We’ve all experienced it to one degree or another. Sometimes it can be expressed as a snippy remark, and, at other times, you would think that you are feeling the effects of a volcano erupting. But what am I talking about? I’m referring to anger.
I believe there are many days when you can work with your stronger emotions, not react impulsively or pausing for those few seconds it takes for your activated limbic system to calm back down.
Then there are those days when you may be feeling more reactive, more stressed, or over-activated. On those days, you may find yourself reacting to the slightest incident in a manner you don’t even recognize. This response can elicit such an emotional response that you can end up feeling exhausted, embarrassed, ashamed, guilty, and even regretful when the dust settles.
You will not be punished for your anger. You will be punished by your anger.” - Buddha
Many deem anger as a negative emotion, but anger, handled correctly, can be looked at as a very healthy way to convey how you feel about a situation or concern. First, consider what purpose your anger serves.
What is anger? As stated by The Mayo Clinic, “anger is a natural response to perceived threats. When threats are perceived, your body releases adrenaline, your muscles tighten, and your heart rate and blood pressure increase. Your senses might feel more acute, and your face and hands flush.” Anger can be triggered by feelings of being wronged, disrespected, or dismissed.
Anger left to its own devices can grow like the “Stay Puff monster” from the original Ghostbusters movie. It can take over your thoughts, slowly affecting your health, mental, emotional, and physical.
What can you do when you feel your anger rising? Here are a few suggestions for diffusing your emotions and helping you feel more at peace.
1. Rhythmic breathing – Rhythmic breathing is a breathing technique. Begin by counting your breath slowly in for a count of six. Then, hold that breath for a count of four and release the breath slowly for a count of six. Continue this breathing until you’re feeling calm.
2. Ground yourself – This can be done through figure-eight visualization. This exercise was created by AlexSandra Parness of Inner Focus Soul Directed Advanced Energy Healing School. Close your eyes. As you take your first breath, visualize the breath going up into the Universe. As you exhale, see the breath coming back down and through the back of your heart. On the next inhale, see the breath going through the back of your heart and out the front of your heart. Watch the breath going down into the center of the earth. On the exhalation, see that energy coming up from the center of the earth and coming around to the back of your heart. Keep this breathing going, visualizing the figure-eight. Don’t be surprised if you feel your feet getting warm. It is a sign that you are well-grounded.
3. I love the technique I call release by exertion. There are many ways to release your emotions by exerting yourself. For example, you can punch a pillow, hit a punching bag, etc. When you do this, I suggest visualizing the situation or person angering you and beating on that. However, myfavorite way to do this exercise is by taking a kids’ toy or Nerf bat and going to a soft surface like a sofa or mattress; visualize what you’re angry at and carefully begin to swing the bat, hitting the soft surface with all your might.* Within a few swings, your emotions and pain will start to surface. Don’t hold back. Let those emotions release. This will free you and your pain on so many levels.
Note: The bat is not to be used on a person or animal. This exercise is for soft and inanimate objects ONLY.
4. Remove yourself from the situation – If you find yourself triggered by an interaction with someone, or if you feel your anger rising during what can be perceived as the beginning of a confrontation, excuse yourself and leave the situation. Rejoin the person once you’ve calmed down and can communicate more healthily and calmly.
5. Sit on your hands – Of course, this can only happen if you’re in a seated position. Still, by sitting on your hands, you become more aware of what’s happening inside, giving you a chance to calm down your limbic system once again, allowing the “thinking part of your brain” to assess the situation and react less impulsively.
6. Find the humor in the situation – Laughter can diffuse a problem that’s heating up faster than you can say “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” In addition to diffusing the problem, finding the humor in the situation, or laughing at it is also healing and empowering. Laughing is contagious!
7. Journal – When doing what I refer to as an “Anger Journal,” I prefer to use a pad of paper rather than a journal, as I perform a burning ritual when I’m done, sending my emotions “up in smoke.” Journaling, or writing your feelings, has a very cathartic effect. This is the place where you can put down all your feelings about the situation and how it made you feel. My suggestion is to put it all down in an unfiltered, unedited, and judgment-free way. No one will see this but you, so be free and allow yourself to process all the thoughts, emotions, and feelings the incident created.
If you’d like to do the same, here’s how: I find a safe place like a Chiminea to be used outside. Then, as I put the sheets of paper inside, I say a releasing statement, such as, “As I burn these words, I release all of my anger and my attachment to the emotions, bringing to me peace, harmony, and balance.”
8. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Do you find yourself fretting and getting angry over minor inconveniences that you have no control over? If so, do you find that your peace and happiness are impacted by being unable to let these things go? To me, being unable to control situations that are out of your hands is like grabbing at running water. You’ll get frustrated relatively quickly, and all you end up with is a wet hand. Let go of the small stuff that will affect you mentally and physically and, most likely, put a wrinkle in what can otherwise be a great day. Focus on the positive things that you have in your life. You can choose your battles, so choose wisely.
9. Identify the source of your anger – Do you know when or what triggers your anger? Is there something you can do to change or control the environment that perpetuates these provocations? Is it someone you see all the time, like a family member or a co-worker, or is it someone you’ll never see again, like a store clerk or a random person in an elevator? It’s vital to be mindful of your emotions when dealing with people that you frequently see, for unless you end communications completely, there will be times when you’ll have to interact with them. For these situations, it’s best to be strategic in how you react to the circumstances or to them.
Stepping away to collect your thoughts or to make a concerted effort to control your reactions would be helpful to keep the situation from blowing up. If it’s a situation with someone you rarely or will never see again, I feel the same tactics are essential, from the position that you don’t want to make someone else feel bad, as you’ll feel worse for doing so. Suppose the relationship is unhealthy, and you’ve tried over and over in the past to rectify it. In that case, it’s essential to try to have a calm and honest conversation with the person and share with that individual how the situation made you feel and the impact it has had in your life. If after you’ve made all the attempts to attain a peaceful relationship and it continues, then you must determine the value of having this person in your life. If, after this consideration, the situation doesn’t shift for the better, you may have to face the situation head-on or possibly let it go.
10. The ninety-second breath - When something happens, and you find your anger meter rise, a chemical reaction releases into your body. Those chemicals last about six seconds, but the emotions can last as long as ninety seconds. I’ve learned that slowly breathing through a situation for ninety seconds will allow you the space you need for that emotion to dissipate. By the end of the ninety seconds, you should be feeling calmer, more in control, and empowered. If, for whatever reason, you’re still feeling it, repeat the ninety-second breath.
11. Find a friend with big shoulders – There are times where you might find yourself in need of someone to talk to. Find a friend or mental health professional to help you sort out your feelings, help you resolve your situation, or guide you to find ways to help yourself in a healthy and empowering way.
As I mentioned above, hanging on to your anger and resentments can harm your health. The recommendations noted above are a few decisive first steps to learn how to deal with the triggers and the anger that, if not addressed, will have a strong negative impact on your life and can keep you stuck dealing with negative emotions.
By mastering these steps, you will not only feel more peace in your life, but you will bring more joy and happiness into it.