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5 Tips for Managing Your Anger

Turn your destructive anger into a constructive force.

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Anger can be a powerful emotion. It can motivate people to proactively and assertively address a problem, but it can also be recklessly destructive. The direction your anger takes is up to you. To help you use its force in a positive way, consider these 5 tips for anger management:

Accept your situation. You don’t need to like your situation, but it can help tremendously to stop fighting against the reality of what’s going on. Then you can begin to work on a plan to deal with the problem. For instance, Tracey was angry with Judith, her best friend from childhood, for taking a job across the country, meaning they would probably rarely – if ever – see each other again.

Calm yourself. It is easy to get caught up in anger and allow it to spiral out of control. Instead, take a few mindful breaths or distract yourself for a little while. Do whatever works for you to soothe yourself. While nothing would exactly make Tracey feel calm, taking a hot bath and thinking back on the good times with Judith did help soothe her (though the memories felt bittersweet).

Gain perspective. Think about what caused the problem or what allows it to continue. If you are angry about someone’s action, try to understand their perspective. Although Tracey could only focus at first on feeling abandoned by Judith, she did eventually realize that Judith had a great job opportunity that would not make sense to give up. She also realized that as Judith’s initial excitement faded a bit, Judith also expressed how much she was going to miss Tracey.

Open your eyes to the danger of acting out your anger. With perspective, you are more likely to be able to see the problems that yelling or threatening or breaking something will cause. As Tracey struggled with her anger toward Judith, she was aware that expressing the nasty thoughts she was having would likely only drive Judith away – and they would also upset Judith when she should really be enjoying the moment.

Assert yourself. Use the power of your anger to set limits, maintain firm boundaries, and attain the goals you desire. After a few days of listening to Judith talk excitedly about her new job, Tracey calmly explained that she wanted Judith to be happy, but she also feared losing their friendship. This admission opened an in-depth conversation about how much they both meant to each other and about how they would maintain their connection long-distance.

Because anger can so overwhelm you and your ability to think, it can help to have guidelines like the tips above. Print them out. Read and reread them. Hold onto them to keep you from tumbling farther into the fire pit of anger, and to help you climb up onto cooler ground. From that calmer, safer place, choose to redirect the power of your anger toward assertively achieving constructive goals.

If you would like to learn more about this topic, check out this brief video:

Leslie Becker-Phelps, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice and is on the medical staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset in Somerville, NJ. She is the author of Insecure in Love and consultant psychologist for Love: The Art of Attraction. She is also a regular contributor for the WebMD blog Relationships and is the relationship expert on WebMD’s Relationships Message Board.

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Making Change blog posts are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional assistance.

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