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5 Steps to Manage Your Temper

Studies are showing that blowing your gasket is as unhealthy as suppressing rage. Both drive up your heart rate and blood pressure. Try these techniques to shift your anger from heart to head so you can you let off steam without scalding anyone in the process.

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Researchers have found that continual outbursts actually add fuel to the fire and perpetuate anger.

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Step 1: Question Yourself

Step 1: Question Yourself

Dr. Brian Baker, a cardiac psychiatrist and associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto recommends asking yourself these questions whenever you feel angry:

  • What made me angry?
  • Why do I feel this way?
  • Is my anger justified?
  • Is it really worth blowing up?

Such evaluation helps you think rationally and control your emotions and behaviour, he says. If you think your anger is appropriate, decide what result you want, then make a plan and follow it. “But it usually isn’t justified in the great majority of cases, and you need to calm yourself down,” says Baker.

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Step 2: Change the Way You Think

Step 2: Change the Way You Think

Angry feelings are often the result of how we look at things. You think your boss gave you a negative look, and your blood begins to boil. The best action you can take at that point is to find alternative ways of looking at the situation, says Ken Prkachin, professor of psychology at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George.

“Say to yourself, ‘Maybe he’s in pain, or maybe he’s having a bad day or maybe he’s upset about something,'” suggests Prkachin. Reflecting on these different interpretations calms you down by taking the focus off your anger and giving you a new perspective.

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Step 3: Put Pen to Paper

Step 3: Put Pen to Paper

Writing forces you to organize your thoughts and to think clearly, to use your head rather than lose it. “It also gives you the chance to vent your emotions and develop a well-thought-out plan on how to deal with the issue,” says Kevin Kelloway, a management and psychology professor at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax.

If the incident occurred at work and things come to a head, “you’ll be prepared and have notes to refer to,” he says.

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Step 4: Weigh Pros and Cons

Step 4: Weigh Pros and Cons

“Ask yourself, ‘Will getting angry help me achieve my goals or will it do more harm than good?'” advises Wolfgang Linden, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of British Columbia. “Letting it go doesn’t mean you’re suppressing the anger,” he adds. “You’re taking the time to think carefully about what you want to say.”

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Step 5: Don't Personalize

Step 5: Don’t Personalize

Angry people tend to distrust other people’s motives. Many things that annoy us about others-slowness, rudeness, recklessness-have nothing to do with us. Reminding yourself of that can convert potential anger into neutrality or even empathy. “Say to yourself, ‘That person is not intentionally out to get me,'” says Ken Prkachin, “Or, ‘His behaviour is not aggressively directed at me.'”