Your cool-down guide to letting off steam

July 28, 2015

There's no way to get through life without getting angry. The key is to learn how to defuse that anger constructively so that it doesn't end up destroying your health. Start with these simple tips.

Your cool-down guide to letting off steam

Take “self-control” time

  • It works to get children to calm down, so it should work with angry grown-ups too. Here's how to do it:
  • Sit up straight and relaxed wherever you are (a couch, the floor, a chair, etc.).
  • Place your feet flat on the floor in front of you.
  • Extend your hands palm down and place them gently in your lap. Make sure your elbows are naturally back by your sides.
  • Relax your shoulders so that the muscles around them are neither tight nor tense.
  • Breathe deeply in through your nose and exhale through your mouth to help your body to relax into this position.
  • Close your eyelids lightly and continue breathing deeply.
  • When using self-control time as a regular part of your day, it should last for approximately three minutes. When using it as a way to help you to regain self-control, it should last for approximately one minute.

Acknowledge some core truths about people

  • Most people act out of the belief that they are doing the right thing.
  • Most people are not malicious, mean-spirited or backstabbing.
  • Most people are more sensitive and insecure than they let on.
  • Most people aren't very good judges of how their actions affect others. In other words, we're neither villains nor saints. We're all just people – struggling to lead happy, healthy, meaningful lives in a complicated world. Yes, even the people who anger you. With this in mind, forgiveness comes much easier.

Follow these tricks to calm down

  • Understand that someone, somewhere, is gossiping about you, because that's what people do, but understand also that it has absolutely no impact on your life.
  • Take responsibility for your anger. Recognize that it's your choice whether or not you become angry.
  • Talk about your anger. This is different from expressing it; talking about it means unloading and decompressing with a friend, going over the situation with a neutral observer who can bring some perspective to the situation, or even talking out loud to yourself about it (preferably when no one else can hear you).
  • Get on your bike and go for a half-hour ride. Or jump up and down on a trampoline. Or go for a vigorous swim. Or attack the weeds in your garden. Any kind of vigorous, intense physical activity helps to dissipate anger.
  • Get some perspective. Is this person or situation really worth spending your emotional energy on? Risking your health over? Putting your dignity and peace of mind at risk?
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