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How to Control Your Anger Using Thoughts and Coping Skills

Updated on August 26, 2014
Blake Flannery profile image

Blake has worked in the mental health field since 2002 educating and inspiring hope on the journey toward recovery.

Have You Ever Lost Control?

Raise your hand if you have ever done something when angry that you later regreted

See results

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

Fill in this list to help motivate you to change.
Fill in this list to help motivate you to change.

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

Track your anger triggers for one week.
Track your anger triggers for one week.

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

Your anger tries to warn you, and it's saying, "I don't think you're going to like me when I'm angry."
Your anger tries to warn you, and it's saying, "I don't think you're going to like me when I'm angry."

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
Take breaks
Use assertive communication
Cook a nutritious dinner
Make coworkers laugh
Make your own chart to include things you can do to help lower stress levels as well as intervene when you feel the heat of anger warming you.

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.

Behavioral Chain

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

Situation
Thought
Feeling
Behavior
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
Notice how the first example follows a naturally negative and destructive path based on the irrational thought that followed the situation. In the second chain, there is a thought of resilience and an ability to cope with the change.

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

Comments

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    • Virginia Lea profile image

      Virginia Davis 

      13 months ago from Navarre, Florida

      This is an awesome article!! :)

    • profile image

      Charlotte D Armstrong 

      20 months ago

      Love this article, is there a print link to get a clean copy of the article and the tools included in it, please? I'm a therapist and would like to use some of this with some of my clients. Thanks

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      4 years ago from london

      An extremely useful article. May it help us all. Peace.

    • profile image

      Bodicea 

      4 years ago

      I don't want to control my anger. I have no loved ones they are all dead. Anger is all I have. If I got rid of my anger I would have to kill myself. My anger is directed at the Police and fighting for justice for my family because no one else will. Controlling anger maybe fine for those with a tendency to whack a spouse but for fighting for justice, it's all I have left. I know, this is going to be an unpopular comment but I've given up caring whether I am popular or not.

    • brakel2 profile image

      Audrey Selig 

      4 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      Hi Blake. What an informative hub well laid out with tips for anger. Your chart puts it in perspective. I have already given it to someone with hope that it will help. We all get angry, so it is generally useful. Thanks for sharing. Pinning it. Blessings. Audrey

    • nurseleah profile image

      Leah Wells-Marshburn 

      5 years ago from West Virginia

      Thank you, Blake! And thanks for the fan mail as well. Very nice!

    • Blake Flannery profile imageAUTHOR

      Blake Flannery 

      5 years ago from United States

      Nurseleah,

      It sounds like we share some of the same passion for educating people about managing emotions. You have some great information for those in mental health on your hubs also.

    • nurseleah profile image

      Leah Wells-Marshburn 

      5 years ago from West Virginia

      Absolutely fantastic hub! I am a psych RN at an inpatient psych facility, and I teach psych nursing in an RN program. You offer an absolute wealth of knowledge in this hub, and I can see using this for any number of people from different age groups. Anger is a natural, healthy human emotion that helps us know when something is wrong. Learning how to deal with anger in a healthy way is an entirely different process. Thank you so much for sharing these tools and techniques.

    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 

      6 years ago

      Your poll is funny. I agree that anger management can be learned. The trick self-awareness, which can also be cultivated by meditation. When one is aware that one is angry as soon as one is becoming angry, then it is easier to defuse.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      6 years ago from South Carolina

      This is an excellent hub with many useful tools to effectively deal with anger in non-destructive ways.

      I also like the way you organized and illustrated your points.

      Voted up, useful, awesome and interesting.

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 

      6 years ago from Pune, India

      Thanks for sharing this useful information.

    • Blake Flannery profile imageAUTHOR

      Blake Flannery 

      6 years ago from United States

      jdavis88,

      Thanks. I am guessing that you like to use humor as your coping strategy. It's one of my favorite too.

    • jdavis88 profile image

      Joseph Davis 

      6 years ago from Florida

      VERY well laid out hub! Informative, well written, and easy to read! If only I weren't so angry at the moment I would have read the rest of it... Just kidding! great topic with great aids anyone could use!

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