Anger: How to Cope
We all get angry whether its road rage or when our sibling does something annoying. Anger is sometimes difficult to cope with and when our emotions get the best of us sometimes we might lash out and hurt those around us. Anger is not an emotion we should fault ourselves for having, we are allowed to be angry, in fact we should be angry if that’s how we feel because denying our emotions is invalidating to ourselves. However, if anger becomes hard to control and hard to control our responses and reactions to our anger; that is where it becomes a problem. Being aware of how we are feeling is an important practice. Being aware of our anger is no different.
Being aware of triggers is important for coping with anger. When we take time to realize what “sets us off” or “lights the fuse” we are better able to manage the triggers or prepare for them. Practicing caution around your anger triggers will reduce the chances of your anger becoming out of control. One way to cope with triggers is attempting to use them to your advantage. You can create a list of your triggers and even read them daily. Becoming familiar with your triggers will keep them fresh in your mind which increases the likelihood that you become aware of them before they become a problem. It provides you with a chance to be proactive.
Managing anger’s physical symptoms can be a challenge. You may feel sweat, headaches, hot or turning red, your fists may clench, you may raise your voice, have aggressive body language, begin pacing, become argumentative, feel sick to your stomach, go quiet or shut down, or feel like you can’t get past a problem. Being aware of these physical warming signs is important to managing anger. Your body gives you clues that your anger is starting to grow. Practicing deep breathing is a simple technique that’s excellent for managing emotions and its especially helpful because it’s convenient and can be practiced at any time or place. To utilize deep breathing for emotional regulation follow these steps:
Sit comfortably and place one hand on your abdomen.
Breathe in through your nose, deeply enough that the hand on your abdomen rises.
Hold the air in your lungs, and then exhale slowly through your mouth, with your lips puckered as if you are blowing through a straw.
The secret is to go slow: Time the inhalation (4 seconds), pause (4 seconds), and exhalation (6 seconds). Practice for 3 to 5 minutes.
Once you become familiar with your body’s clues and triggers you can take appropriate action to decrease the negative reactions you may have when you are angry. Taking a time out can be an extremely helpful tool, especially in relationships where anger-fueled disagreements are causing problems. A time out in a relationship means both people agree to walk away from the problem and return once you have both had an opportunity to cool down. To utilize a time out effectively it is important to plan with your partner how the time outs will work, everyone should understand the rationale behind it and it should be an opportunity to cool down and not an opportunity to avoid the problem at hand. You should also identify what you are both to do during the time outs, such as planning activities in different rooms or places. Planning to return to the problem in 30 minutes to an hour might be a good place to start. Important problems shouldn’t be ignored forever and nothing good will come from an explosive argument.
Diversions can also be a great way to help manage anger, and may even be helpful to utilize during time outs. Diversions are a way to buy yourself time. If you can distract yourself for thirty minutes you have a better chance of dealing with your anger in a healthy way. Don’t forget, you are always able to return to the source of your anger later, you are just setting the problem aside for now. Examples of some diversions to try could be: going for a walk, watching a movie, doing yard work, playing a game, playing an instrument, go hiking in nature, reading a book, practicing a hobby, drawing, painting, going for a bike ride, calling a friend, taking photos, playing a sport, going for a run, doing a craft, writing or journaling, lifting weights, playing with a pet, listening to music, cleaning or organizing, cooking, baking, taking a long bath, swimming, or rearranging your room.
Physically involved diversions can be especially helpful for managing physiological symptoms of anger. If I am feeling sweaty and hot in my head and I go do some push ups or lift weights, I create congruency and give myself some balance because now I have matched my physical stimuli to my physiological experience. Progressive muscle relaxation can also be helpful in this way, the practice of deep breathing while simultaneously tensing and then relaxing your muscles all over your body. Try to hold each muscle for about ten seconds and breathe out as you relax the muscle. You start with the crown of your head and move all the way down to you toes, you can identify as many little muscles as you like on the way down.
After an anger episode, try to take a few moments to record your experience in an “anger log”. This practice can help you identify patterns, warning signs, and triggers; and subsequently help you organize your thoughts and work through problems. Try writing about:
What was happening before the anger episode? Describe how you were feeling, and what was on your mind. Were you hungry, tired, or stressed?
Describe the facts of what happened. What events triggered your anger? How did you react, and did your reaction change as the event continued to unfold?
What were your thoughts and feelings during the anger episode? Looking back, do you see anything differently than when you were in the heat of the moment?
If this blog resonates with you and you want to talk to someone about your anger, please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced mental health counselors.