Uh-oh! The guy in the next office just tap-danced on your last nerve—again—and it finally happened: You let your anger get the best of you and you flipped out at work. Though it may seem like it, it’s not the end of the world. Even the most calm, cool and collected people can lose their temper every once in a while.
When anger takes over, there are ways you can collect yourself, calm down and minimize the damage. Mindfulness, which can be deployed instantaneously, is great for this. It brings your emotions back in balance and may even help you realize creative solutions to problems that seemed insurmountable during the throes of your outburst.
But being mindful means you’ll need to turn toward your experience, not away from it. Since anger can be ugly and uncomfortable, this may be the time to find your inner comic. Picture yourself diving off a cliff—briefcase in hand. Channel George W. Bush and challenge anger to “bring it on!” Throw yourself a three-minute pity party, imagining an ice-cold pitcher of water pouring over your head. Visualize something tranquil and pleasant.
Then take these five steps:
- Give yourself—and your co-workers—a time out. Break for three minutes, or 10, depending on how much time you have and need. Go to another room if you need to, although that’s not required.
- Track the emotion’s path. Where in your body do you feel the sensations of anger? You may be tempted to bury them. Don’t. Study how they feel in the body, noting what makes them increase or decrease in intensity.
- Put a name to what you’re experiencing. Is it anger or frustration? If it’s anger, where does it fall on the spectrum—annoyance, irritation, rage or fury?
- See your anger through a lens of compassion. This feeling is normal. We all experience it.
- Forgive yourself. The sooner you can forgive, the more quickly you can return to balance. Getting angry isn’t a crime. Criticizing and kicking yourself will only mire you in a cycle of shame and self-preoccupation. Self-forgiveness is the key to emotional balance. Repeat this to yourself this as often as necessary.