Think about the last time you were upset about something. Maybe it was when something didn’t go right. Perhaps it was when another person said something that hurt you. Or maybe it was when you cleaned up the spilled cereal for the fourth time this week.
It’s natural to feel upset and angry in situations like these. Sometimes you can work through it easily. But what happens when you’re upset and you need help calming down?
There are simple things you can do to manage your anger. From ways to change your outlook to simply interrupting the emotion in your mind and body, you can overcome and find freedom when you struggle with anger. Let’s start by understanding anger.
What is anger, really?
We often think we know and understand general feelings like anger, but the reality is that feelings are complex. Anger often results from feeling like someone has wronged you or something didn’t work out the way you thought it would. It can also be the result of feeling threatened by what was otherwise a safe situation. Even the idea of being disturbed by a peaceful state can bring up anger.
Anger can show up in other feelings like frustration, irritability, and stress. Sometimes people even experience a sense of hostility or physical tension toward the person or situation involved. These feelings are completely natural responses to difficult situations.
When people feel anger or any of the related emotions, it can be hard to know what to do. There is often a sense of shame associated with anger because we think anger is a bad emotion.
Anger in and of itself, however, is not bad. It is simply a feeling. The way we respond or get stuck in angry patterns can lead to bad choices. Instead of heading down that path, you can find ways to manage your anger and calm down when you are upset.
How does anger feel?
There are a variety of ways in which we feel anger within our bodies. Sometimes it can feel like you are tense as if every muscle in your body is tightened and electric. Other times it can feel low and simmering as if it is background noise to everything you do. It can feel intense like a sharp explosion or it can feel seething like a tightness in your lips. The possibilities truly are endless.
The thing all responses to anger have in common is that they are very real. Whether you experience the need to shout or physical pain, every response to anger is real when it happens. The body has a physiological response to anger as the parasympathetic nervous system responds. That is the part of your nervous system that controls bodily functions. Sometimes you need ways to help it stop.
4 ways to calm down when you’re angry.
These four strategies can help you manage whatever type of anger you have so you feel calmer in hard situations.
Use movement to manage anger.
Physical activity is a great way to help manage anger. Not only does exercise help provide a physical release and often a much-needed change of scenery or time to yourself, but it works in your brain to help you. When you move your body or exercise you can lower your blood pressure. Also, endorphins are released creating a feeling of calm and contentment.
Using movement to help manage your anger doesn’t need to mean a complicated workout regimen. Even a single experience can help you. If anger is a chronic struggle for you, regular exercise can help you manage your anger over time.
Some ideas for movement include walking, dancing, hiking, swimming, manual labor, gardening, cycling, climbing, and stretching. Anything you can do to move your body can help you reduce your feelings of anger and increase the feel-good endorphins your body needs to help you calm down.
Try cold water to stop angry feelings.
Washing your face with cold water may not sound like much, especially when you want to overcome angry feelings. However, the cold water can shock your system which interrupts what is happening in your parasympathetic nervous system when you are angry.
Using cold water to wash your face signals the body to stop the fight or flight mode that is often activated in times of anger or stress. The cold water provides an interruption to the spiral of angry feelings, calming the body and allowing your feelings to calm as well.
If you don’t want to wash your face with cold water you can try washing your hands with cold water. However, if you’re feeling particularly in need of a reset, taking a cool shower or a plunge into a cold pool can have a profound impact.
Change your breathing to calm down.
The last thing you want to hear when you’re angry is to take a deep breath. The problem is that those deep breaths can help. When you feel angry, you often breathe more shallow, fast breaths.
This results in accelerating that fight or flight mode so you’re equipped to handle the situation at hand. That would be fine if you were running from a pack of lions. However, if you want to calm down those shallow fast breaths won’t help you.
When you use deep breathing exercises, it forces your body to slow down. Deeper breathing requires concentration on something other than what is making you angry and gives your body more oxygen to calm down. It also helps lower your blood pressure and helps your brain register feelings of safety and calm.
There are a variety of deep breathing exercises you can try. Some favorites are box breathing, belly breathing, and straw breathing. Even simply choosing to slow down and breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth can help.
Try physical touch to stop feeling angry.
Sometimes the last thing you want when you are angry is to be touched. Whether it’s a hug, a pat on the arm, or a cuddle, the idea of physical touch can feel impossible when you are upset. However, there are great reasons to give it a try.
There is scientific evidence that physical touch can improve your mood. When you experience safe physical touch, you have increased levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain.
These two neurotransmitters work to relieve stress and anxiety as well as help regulate your mood in general. While it may not seem like much, a simple hug or sitting close to someone you trust goes a long way in shifting your body from feeling anger to feeling peace and calm.
Why you should try these ways to calm down.
You don’t need to rid your life of anger. For most people, that would be an impossible feat. Instead, when you feel angry, it helps to find strategies that will help you manage your anger so you are not so upset. Using management techniques like these helps prevent you from acting out in ways you want to avoid.
Imagine feeling angry and not being overtaken by that feeling. Instead of lashing out and hurting people you love, you could use these ideas to calm down and work through your anger with a clear head. These tips won’t change everything, but they can help. And when you feel big feelings, especially anger, finding things that help you feel better is a welcome change.
As you read through these four strategies, consider one or two that you want to try the next time you feel the need to calm down. When you are intentional about working on your feelings, you can discover a more peaceful way to handle them.
We are always here to help you with these and other ways to manage your anger. Simply reach out today to schedule an appointment with me or another one of the trained counselors at our office. We’re ready to help you.
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