Waiting in long lines, dealing with snide remarks from co-workers, driving through endless traffic — it can all become a bit much. While feeling angry by these daily annoyances is a normal response to stress, spending all your time being upset can become destructive.
It’s no secret that letting anger simmer or having rage outbursts hurts your personal and professional relationships. But it also impacts your well-being. Constantly bottling up our frustration can lead to physical and emotional reactions, including like high blood pressure and anxiety.
The good news is that you can learn to manage and channel your anger constructively. One 2010 study found that being able to express your anger in a healthy way can even make you less likely to develop heart disease.
In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to overlook your breathing. But that kind of shallow breathing you do when you’re angry keeps you in fight-or-flight mode.
To combat this, try taking slow, controlled breaths you inhale from your belly rather than your chest. This allows your body to instantly calm itself.
You can also keep this breathing exercise in your back pocket:
- Find a chair or place where you can comfortably sit, allowing your neck and shoulders to fully relax.
- Breathe deeply through your nose, and pay attention to your tummy rising.
- Exhale through your mouth.
- Try doing this exercise 3 times a day for 5 to 10 minutes or as needed.
Repeating a calming phrase can make it easier to express difficult emotions, including anger and frustration.
Try slowly repeating, “Take it easy,” or “Everything’s going to be okay,” the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by a situation. You can do this out loud if you want, but you can also say it under your breath or in your head.
You can also keep a list of phrases on your phone for a quick reminder before a stressful work presentation or challenging meeting.
Finding your happy place in the midst of a flight delay or work setback can help you feel more relaxed in the moment.
When wrestling with boiling tension, try painting a mental picture to calm your body and brain:
- Think of a real or imaginary place that makes you feel happy, peaceful, and safe. This can be that camping trip to the mountains you took last year or an exotic beach you’d like to visit someday.
- Focus on the sensory details by envisioning yourself there. What are the smells, sights, and sounds?
- Be aware of your breathing and keep this image in your mind until you feel your anxiety start to lift.
Sometimes, sitting still can make you feel even more anxious or on edge. Mindfully moving your body with yoga and other calming exercises can release tension in your muscles.
The next time you’re confronted by a stressful situation, try taking a walk or even doing some light dancing to keep your mind off the stress.
Moments of high stress can warp your perception of reality, making you feel like the world is out to get you. The next time you feel anger bubbling up, try to check your perspective.
Everyone has bad days from time to time, and tomorrow will be a fresh start.
Angry outbursts won’t do you any favors, but that doesn’t mean you can’t vent your frustrations to a trusted friend or family member after a particularly bad day. Plus, allowing yourself space to express some of your anger prevents it from bubbling up inside.
Finding the humor in a heated moment can help you keep a balanced perspective. This doesn’t mean you should simply laugh off your problems, but looking at them in a more lighthearted way can help.
The next time you feel your rage bubbling up, imagine how this scenario might look to an outsider? How might this be funny to them?
By not taking yourself too seriously, you’ll have more chances to see how unimportant minor annoyances are in the big scheme of things.
Give yourself a break by taking some personal time from your immediate surroundings.
If your home is cluttered and stressing you out, for example, take a drive or a long walk. You’ll likely find that you’re better equipped to sort through the mess when you return.
If your daily commute turns you into ball of rage and frustration, try finding an alternative route or leaving earlier for work. Got a loud co-worker who constantly taps their foot? Look into some noise-cancelling headphones.
The idea is to pinpoint and understand the things that trigger your anger. Once you’re more aware of what they are, you can take steps to avoid falling prey to them.
If you aren’t sure where your anger is coming from, try to remind yourself to take a moment the next time you feel angry. Use this time to take stock of what happened in the moments leading up to your feelings of anger. Were you with a particular person? What were you doing? How were you feelings leading up to that moment?
While dwelling on your day’s misfortunes can seem like the natural thing to do, it won’t help you in the short or long term.
Instead, try refocusing on the things that went well. If you can’t find the silver lining in the day, you can also try thinking how things might’ve gone even worse.
It’s totally normal and healthy to feel upset an angry from time to time. But if you can’t shake a bad mood or constantly feel overwhelmed by anger, it might be time to ask for help.
If your anger is impacting your relationships and well-being, talking with a qualified therapist can help you work through the sources of your anger and help you develop better coping tools.
Cindy Lamothe is a freelance journalist based in Guatemala. She writes often about the intersections between health, wellness, and the science of human behavior. She’s written for The Atlantic, New York Magazine, Teen Vogue, Quartz, The Washington Post, and many more. Find her at cindylamothe.com.