Anger is a perfectly normal human emotion and, when dealt with appropriately, can even be considered a healthy emotion. We all feel angry from time to time, yet this feeling can lead us to say or do things that we later regret. Anger can reduce our inhibitions and make us act inappropriately.
Anger management is a term used to describe the skills you need to recognise that you, or someone else, is becoming angry and take appropriate action to deal with the situation in a positive way. Anger management does not mean internalising or suppressing anger.
Anger management concerns recognising the triggers for anger as early as possible and expressing these feelings and frustrations in a cool, calm and collected way.
We often have learnt-behaviours as to how to deal with strong emotions, so anger management is about unlearning ineffective coping mechanisms and re-learning more positive ways to deal with the problems and frustrations associated with anger.
Self-help anger management
There are many anger management techniques that you can learn and practice by yourself or teach to others. Here are some anger management tips:
1. Think before you speak
In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to say something you’ll later regret. Take a few moments to collect your thoughts before saying anything — and allow others involved in the situation to do the same.
2. Once you’re calm, express your anger
As soon as you’re thinking clearly, express your frustration in an assertive but nonconfrontational way. State your concerns and needs clearly and directly, without hurting others or trying to control them.
3. Get some 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.
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. Identify possible solutions
Instead of focusing on what made you mad, work on resolving the issue at hand. Does your child’s messy room drive you crazy? Close the door. Is your partner late for dinner every night? Schedule meals later in the evening — or agree to eat on your own a few times a week. Remind yourself that anger won’t fix anything and might only make it worse.
6. Stick with ‘I’ statements
To avoid criticizing or placing blame — which might only increase tension — use “I” statements to describe the problem. Be respectful and specific. For example, say, “I’m upset that you left the table without offering to help with the dishes,” instead of, “You never do any housework.”
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. It’s unrealistic to expect everyone to behave exactly as you want at all times.
8. 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 — it can hurt feelings and make things worse.
9. Practice relaxation skills
When your temper flares, put relaxation skills to work. Practice deep-breathing exercises, imagine a relaxing scene, or repeat a calming word or phrase, such as, “Take it easy.” You might also listen to music, write in a journal or do a few yoga poses — whatever it takes to encourage relaxation.
10. Know when to seek help
Learning to control anger is a challenge for everyone at times. Consider seeking help for anger issues if your anger seems out of control, causes you to do things you regret or hurts those around you.
When to seek professional help
However if you, or someone you know, experiences a lot of regular anger or very strong anger (rage) then seeking help, usually in the form of a counselor or psychotherapist, can be more effective. Anger management therapy can be run as group or one-to-one sessions.
You should seek professional help if anger is having a long-term negative impact on your relationships, is making you unhappy, or is resulting in any dangerous or violent behaviour.
If you answer yes to any of these questions then you may need professional help to manage your anger.
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