Anger is a state of mind that prevents us from thinking clearly. When people are angry, they do and say things they regret later on. Anger is an emotional state that brings hostility with it.
I once saw a quote that says that anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. That helped me rethink my own anger. The problem with anger is the side effect of what we do when we are angry, so this post tells you what not to do when you are angry.
The secret to anger management is preparing in advance. If you pay attention and avoid the things listed below, you will be in a better place.
Do not vent!
As helpful as we think that venting is, research shows that listening to ourselves telling our own anger story makes us re-live the negative experience again and does not make us feel better afterwards.
The solution is to use the “One-minute story” rule. Share the story quickly and stop telling it before your mind notices and uses it to reinforce the annoying experience.
Do not drive or operate heavy or dangerous machinery
Anger clutters our thinking. When we are angry, we are dominated by our primitive brain, locked into “fight or flight”, and we cannot pay attention to the details on the road.
It is better to stop the car, put down any dangerous tool, close your eyes for a while, take deep breaths, wash your face and drink some water.
Do not try to sort out conflict before bedtime
Some people avoid arguing in front of the kids and take the arguments to bed, to be done behind closed doors. Research shows that going to sleep angry only increases the feeling of anger and reduces the quality of sleep. Since sleep is very important for proper functioning, bad sleep actually contributes to being angry later on.
It is better to keep those arguments away from bedtime. If you need privacy, go for a drive and even park at a place with few or no people, and do this early enough to have some relaxing time together before going to bed.
Do not comfort yourself with food
Food is a very tempting way to comfort ourselves when we are angry and frustrated. We got this from our first years of life. We cried and our mother gave us food. Again, in anger we use our primitive brain, so we don’t choose healthy food but comfort food, with lots of sugar and little nutrition.
One way to avoid this is by stocking on healthy food and not having junk food within reach. Another is to get used to asking ourselves “Why am I eating this?” If the answer is “To feel better”, stop and relax in some other way.
Do not comfort yourself with alcohol
Much like food, alcohol helps people sort out their pain and anger, or at least that’s what they think. Research shows that alcohol prevents people from being able to control their temper, makes them more impulsive and in some cases, even makes the feeling seem stronger and last longer.
Again, keep alcohol out of reach and monitor your reason for drinking. Remember that once you start to drink, the alcohol will take control, so not starting is the easiest way.
Do not keep arguing in anger
When we are angry, we do not think properly. Anger always comes when we are upset at something that is not happening the way we expect or want. The problem is that being angry does not make it happen the way we expect or want. On the contrary, when other people are involved, each person sticks to their own position and defends it more strongly.
So when you’re angry, make sure your mouth is shut and nothing comes out of it. It is better to take time away from each other and come back to the discussion later on, when you are more relaxed.
Do not over-think things
Some people try to manage anger with over-thinking. Research shows that obsessing about the situation only makes people relive it and get into a loop of feeling like victims.
Find strategies for letting go that divert your attention to something else, like meditation or watching comedy.
Do not look for someone to blame
Blaming does not make the anger disappear. It only seems to take a bit of load off your back. The blame game is not a fun game to play and it only makes you angrier.
In any conflict, there is not one person who is to blame and the other who is the victim. Communication is like Tango – it takes two people. Once you look at it this way and open up to the other person’s perspective, possible solutions will appear that will help you both relax.
Do not send email or SMS in anger
Writing our anger is a good strategy to ease the feeling and process the situation. However, sending our writing to other people might not be wise. When we write and the other person is not next to us to talk back, we feel more free to express whatever we want without filters. If we send unfiltered text in anger, we might regret it. It is much harder to say, “I never said that”, when there is clear evidence.
Write down your feelings, breathe deeply, wait a few minutes and then decide if you want to share your thoughts with the other person in writing. If you do, rethink and rewrite everything with the aim to resolve the conflict.
Do not gossip in anger
Gossip is not healthy. We gossip about people who are not present with people that might in the future use this information against us. When we are angry, we sometimes feel that we are strong and nothing can hurt us, but in fact, many things can hurt us. It is better not to gossip on people we are angry with other people if we don’t want it to come back to bite us.
If you need to share how you feel, find a safe person, like your partner or your best friend, and keep your story under one minute.
Don’t make big money decisions when angry
When we are angry, we don’t think clearly. Our body goes into “fight or flight” mode and our judgment is cluttered. When making money decisions, we need to be able to think long term and take many things into consideration, which we can’t do when we are.
Give yourself time to relax first. If you need anger management regularly, it may be best to require another person when you make money decisions, e.g. by setting up joint ownership of accounts and assets with your partner and requiring both signatures to make changes.
Don’t burn bridges
When happens and we are angry with work colleagues or with friends, it is very tempting to want to stop any connection with the people we believe hurt us. When we are angry, we are not thinking clear. Never ever burn bridges. All the people you meet in your life are your network, and you never know when you’ll need them.
Put some distance between you and the other person, wait until you calm down (use any of the methods above) and then decide what to do.
Do not use violence
No one who uses violence ever wants to do it consciously. When we are overwhelmed by our primitive brain, we think we are under threat and attacking is a very natural reaction. This works well … in the jungle!
If you feel you are so angry you could hurt someone, remove yourself from the situation for as long as is needed until you are calm again.
It is best for your anger management to work on how not to get angry, but first, learn what not to when you are angry, so that things don’t get out of control and you find yourself in trouble.
This post is part of the series Anger Management: