It’s totally human to get angry but it’s how we deal with it that’s important. To mark Anger Awareness Week, which starts today, life coach Karen Campbell shares some top tips on managing the rage.
When we feel deceived, unfairly treated, attacked or threatened, this evokes feelings of anger and we can, and do, lash out verbally, and physically.
Our personal levels of anger, and what/how much it takes to trigger it, stem from a number of things, including past experiences, upbringing and our current life’s level of happiness. When life is not going as it should, emotions are heightened, fears are irrational and a person’s fuse can be shorter, leading us to react in a more angry or aggressive way to people and situations.
Most of us recognise anger, how it feels and can contain it – or just have a very British mutter under our breath and the occasional irrational thought.
I popped to the post office yesterday to pick up my Christmas shopping ordered from John Lewis (all six boxes of it). While I waited, I munched on a sandwich – much to the annoyance of an old codger behind me who tutted disapprovingly.
I questioned him and he explained that my “disgustingly smelly sandwich” was bothering him (it was chicken salad – I mean, come on). I apologised as well as politely explained that I have every right to eat a sandwich.
As my six boxes and I were waiting for our Uber outside, said grumpy old sod decided to tell me to “get out of the way” and that I just needed to “fuck off.” Charming. On the surface I laughed it off but inside I wanted to extract the heaviest item from my six boxes (a rather lovely Liz Earle box set), run after him and lamp him with it.
“Red, hot, sweaty, heart beating faster, fists clenching? These are all signs of anger and the sooner you recognise them, the sooner you have a choice to dilute the situation by either walking away or altering the focus.”
But of course I didn’t. Because he’s an old man who is that angry for a reason and I should just feel sorry for him. And I probably would have been arrested, which isn’t ideal. My point here is that all of us can get angry and that’s perfectly natural, but it’s when that anger turns destructive and out of control that it needs addressing and dealing with.
Anger that is not controlled can lead to extremely destructive lives, not only for those expressing the anger but also for those on the receiving end. It is like a giant whirlwind, causing chaos, stress and negativity to all those that get in its way. Yet recognise it, manage it and you can control anger rather than the other way round.
Count to 10
Yeah, yeah, it’s an age-old cliche but it works. We can’t feel anger and empathy simultaneously so just give it a minute. It you still want to tell someone to go fuck themselves after 10 seconds then go ahead, but nine times out of 10 you won’t. As a result you will feel better for not having reacted and you will have not generated a reaction. Win/win.
Try to be empathetic
As annoying it as it is when someone is not behaving as you would like, whether that be plain rudeness or a lack of consideration/general awareness, try to empathise as much as possible. As the old saying goes, most of us are fighting battles that no one knows about so try to cut people a bit of slack as much as possible and ask yourself whether it’s really worth getting angry about.
Being angry is emotionally and physically draining. Is it really worth getting yourself het up about Barry at work who never empties the recycling? Probably not. Anger is a powerful negative energy which can make you feel somewhat demeaned (while Barry remains utterly oblivious to his role in it).
Talk it out
If something is really grinding your gears with someone try to sit down and talk to them about it rationally and kindly. Explaining that the certain thing they do makes you feel a certain way in this manner rather than yelling at them will get a more positive reaction, trust me. Always think how you would like to be spoken to if the shoe was on the other foot.
Know your triggers
Do you have certain things that always make you angry? That irrationally make your blood boil? Mine is fidgeting. I cannot bloody stand it and I know for a fact that if I get sat next to someone who is picking their nails or constantly scratching their beard my stress levels are going to go through the roof. So I avoid it as much as I can. Know what makes you angry, recognise it, avoid. Why put yourself through it?
Recognise the physical signs
Red, hot, sweaty, heart beating faster, fists clenching? These are all signs of anger and the sooner you recognise them, the sooner you have a choice to dilute the situation by either walking away or altering the focus. Sing a song in your head or count the tiles on the wall: find a distraction wherever you can.
Be mindful of your breathing
If you feel yourself getting angry, try to focus on slowing your breathing down and inhaling for 10 seconds, then out for another 10. This slowing down really does help as it puts you back in control. Rather than being reactive you can be proactive, which can be the difference between losing your rag or making a rational decision on your feelings.
Look at your lifestyle
Are you looking after yourself enough? Lack of exercise and sleep are huge where anger is concerned and tweaking these elements of your life will help keep irrational anger at bay. Also look at your diet, routines and all-round happiness and ask if you’re putting yourself and your needs first. If you’re not, it’s time to.
Give yourself a break
You are very important and need fuelling and resting. Make sure you reward yourself with treats, make sure you rest enough and get a change of scenery when you can, and if you fuck up, don’t be too hard on yourself because, you know what, we all do.
Try to resolve issues
Where it’s possible, when there are any unresolved issues or conflict in your life that causes you stress, try to resolve them. Life is short and some issues simply aren’t worth the negative energy that surrounds them. Where possible rectify, dust off and move on.
Pick up some more of Karen’s tips for winning at life here.
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Karen Campbell is a life coach at www.your-dreamcatcher.com. She likes gin, James McAvoy and pretending she's not from Scunthorpe.