything – paperwork, finances, appointments – by allowing enough time for these activities. Perhaps to avoid stress we need to leave the house 20 minutes earlier or dedicate a specific day every few months to organising our personal finances. Whatever the stressor, we can stay organised and combat life stresses and the anger which can result.
This has been very general advice which can be used in a wide variety of situations; a very few of the large number of techniques I have encountered over the years. I hope they will help you to make a start on the road to relaxation and an anger-free lifestyle. If you feel that you need some external help with issues raised by this argument, you can find out more on our website, www.AngerUK.org.uk , or by calling us on 0121 314 9903