Feeling hot under the collar? Here are 10 tips for keeping your cool

(Flickr / Joe Berryman Photography)

There are myriad reasons that make your temper strain its leash – a bad situation at work, a toxic relationship, or just someone talking loudly on the train.

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No matter what lights your fuse, here are 10 tips on keeping your temper under control.

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1. Think before you speak

It’s easy – and sometimes a needed release – to just blow up. In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to say something you’ll regret later.

Take a few moments to collect your thoughts before saying anything — and allow others involved in the situation to do the same.

2. Once you’re calm, express yourself

Once your temper has edged out of the red zone, express your frustration in a calm, assertive but nonconfrontational way. State your concerns and needs clearly and directly, without hurting others or trying to control them.

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3. Get some exercise

Sometimes you just need to get away from a situation. Funnel that stress into a workout.

Physical activity can help reduce stress that can cause you to become angry. Endorphins from a brisk walk or run will help you recover your cool.

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4. Take a timeout

Timeouts aren’t just for kids. Give yourself breaks during times of the day that tend to be stressful. A few moments of quiet time might help you feel better prepared to handle what’s ahead without getting irritated or angry.

If you’re in the car, try turning on the classical music station to help relax.

5. Find possible solutions

Instead of focusing on what made you mad, find small solutions to give yourself a break.

Does your child’s messy room drive you crazy? Close the door. Is your partner late for dinner every night? Schedule meals later in the evening — or agree to eat on your own a few times a week.

Remind yourself that anger won’t fix anything and might only make it worse.

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6. Stick with “I” statements

Starting with “you” is aggressive and may well lead to more stress. To avoid criticizing or placing blame — which might only increase tension — use “I” statements to describe the problem. Be respectful and specific.

For example, say, “I’m upset that you left the table without offering to help with the dishes” instead of “You never do any housework.”

7. Don’t hold a grudge

Forgiving and forgetting are powerful tools.

If you allow anger and other negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice. But if you can forgive someone who angered you and move on, you might both learn from the situation and strengthen your relationship.

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8. Use humor to release tension

Sometimes, you can only either laugh or cry. Lightening up can help diffuse tension. Use humor to help you face what’s making you angry and, possibly, any unrealistic expectations you have for how things should go.

While it is tempting to let bitterness leak out through sarcasm, try to avoid it — it can hurt feelings and make things worse.

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9. Practice relaxation skills

Close your eyes, take three slow, deep breaths, and open your eyes again. Do you feel a bit more relaxed?

Practice deep-breathing exercises, imagine a relaxing scene, or repeat a calming word or phrase, such as “Take it easy.” You might also listen to music, write in a journal or do a few yoga poses — whatever it takes to encourage relaxation.

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10. Know when you need help

Sometimes, the Hulk takes control of Bruce Banner and there’s nothing that can be done about it. Learning to control anger is a challenge for everyone at times.

Seek help for anger issues if your anger seems out of control, causes you to do things you regret or hurts those around you.

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