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I have been working through my anger for a long time. A LONG time. Angry at my parents, angry at my peers, angry at my bosses, angry at the world, and most of all, the systems that keep people marginalized/impoverished/down.
I had a tendency to react quickly and dramatically. At times, I would be in a full meltdown over a minor inconvenience, and if someone wronged me I would hold a grudge. I was angry at myself and at the life I lived. It just kept getting projected onto others.
So yeah- I know plenty about being angry, but I have learned so much about working through my anger, channeling my anger into something positive, and sometimes just letting things go.
Here are my top 5 alternatives to getting angry, brought to you by psychiatric medications, lots of therapy, and slow but steady self-growth.
1. Wait 24 hours, then react if you are still angry.
It’s important that you give yourself time before you react, especially in a serious situation. My standard is to wait 24 hours if I feel alright doing so, and if it still bothers me in 24 hours I will speak up. After 24 hours, I use my voice in a calm way to clearly state what I am angry about and what I would like done.
2. Find the root of your anger, and deal with that.
Anger is often simply anxiety in disguise. Not always, of course. Sometimes an individual’s action can anger you, or another direct scenario that led to an angry response.
Are you angry at the amount of traffic there is at rush hour, or are you upset at yourself for pressing snooze one too many times and running late?
Are you angry at your partner for not doing the dishes, or are you feeling overwhelmed about how much you have on your plate?
I believe that more often then not, anxiety manifests itself as anger as an “easy” coping mechanism. By deflecting an anxious situation by simply getting angry, you are denying yourself the opportunity to recognize your triggers and work through them.
3. Practice deep breathing.
The key to successfully utilizing calming breaths in situations when you are angry is to practice when you are not. Being able to turn to a healthy alternative to anger must be practiced and its unlikely that you will be able to adequately calm yourself down with deep breathing if you are in the middle of an angry episode.
Meditation, a sister of practicing controlled breath, is also a great option if you’re looking for something more intense. I’m a huge fan of guided meditations on Spotify or Headspace.
I underestimated the power of stress balls for the longest time, until a friend of mine got me one. I LOVE these ones from Amazon. Squeeze while you breathe in, release as you breathe out. I keep one in my office, one by my bed, and one in my bag! It’s a must have.
In through the nose, out through the mouth. Breathe.
4. Move your body.
It might be the last thing you want to do, but getting up and physically removing yourself from a situation that is causing you to be angry is an easy immediate solution. It could be as simple as going for a walk or as intense as going to an exercise class.
You know yourself best, and might need to try a few options until you figure out what works best for you to keep your cool.
5. Check in with yourself and see what you need.
9 times out of 10 I’m hangry, not actually angry. By pausing for a moment and seeing what you actually need, you can address that before and then see if the response is necessary. Have a drink of water, have a snack, take a quick walk, put on some music, talk to a friend.
Give yourself permission something that makes you feel just a little bit better in the next few moments. By tending to one or more of your needs, you’ll be able to get yourself in the right mindset to properly tune into yourself and figure out what you’re angry at and why- and most of all, if it’s worth being angry about.
6. Be angry. Let yourself feel how you feel, then let that sh*t go!
If you’re angry, you’re angry. Let yourself feel anger for a moment or two, but don’t hold onto it. Life is too short to be angry, and you won’t feel any better for staying angry. Very little is worth your anger, channel it into something better, make a change, or let it go!