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  • Control your Anger

    Anger Management

    Alex was fuming! It felt like everything that could go wrong in his life DID go wrong. People just seemed to know exactly the right buttons to push to make him upset! First it was his colleague who’d show up late to work, causing more work for Alex. Then it was his friend who was chronically late, one of Alex’s pet peeves. Other times it was more minor things that seemed to get under his skin. The restaurant lost his reservation, or the internet was out again, or he noticed a scratch on his car. When this happened, he’d explode. He’d yell and throw his hands up in the air. He’d say things that he’d later regret to people that he genuinely cared about. A few times he punched the wall or broke his phone after throwing it across the room. Alex noticed that others were starting to avoid him. “You go from 0 to 100 without warning.” He’d heard on more than one occasion.

    Up until now, he’d genuinely thought “If others just knew how to act, I wouldn’t lose my temper so much.” And on his good days he’d sometimes believe that. But when he really sat down, he knew that he was starting to lose control.

    When he came to me, Alex shared that he was afraid he might be jeopardizing his job. “My boss pulled me aside and told me that he was worried about me. He told me that if I don’t cool it, he was going to have to write me up.

    If you struggle like Alex does, here are some quick…

    Anger Management tricks.

    1)    Walk away. Seriously. When we’re addressing anxiety, we move “toward” the anxiety. With anger it’s the opposite. Walk away and cool down. Your brain isn’t going to be able to process rational thoughts until you get some distance from the problem. In technical terms, you’re shifting from your brain from your amygdala (fight, flight, freeze) to your prefrontal cortex (reasoning, thinking, planning, rational decision making). This takes time, and that’s ok. Better to take a breather now than say something you’ll regret later.

    2)    It’s become cliché to talk about counting your breaths, but there’s a reason they teach controlled breathing to Navy Seals.  Here is a structured way to think about this. You’re going to breathe in for the count of four, out for the count of four (silently repeating a word like “peace or calm or relax”). And then you’re going to hold for the count of four. And you’re going to practice this over and over. Our mind is like a puppy and the puppy is all over the place. When we’re training a puppy, it helps to give the dog a bone. Give it something to focus on. When it’s focused, it behaves. Give your brain something to focus on….specifically the breathing exercise. Your breath is your anger. Don’t forget to use it!

    3)    Identify what you want. Anger wants to punish people (or ourselves). But punishment is a poor way of changing behavior. What you really want is to be able to manage your emotions and find a resolution so everyone can go on with their day. Take the example of someone cutting you off in traffic. Someone like Alex might respond by speeding up on the other car, blaring his horn, or cutting in front of the other person. None of these things helps him accomplish his real goal, which is to get to his destination safely. And punishing the other driver isn’t likely to help the other driver to magically learn how to drive better (not to mention how things can escalate to violence). It’s not your job to punish the world. Your job is to manage your feelings.

    Help for anger

    Anger can cause all sorts of problems, large and small. If you’re wrestling with your own anger and you want to find better ways to manage yourself, reach out for help. Therapy can help you learn new skills so that you have better control of your mood, your behaviors, and maintain happy relationships. Reach out today for help and get your life back on track.