Ever have a situation that really makes you fume? I’m talking about the kind of thing that makes you go from irritated to furious in .25 seconds? When you feel as though you could literally start having a 2-year-old tantrum while clenching your fists and screaming at the top of your lungs out of pure frustration? If you’ve never felt this way, I applaud you, and would really like to know how you pull off that inner calm.
I may be a psychologist, but that doesn’t mean I’ve mastered emotional control 100 percent of each and every day. In fact, I used to fly off the handle quite a bit (As a teenager, I was known for being the master of foot-stomping when I was angry), but I’ve managed to rein it in over the years. And now, I am proud to say I manage to keep my cool more often than not (or at least I maintain a facade of calm, even if my insides are boiling). How, you may ask? With consistent practice of a few little secrets:
KNOW YOUR TRIGGERS
My trigger? When I start feeling agitated and someone says to me, “Just relax” or “Calm down” or worst of all, “Just take a deep breath.” Are you kidding me? TAKE A DEEP BREATH? I’m a psychologist, for crying out loud! I teach people how to take deep breaths for a living! Phrases such as these irritate me to no end because they invalidate my anger, making me feel as though my anger is wrong and I shouldn’t feel as I do. I know that’s not the intent, however, when someone says “take a deep breath.” That person is usually just trying to help because they care about me; he or she is not intentionally trying to make me feel worse. Being aware and mindful of this positive intent helps me keep it together.
DON’T REACT RIGHT AWAY
Sometimes you just need to feel angry. But this doesn’t give you a hall pass to yell and act like a fool. Emotions are never, ever wrong. But what we do in response to our emotions will sometimes get us into trouble or make the situation even worse. So yes, I want to feel angry sometimes. When I feel this way, I acknowledge it. I identify the emotion in my head and say to myself “I’m feeling ______ (agitated, irritated, frustrated, angry).” And then I sit with the emotion for a few seconds. And I do take a deep breath (yes, I know I’m a hypocrite). Not only does taking a deep breath help me to calm down just a little, but it also buys me some time to think about how I want to respond, rather than reacting impulsively on my emotion in the moment. More often than not, sitting with my emotion allows me to make a better choice.
CHECK THAT STRESS
As much as it pains me to admit, I’m a worrier. Worrying is sometimes useful when it motivates me to take action, but more often it’s pointless and just creates more stress. And if I’m stressed and worried, I’m much more likely to react impulsively when I’m angry and say or do something I’ll regret later. So I do my best to keep my worry in check. For me, it’s getting some exercise and practicing mindfulness. For others, it’s cooking, or knitting, or gardening, or tai chi… whatever it takes to calm that inner stress so that you can handle life’s little irritations with grace.
How do you handle feeling angry? Share your tips with Harmony At Home.