Yesterday, I had a great morning teaching barre and came home by the afternoon to blog and test recipes. I had a great meeting and then in the evening, I got into the most uncomfortable phone conversation about a lost check (two consecutive lost mails from the same sender, to be exact). As I got off the phone, I felt something catch in my throat, my breath shorten, and my cheeks turn red and hot–and thought suddenly, ‘Woah, angry!’ And it was a surprise not because I never get angry, but because I’d forgotten what it’s like to have to check my anger.
Let me explain. When I worked in a very corporate setting, I had plen-ty of chances to experience anger and learn to manage it. I mastered the art of folding my anger up like origami and tucking in deep inside, and putting a big fake smile on my face. It actually felt like revenge to show only the inauthentic me to toxic people, like saying ‘you can’t hurt me, because this isn’t the real me.’
Over the years this skill of controlling my anger became useful in many toxic situations, but eventually this catches up to you. Chronic anger, hidden away, can express itself uncontrollably in other areas of life. I was never smiling when I saw my boyfriend at the end of the work day, even while feeling guilty that he always had to see me so unhappy, cranky and exhausted. Getting up in the morning felt like hell, physically and emotionally.
When I began working on Peaceful Dumpling, this bottled up feeling dissipated and I felt so much freer. Most of the time I have the privilege of feeling authentically, which is the greatest change. People always assume that my life must be pretty low-stress because I make my own schedule, work at a charming cafe or my cozy apartment, and spend all my time teaching fitness or writing about wellness or making delicious things in the middle of the day– and yes, it is pretty nice. 😀 But even so, my life isn’t free from anger: cruel or insensitive comments; any sort of uncontrollable website issues; the general crazies of NYC life (think lines at Whole Foods, you know?); feeling less-than, etc etc.
No matter what you do for a living, wherever you live–the truth is that we all encounter negative situations. The key isn’t just to keep hiding your emotions or explode at every trigger, but to deal with anger in a conscious way. Here are my tips on how to deal with anger.
1. Take a step back from the immediate situation and assess your true level of well-being.
Often, your anger isn’t just a reaction to the situation at hand, but resulting from your low level of nourishment. Have you slept well? Are you overly hungry or tired? For instance, even before I got on the phone yesterday, I was physically and mentally exhausted from a long day/week, and not eating anything until 3 and then eating a lot all at once. The phone call triggered a reaction but I was already feeling mixed up due to sheer fatigue. Acknowledging this makes it easier to minimize the anger…and lets me know it’s time to relax and nourish myself.
2. Identify what the anger is really about.
Your significant other is late to your dinner date–again. He says something about difficulty getting off work. You explode: “Why are you always late to meet me? You’re so flaky, rude, and selfish!” Is this really about waiting 20 minutes at the restaurant? Or perhaps about feeling like he doesn’t put you first, or care about you that much? When you identify the true source of anger, you realize it’s easier to dispel: in this case, you remember that he does prioritize you and tries hard to please you.
Sometimes though, identifying the true source of anger will reveal a deeper and more serious problem. In this case, use your anger as a sensor that picked up a deeper, subconscious layer–but cool down enough to make a calm decision. Are you really okay with this? If not, how will you change it so that you don’t fall into same situation again?
3. Don’t let anger affect the rest of your day/life.
So you had legitimate reason to be angry. But don’t let it then consume your being and color the rest of your day, too. One way to do this is to acknowledge the good things and the bad things that happened that day. Even though you might feel like anger is all you felt that day, chances are you had plenty of positive, even wonderful moments throughout the day.
4. Inhale the positive, exhale the negative.
Sometimes you truly feel truly powerless and angry–and without a recourse. If you can’t reach a friend, a yoga mat, or a
glass of wine healthy green smoothie, what do you do? Just take a 5-minute break to breathe deeply, imagining that you’re exhaling all the negativity out, and breathing in positivity. Let go of thinking actively and just focus on your breath; a mantra or an image might help you tune into yourself.
5. Have empathy.
As difficult as it is, try to have empathy for the source of your anger (presumably a person in this case). What would make this person act this way? What might it be like, being in his shoes? It’s very difficult to feel empathy and anger at the same time.
6. Give yourself the freedom to feel–but set a limit.
Go ahead and feel angry. Suppressing it or rationalizing with yourself is ultimately just as unhealthy as unchecked, explosive anger. Vent to your friends, listen to your “angry playlist,” give yourself free time to do whatever you need to do. But when you come out of your metaphorical angry zone, leave your anger behind.
What are your tips on dealing with anger? And what usually sets it off? Go ahead and vent! 🙂
Related: How to Release Your Triggers
Photo: lauren rushing via Flickr