Anger can be addictive, and it’s something that I’ve struggled with since childhood. I’ve shared many stories of my violent past, including participation in gangs, road rage incidents, and even domestic disputes. But over the last few years, I’ve worked diligently with my therapist to harness this rage that can simmer inside me. It’ll always be there, but the good news is I have learned to control it—and you can, too.
Once you’ve recognized that you have a problem with anger, and decided that you want to do something about it, you’ll need a reliable collection of tools and tricks to control your impulses. The more you use them, the stronger and more effective these tools will be. Here are a few things that have helped me.
- Take a deep breath. That’s right—the simple act of breathing deeply for a few moments will help release some tension from your body and force you to think about what you’re about to do. When you feel an outburst coming on, tell yourself to take three deep breaths and then reassess the situation.
- Understand your anger. Getting to the bottom of your angry impulses is a big step toward managing them. Not only will you have a better understanding of why you react the way you do—for me, it was a learned behavior from my father—but you can also learn what sets you off, and how to avoid those triggers that challenge you the most. If you’re struggling with this, a good therapist can help you analyze the roots of your issues and offer personalized tips for dealing with them.
- Step away. When I’m really angry, I have to physically detach myself from a conflict in order to calm down. I have a 48-hour rule that I use especially in touchy business transactions, and it always helps me to see things in a new light and handle them with levity—and in a way I won’t regret the next day.
- Get moving. Take a walk, go for a run, or do some yoga. Do whatever you need to do to create a physical escape from the situation, and use that time and separation to calm down. But don’t take your aggression out on a punching bag—studies have shown that may just increase your hostility.
When it comes to our personalities, some of us are simply more “stormy” than others—but that doesn’t mean we have to live our lives punctuated by chaos and conflict. Start by believing you can overcome your anger, then use these simple tools to replace it with something more positive.