“We are all slaves of our own actions. Why be angry with anybody else?”
Most of us will only get to revel in the hot-dog grilling, canonball jumping delights of summer about 80 times in our lives. Let’s face it, of those 80 times, the first few summers don’t really count and certainly the last few, wearing sweaters in 90 degree heat, only partly count.
This has been a particularly hot and dry summer and the color red comes to mind as a way to describe it. Red symbolizes heat and fire, but it also symbolizes anger. The “dog days” of summer are not supposed to hit until at least late July. I would bet my flip flops and barbeque tongs that this summer has brought more of an edgy, angry feeling than the usual joy of s’mores at the campfire and goofy poolside antics. Why not? It has been in the “red” most of the time for the last 2 months. Even my sunburns have sunburns.
It seems a good time to focus on how to manage anger. Anger is a normal emotion; it is one that you are supposed to have at times. For example, you should be angry if all your popsicles melted before you got to the park and the only way to cool off was by dipping your head under the Slurpee machine. The way you feel is the way you feel and it is important to accept that.
The next step in anger management is to ask yourself what you will do about feeling angry or irritable. If you are in the car, you can choose to yell at the guy in front of you with his turn signal on for the last three miles or you can tell your spouse that you hate the way he or she chews the Cheerios. My guess is that those strategies will not actually reduce how angry you feel.
One of the first things that can help is to learn to take deep breaths. It is impossible to yell at somebody if you are breathing in. The deep breath can help you feel calmer almost immediately. This is important because one of the problems with anger is that it makes people impulsive, irrational; break things or say hurtful things.
For good deep breathing, take three breaths in a row at a slow even pace. Focus on good posture with back straight, and shoulders back. It should take about 12 seconds. Then ask yourself if you feel calmer, if not, repeat the exercise. Often, as you do this, you will feel more mindful. In other words, you will be more present, realize that whatever the situation is it will be better handled calmly. You may realize it’s not as bad as you thought any way. It feels good to be present and anger has a nasty habit of making you time travel; mad about what happened or what you think will happen.
Additionally, you will benefit by using imagery; picture yourself corralling your anger in a stable filled with ice and snow. See yourself being calm and you in control of anger, not anger in control of you. You can listen to music you like or concentrate on a good memory. Also, pick your battles. There are some things that simply don’t deserve your anger; you have better things to do with your time and energy.
Always take time to step back and think. You will realize that maintaining anger at the current situation in life will not help but may hinder you. That alone may help your temperature go from “fire-brick red” to a manageable “rose-red”. Ultimately, if nothing else works, you can punch a punching bag; it won’t hit back and it is legal to punch. Also, with proper form and hand protection, it is a great work-out. Exercise is a terrific way to cool off anger.
I guarantee that it will get cold again in Denver. Nothing lasts forever and you only have so many summers to enjoy in life. With that in mind, remember that it is still summer, it may be scorching out there, but there are still flowers and you may still stop and smell those flowers. Or you can just stomp on them. Which option sounds better?