- Mental Health
How to Control Your Anger Using Thoughts and Coping Skills
Have You Ever Lost Control?
Raise your hand if you have ever done something when angry that you later regreted
It's Not Always Easy, but it is Possible
Controlling your temper can be a difficult task. Knowing how to calm down when angry is something that can be learned. By changing the way you think and the way you behave, you can learn to control your anger. Anger management is something that, although difficult, is an essential life skill that anyone can learn.
Some people might say, "That's just the way I am" when talking about they way they behave when they are angry. This is an excuse they are saying when they really mean they don't want to change or they think it would be too hard to change. Anger is something that everyone experiences, but the way it is felt and expressed can vary greatly from person to person. You are not the only person who needs to control your temper, everyone needs to. Some people are better at controlling their emotional outbursts and staying safe because they have learned to control their temper. Use the following tips to help you control your anger so that you not only keep yourself stable and in control, but actually feel less anger in your life.
Step 1: Admit that You can Change
Don't admit that you have a problem. Admit that you can change, which is more than admitting a problem. Get out a piece of paper and write down all the outcomes that you would like to have. Convince yourself that it is a good idea and that you have many reasons to make a positive change. This is your first step in focusing your energy and thoughts in a positive direction.
Write things that will be life changing. Include things like relationship improvements, self-esteem improvements, lower stress levels, improved stability, better reputation, feeling better physically, emotional energy improvement, and happier, healthier, life. Anger that is not controlled is a destructive force that effects your body, mind, spirit, relationships, and results in lowers quality of life.
Set Some Goals to Achieve
Step 2: Identify your Anger Triggers
If your anger was a gun, it would only "go off" when the trigger is pulled. Identifying the who, what, when, where, how, and why of your anger triggers is a crucial step in taming your temper. The easiest way to start is to keep an anger log that you fill out each night before bed. Write down all the things you remember getting you angry for a week. Then go back and look for patterns.
Only identify the major few triggers you have each day. This is to keep from being overwhelmed by trying to work on too many triggers at once. The purpose is to look for patterns and find the most common category of triggers. For example, you may realize that you seem to get angry when receiving negative feedback from people at work. This would help you know what to focus on and when you should be most prepared to deal with strong feelings. After spending a few day identifying your anger triggers, you may realize that just by being aware can help you control your thoughts and feelings better.
Anger Trigger Tracking Sheet
Step 3: Know Your Warning Signs
Warning signs are extremely important because these give us time to think and react in better ways. Warning signs are the storm siren that goes off before the tornado of anger devastates you and others around you.
In order to identify your warning signs, think back on the way you feel as anger boils through you. Some people feel hot, others notice their jaw clenching, while others will get a headache or neck ache. You might feel your heart beating faster as adrenaline and cortisol is dumped in your bloodstream.
Draw a picture of a body (stick figures are o.k.) and place an x on all the parts where you feel symptoms of anger. Some common places include the belly, hands, neck, shoulders, jaw, face, and head.
Read the Signs and Stop the Anger
Step 4: Identify Some Coping Skills
A coping skill is any strength you have to protect you against a challenging situation. A coping skill could be playing your guitar, staying flexible, or even taking deep breaths.
Once you have a good idea of what leads you to be angry and what your warning signs are, it's time to start planning for ways to diffuse the situations that you can predict in the future. Here's an example: If you know that being in the car in a lot of traffic is a trigger, then you can plan a way to distract thoughts away from angry thoughts at that time.
Make a list of coping skills that you can use when you recognize your warning signs or face a challenging anger trigger. Then make a list of coping skills that can help you generally minimize stress. It's important to have coping skills that will work in a variety of situations and settings.
Anger and Stress Coping Skills
General Coping Skills
Coping Skills for Home
Coping Skills for Work
Take a walk regularly
Read a book
Complete one task at a time
Keep an open mind
Spend time with family
Use assertive communication
Cook a nutritious dinner
Make coworkers laugh
Understand Where to Break the Chain
One major part of cognitive behavioral therapy is the idea that our behaviors are all preceded by thoughts and emotions that preceded by a situation. Even if you are angry, you have a chance to change the way you react if you are able to understand this behavioral chain. You can think of it as a chain of events.
SITUATION --> THOUGHT --> FEELING --> BEHAVIOR
The feeling of anger is usually preceded by a thought about a situation. So if you find yourself feeling angry often, it's a good idea to examine your thoughts about the situations you experience in life. Here are two examples:
Behavior Chain Example
Your significant other breaks up with you and goes out with your best friend
I can't trust anyone
Angry, Suspicious, Hopeless
Attempt Suicide, Slash Ex's Tires, Avoid Vulnerability
Your significant other breaks up with you and goes out with your best friend
I can make a new friend and go out with someone new
Hopeful, Excited, Content
Reach Out to Acquainances, Ask Out Someone New
Changing negative or irrational thoughts becomes a coping skill in itself once a person becomes aware of these destructive thoughts. Any non-cognitive coping skill can be inserted just before a person makes a decision to act in a destructive way.
Ask Yourself the Right Questions
Aristotle said, "Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy."
The ancient Greek philosopher and scientist was onto something, and he suggested that people ask themselves some important questions when they find themselves angry. Here's a little list that could save you from letting anger be destructive.
Questions to Ask Yourself When Angry
- Am I angry at the right person?
- Am I angry for the right reasons?
- Do I have the right amount of angry?
- Is the anger causing situation within my control?
- Would I still be angry in a week, month, or year from now?
- Do I have any physical conditions such as pain, fatigue, or mental illness that are leading me to be angry?
- What action can I take that will likely have the most positive outcome?
Get Some Coping Skills and Strategies
These are some examples of healthy ways to cope with stress:
- Exercise to reduce stress
- Talk with your doctor about the possibility of medication
- Try progressive muscle relaxation (PMR)
- Work with a therapist if you've experienced trauma
- Use guided imagery to escape into a calm place
- Lower your expectations of the situation or person triggering anger
- Make a gratitude list
- Get an accountability partner to hold you accountable to controlling anger
- Look for humor in difficult situations
- Use assertive communication
- Break large tasks into smaller parts
- Take a break
- Talk to a person who is not involved to gain some perspective
- Celebrate successes