About eight percent of Americans report having inappropriate, intense, or poorly controlled anger. If this sounds like you, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, but it may be a good idea to try and get your anger under control. Here are a few methods that may help you to manage your anger.

Analyze Your Anger

One of the first steps involves taking a hard look at all the facets of your anger to get a real understanding of it. Only then can you really begin to manage or prevent outbursts. An important avenue to explore is to find what triggers your anger. Is it a specific person or subject? Does your favorite sports team losing put you in a bad mood the rest of the day, or when you’re stressed, or do you find you have a hair trigger and snap at people over small things?

You should also be cognizant of the signs that indicate you’re losing your temper. There are many physical and emotional signs that that let you know when you may be getting angry, so it’s important to find the ones that are true for you. That may be raising your voice, feeling hot, or racing thoughts. By knowing both the potential triggers and signs of your anger, you can begin to find methods to control your temper.

Practice Relaxation and Meditation

Stress is a common trigger for anger, and if it’s one of yours, managing your stress can be a wise preventive measure. Finding a healthy hobby that allows you to unwind or express yourself can help you to regularly relieve stress, as can nurturing valuable friendships. If really struggle with stress and stress-related anger, it also may be a good idea to try meditation. This can help clear away a lot of the noise in your head and help you find calm. It’s also an opportunity to take some time for yourself and shut out the rest of the world. As little as 25 minutes a day has been found to have positive effects.

Reshape Your Thinking

Another way to control your anger and prevent outbursts is to work on reframing your thinking around your triggers. This is called cognitive restructuring. Generally, this is achieved in five steps that identify and evaluate the core thoughts and emotions that cause you distress and, in this case, anger. Then, you can figure out an alternative thought that helps you avoid the distressing or angering thoughts. For example, if you get defensive and this is what causes your angry outbursts, cognitive restructuring would look like this:

  • The Situation: I lost my temper when my spouse criticized me for not doing the dishes again.
  • The Feeling: This made me feel angry and attacked.
  • The Thought: When my spouse criticizes me, they are accusing me of not pulling my weight and ignoring all that I contribute. They’re also treating me like a child and not like a partner.
  • Evaluate: Make a list of evidence that supports “The Thought” and evidence that doesn’t.
  • Make a Decision: While it frustrates my spouse that I leave dishes in the sink, they do appreciate the other chores I do around the house. They don’t think I don’t pull my own weight or that I’m a child. They just wish I’d wash my dishes instead of leaving them in the sink.

This won’t be an immediate fix for anger and will take practice, but eventually, you’ll find that the triggers that used to get you so angry aren’t as frustrating as they used to be. Whether this strategy only weakens the trigger or removes it entirely, as part of a full anger management strategy, it’s a useful tool.

Control Before It’s Too Late

It’s important to identify the signs of losing your temper and have a calming strategy to maintain your cool. Cognitive restructuring could count as one of these, but it goes beyond that. It may be tough in the middle of a disagreement, but practicing control can mean the difference between a resolution and a full blown argument. The trick is to interrupt your trigger and slow the situation down so you can regain control. Some tricks that may work include:

  • Take a deep breath or two before speaking.
  • Pause and count backwards from ten.
  • Repeat a calming mantra or thought in your head.
  • Use “I” or “We” statements to diffuse the situation and focus on results.
  • Break the tension with a light-hearted joke.
  • Inject positivity into the conversation with kind words. Say “I love you” to your significant other or tell your friend how much you care about them. It’s harder to be mad at someone when you remember you care about them.
  • Imagine you’re watching yourself during the conversation. Would you be proud of how you’re acting? Pretend you’re watching yourself for the rest of the conversation and act accordingly.
  • When in doubt, leave the situation. You can say you’ll discuss it later or just take a time out from the conversation while you calm down.

Any of these strategies can help you stop an outburst in its tracks.

Get Professional Help

Anger is a natural emotional response to certain situations in life. This is what can make it difficult to control, since you can never fully eradicate anger from your life. Sometimes, we all need help to control our anger, especially if the strategies in this article have already been tried and proved unsuccessful. There is no shame in getting therapy.

While this article can help by giving general tips and strategies, they can only take you so far. Talking to a therapist about the anger you feel can help you discover possible deeper issues causing it and develop strategies to overcome it.

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If you’re concerned about controlling your anger, you’ve already taken the first step — identifying the issue. Anger doesn’t have to control your life. With enough perseverance and the right tools, you can certainly get control of your anger!