anger management

Anger Management: How to Keep Calm When You’re Triggered

You’re in traffic, and another driver cuts you off. Someone asks an innocent question, but it somehow leads to raised voices. A trivial annoyance sets off an angry outburst. These kinds of scenarios happen to everyone, and we all have our triggers and our moments when we feel ready to rip someone’s head off.

Anger is a normal human emotion. However, it can be problematic. If you’re prone to rage bursts, you’re probably aware of how they can affect your relationship with those around you. They can even go as far as ruining your career. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to keep calm even when you feel triggered.

Why Do We Get Angry?

The first step to learning how to manage your anger is understanding what it is and its causes. Anger is an intense emotion that involves a hostile response to a perceived provocation, threat, or harm. Usually, it’s triggered by a situation where a person feels mistreated, disrespected, deceived, invalidated, or experiencing an uncomfortable sensation of powerlessness.

Of course, triggers can differ from person to person because they’re based on your background. It helps keep an anger diary in which you take notes of moments when you felt angry throughout the day. It will make it easier to identify your triggers. If you’ve noticed that you’re more irritable than usual, know that sleep deprivation, stress, and anxiety can lead to more frequent anger outbursts. You may need to make some lifestyle changes, like getting enough sleep, exercising, and following a healthy diet. You’ll notice that you become more resilient and more in control of your emotions. Natural products like Organic CBD Nugs can also help you better cope with stress.

Anger is part of the fight-or-flight response, which triggers the same stress hormones as fear: cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. When a person gets angry, they will feel like their heart is beating faster. They clench their fists and jaws. Their face and neck feel hot, and they start to sweat. They may begin to shaking and may even get dizzy. This is all because of the body’s reaction to these hormones. Someone prone to frequent anger outbursts will start to have chronic health issues because they’re frequently flooded with these chemicals. They may develop insomnia, cardiovascular problems, digestive issues, and mental health conditions like depression.

On a psychological level, anger affects cognitive ability and perception. You can think of it as a red mist clouding your vision. This is essentially what it does to your thought processes. We react the way we do because we underestimate the consequences of our actions. Your focus becomes narrow, making it difficult to see the big picture.

Stop Yourself Before You React

Now that you know why you get angry and what happens to your body when you lose your temper, we can move on to what you can do once you feel the anger set in. You’ll be able to tell by your physical symptoms. Feeling like your heart is beating faster, your palms are sweaty, and you’re ready to attack. Then don’t. We’ll explain how in a minute, but let’s first cover the why. Since you know that anger triggers stress hormones that cloud your judgment, the logical conclusion is that you will be less likely to resolve whatever issues caused your reaction while you’re still enraged. Let’s say your boss said something that bothered you. You may be right in your perception. What he said was wrong, and anyone would have felt insulted.

But how many times have you heard someone tell this story: “I was at the office, and my boss said x. I could feel my blood boiling. I started yelling at him. It went great. He gave me a promotion.” Probably never. That’s the thing, you can be right about something, but the other person also thinks they’re right. You’re not going to succeed in getting them to see your point of view by yelling at them, or even worse, becoming physically violent. You’re either going to make them get angry as well so the fight will escalate, or you’re going to intimidate them and get them to back down, but they’ll still believe they were right and you were wrong.

So, the next time you feel like you’re getting angry, remove yourself from the situation if possible. Even going to the bathroom for a few minutes can help. If you can’t leave the situation, don’t try to sort out the issue right then and there. You can say you need to think about it, and you’ll give them an answer the following day or later.

If you can manage to remove yourself from the situation, breathing exercises will help. We know that this is a cliché, but it works. When you’re angry or anxious, the muscles that help you breathe tighten, and they make you breathe faster to increase oxygen flow to the muscles. All these reactions are linked to help you either run from the threat or attack it. If you start doing deep breathing exercises, it signals to your brain that the threat is gone, you can relax. Breathe in for four seconds, hold that breath in for another four seconds, and then breathe out for four seconds. You’ll notice you start to calm down within a few minutes.

Another trick you can use to reduce the intensity of your physiological response to threats is to keep something in your pocket that you can play with. It can be a pebble or a coin. Just something light, you can easily carry around with you. Let’s say you picked a coin. When you feel like you’re starting to get irritated, switch your focus on feeling the coin on your fingers – every little shape. Think about what side of the coin you’re touching. Move it from one pocket to the other. This works because it distracts your brain from the perceived threat.

For long term results, you can practice decreasing your sensitivity to your triggers. Use your anger diary to identify the most frequent ones. Then you have to commit 20 or 30 minutes a couple of times per week to this exercise. Lie down on a sofa and think about one of your triggers, a type of situation that usually gets on your nerves. When you start to get angry, switch your focus to breathing. Afterward, you can do progressive muscle relaxation starting from your feet. This has two benefits. One is that you will slowly increase your resilience to the trigger you visualize. Two is that you will get better at performing relaxation exercises, so you’ll eventually do them discreetly while in a stressful situation. That’s how you get a promotion. 

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