Do you fume when someone cuts you off in traffic? Does your blood pressure rocket when your child refuses to cooperate? If so, you are not alone. Everyone experiences anger from time to time.

Anger is a normal and even healthy emotion. But it's important to deal with it in a positive way. Uncontrolled anger can take a toll on your health and relationships.

If you're often feeling angry, or if those feeling are causing problems at home or at work, here are 7 tips to help you regain control:

1. Think before you speak. One of the best tactics is to take a pause before reacting. If your heart is pounding and you feel like yelling at your friend, family member or the guy who just pulled in front of you in traffic, stop. Take a breath. Count to 10. Do whatever it takes to avoid lashing out and saying or doing something you’ll regret.

2. Once you’re calm, state what upset you. Express your frustration in an assertive but nonconfrontational way. Maybe your spouse didn’t help clean up the kitchen after you made dinner. Or your son borrowed your car and returned it with a nearly empty gas tank — again. State your concerns clearly and directly, using an "I" statement. For example, say, “I’m upset that you left me without enough gas to get to work,” or “I resent it when I work to prepare a meal and you don’t help clean up afterward.”

3. Use humor to release tension. 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. Avoid sarcasm, though, as it can hurt feelings and make things worse.

4. Take a timeout. Timeouts aren't just for kids. Give yourself short 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.

5. Get exercise. Physical activity can help reduce stress that can cause you to become angry. If you feel your anger escalating, go for a brisk walk or run, or spend some time doing other enjoyable physical activities.

6. Practice relaxation skills. Practice deep-breathing exercises, imagine a relaxing scene, or repeat a calming word or phrase, such as "Take it easy." Yoga and meditation also are good tools to use to help you stay calm. When you're taking care of yourself, it's easier to deal with the challenges life throws your way.

7. Don't hold a grudge. Forgiveness is a powerful tool. 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, you might both learn from the situation and strengthen your relationship.

Learning to control anger is a challenge at times for everyone. If changes like these aren't enough to help you control your anger, reach out to a mental health specialist for support. Seek help for anger issues if your anger seems out of control, causes you to do things you regret or hurts those around you.

Annette Bremer is a psychotherapist in the Mayo Clinic Health System in southern Minnesota.

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