Anger is a natural and healthy emotion that everyone feels. However, it can also be overwhelming and difficult to cope with. It can feel particularly scary if you find yourself being caught off guard with unexpected anger or feeling that you are getting too angry.
So, what can you do when you find yourself feeling anger unexpectedly? Below are some strategies to help you keep your calm and respond appropriately.
1. Breathe and Get Some Space
As you feel the wave of emotions well up, stop and take a breath and then a few more. These deep breaths will allow you to slow your reaction and give you time to think. Also, giving yourself some space or physical distance between you and the other person will help calm your reaction.
2. Acknowledge Your Feelings
When you’re caught off guard with anger, you might start to feel defensive or emotional and not immediately know why. Pause for moment to assess your feelings. Acknowledge that you’re angry and look for the cause. Anger tends to be a protective emotion, so check to see if you, or someone you feel responsible for, is being attacked, criticized, or being treated unfairly.
3. Be Curious Instead of Furious
If you have difficulty controlling your anger, it can be all too easy to jump instantly into attack mode and unleash your anger. Instead try being curious. Consider why this person might be behaving this way, or saying these things. Try and brainstorm possible reasons, like could they have had a bad morning or heard some upsetting news?
4. It’s Not Personal
Remind yourself that this isn’t personal to you. Often, when people are behaving inappropriately or saying hurtful things, it’s because of things going on with them in their own lives. Practice reminding yourself that it’s not about you.
5. Use “I” Statements
Before responding, first consider if a response is necessary and helpful. Sometimes it’s best to just walk away. If you do need to say something, focus on the behavior you find unacceptable without placing blame. Talk specifically about your feelings and the effect of the behavior on you. I felt hurt when you commented on my parenting. By communicating without placing blame, you are more likely to be understood and work toward a resolution, rather than putting the other person on defense and starting a conflict.
If you’re still feeling upset after a difficult exchange, try calling a friend to talk it out, write your feelings down in a letter you’ll never send, or do some exercise to work off the adrenaline. You can also work through anger and other intense emotions with meditation.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by anger or emotions in general, there are many skills you can learn to help you manage them. Contact me today to schedule a consultation.