Robin D. Webb
The holidays can be a festive time of year for many reasons. After all, there is a flurry of food, gifts, Christmas movies, familiar songs, and parties to attend.
However, even these good things can bring stress. And stress, when unchecked, can lead to anger. If you need help with how to control your anger during the holidays, here are five methods to ease your tension.
Set healthy boundaries.
A boundary is defined as something that applies to a fixed limit or extent. A boundary is described as an imaginary line that separates one individual from another. Boundaries set limits to one’s physical space, feelings, needs, and responsibilities to and from others. Boundaries can be physical, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual.
Controlling your anger begins with setting intentional boundaries to save your sanity. This may mean that you may have to set boundaries about how many late evenings you will spend at the office, or you might agree to check in with family just once or twice a week. If more visits are required, this could add to your stress at this time of year.
Remember that boundaries are not for you to place on someone else. They are simply ways for you to protect your mental health, your time management, and your emotional well-being.
How does a healthy boundary help you with knowing how to control your anger? It gives you a reason to say no to something you’ve been asked to do because you have a self-respecting, important boundary to maintain. Women in particular struggle with this.
It can be difficult to see a self-imposed boundary as valuable enough to say no to someone’s request, especially if it is a request for a good thing. Your ability to remain calm is vital to your health and to the relationships that are important to you. That is why these boundaries are important.
For example, saying no to serving at church is okay. especially if you know that it is going to add to your stress this month because you have out-of-town guests coming in for the holidays. Another example is your routine. Keeping your appointment with the gym is key if this is an intentional boundary you’ve set for yourself.
Learning how to control your anger during the holidays means protecting your personal time and emotional well-being.
Manage your expectations.
It is important to pay attention to your expectations whether they are realistic or imagined.
Sometimes, we struggle to control our anger when our own needs go unmet. For example, if we imagine that our children will not ask for a hundred things on their Christmas wish list, we might lose our cool when they ask for something in the middle of Target.
Did a child do something wrong by asking for a want or a need in the store? No, but you, as a parent, may have had a hidden expectation that went unmet. If you expected that your child would keep his or her list reasonable this year, and he or she didn’t, this can be an expectation that causes your emotions to flare.
Or if you expected your mother-in-law to host Christmas dinner, and she has decided that after the last twenty-three years that she will not be hosting, that is another expectation that will not be delivered.
How you respond to scenarios will often reveal your expectations. Start by thinking ahead about some of these that could be potential emotional landmines. Thinking ahead will give you a greater sense of control over how you respond when something does not go the way that you intend for it to go.
In addition, look into why you held certain expectations. Sometimes, anger stems from unreasonable expectations due to a disappointing childhood experience.
Asking yourself what the origin of the expectation is may help you recognize whether the expectation is unhealthy, inappropriate, or just not reasonable for this time of the year. Also letting others know when you are feeling overwhelmed and need assistance will help you to alleviate frustration and learn how to control your anger.
Having expectations is normal. Extend grace and be kind to yourself when you find that you have unreasonable expectations that are causing you to feel angry or hurt. Journal your feelings or pray about the situation, and then start fresh the next day.
It is important to practice deep, slow breathing techniques. Even doing this twice a day can make a big difference. Many wellness experts say that the key to how knowing how to control your anger is as simple as paying attention to your breathing.
The age-old advice of taking a deep breath still applies. But now, especially during the holidays when time is short, it is crucial. Spend two to three minutes in the morning and again in the evening taking deep breaths by inhaling for four counts and exhaling for six to eight counts.
This breathing pattern has been shown to reduce stress. Even when you do not feel stressed, a regular practice of slow breathing can help your entire body to relax.
If you find it difficult to practice breathing exercises on your own, there are several free apps that can guide you. Try Googling “breathing apps” or “breathwork apps” to find one that fits your lifestyle and preferences.
Some incorporate gentle stretching, yoga, or meditation and prayer as effective ways to manage stress through breathing.
Learning one or two breathing exercises can not only help you build this routine into your everyday schedule, but it can also be beneficial when you are in a heated conversation, or you find yourself responding in anger. Taking a deep breath, exhaling, and thinking about what you say before you say it is a terrific way to learn how to control your anger.
Set a budget.
How to control your anger during the holidays may start with setting boundaries and continue in your wallet. Decide ahead of time what your spending budget will be.
Many times, arguments and anger issues flare simply because there has not been a discussion with your spouse or kids about budgeting. The holidays bring a multitude of reasons for spending.
There are gifts to buy, special meals to shop for, dinners out with friends and family, and unexpected gifts to chip in on at school, work, and extracurricular activities. Learning what your limits are and talking about them in advance with a trusted family member and/or your spouse gives you some accountability.
Heading off anger around money starts with an honest awareness of what you can and cannot spend and by setting a budget. Then, if you or your spouse goes outside of the allocated budget, try to respond calmly.
Ask questions instead of making assumptions or accusations. Being able to gently talk through a spending decision that is outside of an agreed-upon budget is pivotal in how to control your anger during the holidays.
Schedule talk time.
Recognizing that your time will be limited, and that this season can be stressful, is important. Learning how to control your anger during the holidays may be as simple as planning ahead. Schedule time in advance to talk.
Do you have a friend with whom you can speak regularly and share vulnerably? It may be your spouse, but it may also be a friend from church or someone in your office. Who is it that listens well, asks good questions, and perhaps, even makes you laugh?
It is a good idea to set up a time to meet with a good friend over the holidays. Even if you are both running errands together, it is not the activity that matters as much as the conversation.
Being able to share how you are doing and bounce ideas off someone who knows you well can be a respite at this time of year.
Another means of respite is seeing a trained, certified professional counselor. Plan ahead by calling one of our offices. Schedule at least one appointment during the holidays so that you can talk about what is causing you stress and obtain ideas, strategies, and techniques for how to control your anger, and ways to fit in self-care.
Our offices have counselors who specialize in a variety of areas, and they can help you with any anger issues that arise at this time of year.
“Joyeux Noel”, Courtesy of Emile, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Rage”, Courtesy of Andrea Cassani, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Breathe”, Courtesy of Tim Goedhart, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Thinking Fast and Slow”, Courtesy of Mukul Joshi, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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