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Column: Keeping your anger in check

by Alexandra Weaver - Lifestyles Editor
Tue, Oct 3rd 2017 05:00 pm
Photo courtesy of Pixar's Official Instagram
Make sure to feel your feelings, as it's unhealthy to suppress them completely, but also make sure to do so in a constructive way. Mishandled anger can be very damaging to those around you.
Photo courtesy of Pixar's Official Instagram Make sure to feel your feelings, as it's unhealthy to suppress them completely, but also make sure to do so in a constructive way. Mishandled anger can be very damaging to those around you.

Emotions play a crucial part in our mental and physical well-being. Therefore, an integral part of self-care is learning how to manage your emotions effectively. 

To be absolutely clear: managing your emotions is not the same thing as bottling them up. Managing your emotions means letting them out in a constructive way that isn’t hurtful to yourself or others; it means that you allow yourself to feel what you need to feel and to move on; it means acknowledging your feelings, why you feel that way and making yourself feel better. 

Let me reiterate one last time just to drive home the importance of the issue: managing your emotions is not the same thing as bottling them up. If you bottle them up, you will explode. Emotional explosions can be just as messy as literal explosions, and there can definitely be “casualties” in the form of people that you lash out on and hurt when something tiny causes you to let loose every bottled up emotion you’ve been holding on to since your last explosion. 

Every emotion requires slightly different types of management. Anger is usually what triggers explosions, and is generally the emotion that people have the hardest time controlling. I’m going to provide some common tactics for managing regular levels of anger. While these tactics work for people who do not have severe difficulties controlling their anger, those who do should seek professional help. 

The American Psychological Association suggests six basic strategies for controlling anger. The first is relaxation. Relaxation can take many forms, and depending on how stressful a situation is, you may need stronger levels of relaxation. Deep breathing is a good starting place. 

Really focus on breathing in and breathing out. Some people find it helpful to count as they breathe in and count as they breathe out, especially if they’re struggling with cyclical thoughts. Using a calming mantra or calming imagery can also help. My mother personally likes to imagine people who are annoying her as puppets that she can hit with a whack-a-mole style mallet. 

The second is cognitive restructuring. This means consciously choosing to change the way you are thinking. Avoid using absolutes like “never” or “always.” Mayo Clinic also suggests using “I” statements rather than “you” statements. An example would be saying “I feel very frustrated with this situation and it’s making me angry,” instead of something like “You’re making me mad.” “I” statements focus on your own needs and feelings whereas “you” statements can come off as accusatory and make the person you’re talking to angry, which is not useful when you’re angry as well. You can also try to stay logical and focus on finding a solution to the problem rather than getting so wrapped up in anger that it makes the situation worse. 

The third tactic is to try to remember that some problems don’t have a solution. Some truly don’t have a solution, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In those cases, try to focus on how you can make yourself feel better in order to have constructive thoughts. 

The fourth tactic is to use good communication skills, especially listening skills. Sometimes it’s hard to listen when you’re angry, but it’s important to do it because not listening can cause miscommunications, which only makes the situation worse. Listen to what is being said to you, and take a few moments to think about what you want to say before you say it. When you’re angry, the first thing you want to say is usually pretty hurtful, and it’s usually not what you really mean anyway. Make sure you are addressing the real issues behind the situation and communicating them clearly with “I” statements. 

The fifth tactic is humor. That’s not to say that you should completely laugh things off, but you can take a step back and laugh at the situation, even if it does make you feel angry. Laughing at a situation can make it feel much less frustrating. 

The sixth tactic is a change in environment. Sometimes a change of scene can make you feel much better. It’s not always possible, but if you can take a break, you should. 

Managing your anger is a necessary life skill and it can make life easier and less dramatic. Anger management is not always easy, but it’s worth it because it makes your own life and the lives of those around you easier. 

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