Getting angry every so often is, in fact, a very healthy thing to do, while keeping it all pent up inside is not. These seven ideas will help you vent your vexations more constructively.
- Take a break. Anger lowers inhibitions and causes you to blurt out things you later regret. In the heat of the moment, do something to clear your head: slowly sip iced water, or lock yourself in the bathroom for five minutes of deep breathing. Clench and relax the muscles in your jaw, forehead and mouth. These actions will stop you — or at least slow you down — when you're about to say something rash.
- Let it out. Anger needs to be acted upon, not necessarily acted out. If you swallow your rage, it will eventually erupt and make you sick, and if you stay trapped in a "you made me angry because of what you did" mindset, you remain at the mercy of someone else. Either way, you become a victim — alone and suffering. Feel and express your anger by thumping a pillow or kicking a cardboard box 'til it's in shreds.
- Get physical. Vigorous exercise is a great way to discharge aggressive feelings, whether you go for a brisk walk, run, take up boxercise or belt a few balls at the golf range. As you run or move, visualise the anger streaming out of your heart and head with each exhalation. If you practise yoga, focus on back-bending poses like the Cobra or Bridge which, open your chest, boost circulation to the heart and facilitate fuller, deeper breathing.
- Make a noise. Crash saucepan lids together as long and hard as you like. Sing at the top of your voice, sigh, groan or scream alone in the car. Making any sort of noise releases frustration and helps your body relax by creating endorphins, those "feel-good" hormones in your brain.
- Appoint an anger buddy. Find someone trustworthy you can call or e-mail to blow off steam. Make a pact that you can confess and share your most intimate thoughts without feeling judged or having the other person attempt to explain away your feelings.
- Try the 'Heart Lock-in'. This technique was devised by doctors at the US Institute of HeartMath. Close your eyes and visualise your heart beating in your chest. Recall a feeling of love and tenderness you have for someone. Then gently send that feeling to yourself and imagine your heart absorbing it. If your mind wanders, return to the feelings in your heart.
- Redirect the anger. If someone has seriously compromised you, then focusing on justice, rather than forgiveness, may be more appropriate. We would not have organisations such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) if a parent hadn't taken her rage and turned it into a creative instrument for change. Your response to extreme anger could be volunteering or establishing a fundraiser for disadvantaged youth. That way, your anger creates a world that reflects your values.