The first step in being able to learn effective anger management techniques is to recognize the situations that make you angry and your body’s warning signs of anger.
List things that can trigger your anger
Make a list of the things that often set off your anger (for example, running late for work and getting stuck in a traffic jam, your teenager leaving not helping out around the house or a co-worker blaming you for something you didn’t do). If you know ahead of time what makes you angry, you may be able to avoid these things or do something different when they happen.
Pay attention to the warning signs of anger in your body Notice the things that happen to your body that tell you when you are getting angry (for example, a pounding heart, flushed face, sweating, tense jaw, tightness in your chest or gritting your teeth).The earlier you can recognize these warning signs of anger, the more successful you will probably be at calming yourself down before your anger gets out of control.
Find anger management techniques that work for you
There are a number of different ways of managing anger and some strategies will suit you better than others. Here’s some simple ways to put an end to the vicious cycle of stress that anger can bring: Control your thinking
When you’re angry, your thinking can get exaggerated and irrational. Try replacing these kinds of thoughts with more useful, rational ones and you should find that this has an affect on the way you feel. For example, instead of telling yourself “I can’t stand it, it’s awful and everything’s ruined,” tell yourself “It’s frustrating, and it’s understandable that I’m upset about it, but it’s not the end of the world and getting angry is not going to fix it.” Psychologists call this type of thinking “self talk.”
Develop a list of things to say to yourself before, during and after situations in which you may get angry. It is more helpful if these things focus on how you are managing the situation rather than what other people should be doing.
“I’ll be able to handle this. It could be rough, but I have a plan.” “If I feel myself getting angry, I’ll know what to do.”
“Stay calm, relax, and breathe easy.” “Stay calm, I’m okay, s/he’s not attacking me personally.” “I can look and act calm.”
“I managed that well. I can do this. I’m getting better at this.” “I felt angry, but I didn’t lose my cool.”
Take time out
If you feel your anger getting out of control, take time out from a situation or an argument. Try stepping outside the room, or going for a walk. Before you go, remember to make a time to talk about the situation later when everyone involved has calmed down. During time out, plan how you are going to stay calm when your conversation resumes.
A familiar strategy for managing anger is to distract your mind from the situation that is making you angry. Try counting to ten, playing soothing music, talking to a good friend, or focusing on a simple task like polishing the car, doing the dishes, folding laundry or walking the dog.
Use relaxation techniques
Relaxation strategies can reduce the feelings of tension and stress in your body. Practice strategies such as taking long deep breaths and focusing on your breathing, or progressively working around your body and relaxing your muscles as you go.
Learn assertiveness skills
Assertiveness skills can be learnt through self-help books or by attending courses. These skills ensure that anger is channelled and expressed in clear and respectful ways. Being assertive means being clear with others about what your needs and wants are, feeling okay about asking for them, but respecting the other person’s needs and concerns as well and being prepared to negotiate.
Avoid using words like “never” or “always” (for example, “You’re always late!”), as these statements are usually inaccurate, make you feel as though your anger is justified, and don’t leave much possibility for the problem to be solved.
Try to acknowledge what is making you angry
Acknowledge that a particular issue has made you angry by admitting it to yourself and others. Telling someone that you felt angry when they did or said something is more helpful than just acting out the anger.
Make sure you think about who you express your anger to, and take care that you aren’t just dumping your anger on the people closest to you, or on people who are less powerful than you. For example, don’t yell at your partner, children, or dog when you are really angry with your boss.
Sometimes it can help to write things down. What is happening in your life? How do you feel about the things that are happening? Writing about these topics can sometimes help give you some distance and perspective and help you understand your feelings. Work out some options for changing your situation.
Rehearsing anger management techniques
Use your imagination to practice anger management strategies. Imagine yourself in a situation that usually sets off your anger. Imagine how you could behave in that situation without getting angry. Think about a situation where you did get angry. Replay the situation in your mind and imagine resolving the situation without anger.
Try rehearsing some anger management strategies with a friend. Ask them to help you act out a situation where you get angry, so that you can practice other ways to think and behave. Practice saying things in an assertive way.
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Gregory A. Kyles, M.A., LPC, CEAP, CAMF
Director, Anger Management Institute of Texas
Diplomate, President of Texas Chapter
American Association of Anger Management Providers