From Hot Head to Cool Cucumber: Tame Anger in 5 Steps

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Anger is an emotion that can be difficult to control. Edy Nathan MA, LCSW explains how using these five steps may help in taming anger.

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It is easier to blame others for what is bothering you, and before you lace into someone, stop for a moment, take a breath and reexamine the situation.

Angry outbursts create combustible environments for anyone on the receiving end of a tirade. Often difficult to control, anger builds up when not being true to the self. Before knowing it, anger has turned into rage, and whatever emotions were harnessed are out of control. As summer approaches, extreme heat can cause people who are already at their emotional boiling point to respond in irrational ways. Nathan believes: “It is easier to blame others for what is bothering you, and before you lace into someone, stop for a moment, take a breath and reexamine the situation. Follow these next steps, and your anger will be tempered by self control and maybe a solution.”

Here are 5 tools that will derail an angry outburst:

1. The 3 S’s: STOP! Survey. Select. It is important to mark what happens in the body and in the mind when the anger starts to emerge. There are warning signs and they are most likely quite familiar. First, say stop it to the anger and do something different. Leave the room. Get a drink of water. Make a call. Now, start the survey. Nathans suggests: "When there is an awareness that you are about to get angry, take note of how your body feels - is your breathing different, are you hot or cold, etc. These signs inform you of a danger zone of anger. Temper it by imagining the outcome. Is it the outcome you really want?” Select the next action based on the preferred outcome. Have an idea of the desired outcomes.

2. Learn to breathe. Sounds funny since breathing keeps the body alive. This is a different type of breath. In five-second intervals, breathe in through your nose, hold the breath and breathe out through your mouth. Do this exercise 5 times before letting loose. This will calm the nervous system and create an awakening. Practice this even when not needed. It will be of greater use when the body knows the rhythm of the breathing exercise.

3. Get smart! Know the self. Be informed by using a previous outburst to create a list of feelings that are specific to that occurrence. Is there jealousy? Regret? Sadness? Lack of control? The list of emotions is endless. Do this and the conversation between the angry self and the calm self will emerge. What is learned about the emotions that imprint themselves onto the anger will help to curtail the eruption.

4. It is easier to blame another for one's personal feelings. Assert the self by discussing what is bothersome. Holding onto grudges or past hurts embeds the emotions and usually turns them into anger or rage. Forgiveness is a vital aspect of coping with and changing the dimension of anger. Nathan mentoins that, “It is better to communicate rather than purge your anger, especially if someone does not know why you are angry.”

5. Find something funny to change the mood. This is part of STOP! Stop, look at something funny or humorous, get to the laughter to interrupt the anger.

Anger is a significant emotion that needs to be felt. When it overrides the sense of self and self esteem, it is an obstacle to having good work and personal relationships.

Learning to temper anger is a process. Teaching the brain that there are active alternatives to uncontrolled anger can occur with a desire to change, putting effort into being a change agent over this emotion and getting help, in the form of a support group or individual therapy, if needed.

About Edy Nathan:
Edy Nathan is a licensed psychotherapist with over 20 years of experience specializing in grief. For two seasons, she was the therapist on the A&E TV Show, “Psychic Kids." She holds Masters from both New York University and Fordham University. She has post-graduate training from the Ackerman Institute for Family Therapy, The Gestalt Center and the Jungian Institute. She is a certified EMDR practitioner, regression therapist, certified hypnotherapist, relationship and grief expert. To find out more, visit

For a complimentary meditation and more information about other topics related to grief, loss and trauma, please visit here.

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