Overreacting with anger doesn't help anyone. Not the driver you're swearing at. Not the intern you're reducing to tears. Not your kids who are watching you lose control. And most of all, not you.
Lashing out or hitting a pillow or punching bag helps you release tension through venting, but it also teaches you unhealthy behavior patterns that actually escalate tension.
It's not healthy for us to hold on to anger until it eats away at you like ants on crumbs. So instead, adopt healthy behavior patterns that will help reduce anger and anxiety as well as their associated health problems. (Anger has been shown to lead to a higher incidence of heart disease.)
If you're one of the 16 million Americans who have anger issues, try these techniques to make a change that we'll all be thankful for.
Do the opposite. Remember the Seinfeld episode when George turned his life around by doing the exact opposite of everything he thought he should do? Well, think of this as the Seinfeld approach to anger management, because, as it turns out, a good way to cope with anger is to do the opposite of what you feel like doing.
So the next time you feel like swearing at the guy who just cut you off, consider that maybe there's a reason he did so — like he just got a call that his wife is in labor or his mom tripped and fell and can't get up.
Remind yourself that few people are jerks on purpose.
Find your pattern. Keep a record — without censoring – of all the emotions you feel (and why) during the day. This will help you identify the core beliefs that are associated with your anger. Do you get angry at a lack of respect? Wasted time? Insults? Once you understand what sets you off, you'll be able to work on dealing with it.
Work it out. Somehow, you have to acknowledge your physiological response to anger. Telling yourself to stay calm is one of the worst things you can do (second only to being told to calm down) because, as a human being, you're programmed to act out when you feel threatened.
So act out in a way that doesn't burn bridges, or worse. Do push-ups, go for a walk, or try deep breathing.
Choose smart words. When anger's talking, steer clear of words like "never" or "always." Statements like "This machine never works!" or "You're always forgetting things!" not only are inaccurate but also make you feel that your anger is justified, because there's no way to solve the problem. These statements also alienate people who might otherwise work with you to find a solution.
Get real. Make sure you have realistic expectations. Don't blame yourself for things that are out of your control, and don't blame others for things that are out of their control.
Remember: increased and unmanaged stress is a trigger for anger, diabetes, and heart disease. Find a healthy way to deal with yours.
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