Anger Management Techniques

Here is a range of anger management techniques. Read through them and choose some to try out. Please don’t wait until you are really angry before you try them out. Use them on the little irritations that arise every day. Those little flashes of annoyance are much easier to deal with and make very good opportunities for practising your anger management techniques before you need to use them for real


Count to ten

I know this is a well known technique and a bit old hat but the reason it is so well known is because it works. Counting to ten gives you time to consider your reaction to whatever is going on and make a more reasoned decision about how to deal with it and your feelings. It stops you just exploding and going into a state where it is impossible to think clearly.

It may feel odd to not react to what someone has said or done straight away. What you can do is say something like this:

To a child “I’m feeling angry about what you just said/did and I need a minute to think about what to say to you. So wait a minute.”
To an adult “I’m feeling angry about this. Give me a minute to calm down before I say anything.”

I think it helps to remember that we always have a choice as to how we react in any situation. It is easy to say that someone has made us angry. Although it may feel like that it is not really true. We always have a choice in how we react. We can choose to be angry at someone’s behaviour and we can also choose to respond in a different way. It takes self control and time to be able to do that but it is certainly possible.

Take a deep breath

When you are angry, you will tend to hold your breath or breathe very shallowly. This makes it hard to relax and feel calm. Taking a deep breath brings more oxygen to your brain and allows it to function more clearly and effectively so that you can make better decisions about how to react.

So when you feel yourself getting hot under the collar, take at least one and preferably several more deep breaths. You can also do this while you are counting to ten to make this anger management technique even more effective.


Learn your anger signs

Everyone has certain physical feelings when they are getting angry. It may seem as those feelings come out of nowhere when you lose your temper. You can learn to pick up on small changes in the way you feel just before your temper goes. If you can become sensitive to those feelings, you can take action to halt them before they get the better of you.

Some of the typical signs of anger arising are breathing faster, tightness in your stomach and/or chest, clenching your fists and tension in your jaw. Do your best to become aware of these signs and consciously changing them when you feel them arising. Let your breathing deepen, relax your stomach, let your hands go loose, soften your jaw. The best way to soften your jaw is to smile. Hard as this may sound when you are feeling angry, smiling can be really helpful in dispersing anger before it gets a hold.


Notice what makes you angry

A very helpful anger management technique is to take time to make a list of times when you tend to get angry. For instance, you might easily get angry when it’s time for the children to go to bed. Maybe they always play up and make it difficult. Or it might be when you have asked you partner to do something and s/he has forgotten to do it again!

When you’ve made your list, think about how you could manage those situations better.

In the bedtime example:

Have you interpreted what is happening accurately?
Are your children really trying to annoy you or could it be you haven’t got clear rules for your bedtime routine?
Could you spend some time talking to them about what you expect?
Are they too wound up at bedtime and would it help to have calm peaceful activity going on just before they get ready for bed?
Would a reward system help?
If you are clear about what you want and are clear with your children, you may well find that there is very little need for irritation or anger.

In the forgetful partner example:

Could you try explaining to your partner how you feel when you cannot rely on him/her doing what you asked? When talking to others about how you feel about their behaviour using “I” statements makes a big difference. For instance, instead of saying “Why didn’t you hang up the washing? It makes me so angry when you keep forgetting!” You can say “I feel like you don’t care about what I want when you forget to do something I’ve asked you to do.”

Exercise

Exercise can be used as an anger management technique. Anger increases stress hormones in the body. If you exercise regularly, either aerobic exercise or a calming exercise like yoga, you will reduce the stress hormones circulating in your body. This will help you to keep your angry feelings in control. Encourage your children to take regular exercise as well. You will find they are generally calmer and easier to have around.

Develop your sense of humour

Taking yourself and your feelings too seriously makes you much more likely to react with anger in situations you don't like. When you find yourself getting angry, try this anger management technique:

Take a deep breath, then imagine you are standing beside yourself. Imagine looking at your own face and body. Then look in your own eyes and smile at yourself. See yourself smiling back at you. Then laugh at yourself and see yourself laughing back at you.

This takes a bit of practise so try it out a few times when you are not feeling angry. If you use this consistently I guarantee you will find yourself seeing the funny side of being human far more often. And you will get angry much less frequently.

Forgiveness

Sometimes we can find it very difficult to let go of our anger at someone. We feel that what they did, or are continually doing, is so bad that we are not willing to let them off the hook. Being able to let go and forgive someone when you feel they have wronged you is very powerful in enabling you to let go of anger.

Real forgiveness does not mean seeing that someone did something wrong and then magnanimously telling them that it's okay, you forgive them for it. Real forgiveness means seeing the other person differently - knowing that whatever they do, they are worthy and deserving of love and they are doing the best they know how in the situation they are in. As the saying goes: "Walk a mile in someone else's shoes before you judge them." In other words, you cannot know what has prompted someone else's behaviour unless you can get inside their mind. As that is not generally possible, choosing to think the best of someone rather than getting angry at them, is usually a wise choice.

Further help

• There is a very useful book by Richard Nelson-Jones called Human Relationship Skills . Make sure you go for the 2006 edition which has a lot of new additions compared with the earlier one. This book has some very effective anger management techniques as well as helping you with many other aspects of developing good relationships.

• An absolutely brilliant book for helping men with anger is Beyond Anger: A Guide for Men - How to Free Yourself from the Grip of Anger and Get More Out of Life by Thomas Harbin who himself had an anger problem and learnt to deal with it. He says that men tend to get angry in a different way from women. They have been shown to express their anger in a more violent way and to be less willing to look at the emotions going on inside which are triggering their anger. Among other things this book provides insights into how anger is an aspect of low self-esteem. It explains that anger is normal but expressing it violently is not and gives helpful advice and a range of anger management techniques to help you deal with and change how you express your anger. This book is also very useful for women with anger management problems.

• A great audio program which provides some very valuable help with anger management is Anger Management in the Think Right Now range of self help audios. Click here to go to the website and then scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the blue catalog link which will take you through to a list of all the programs available. Anger Management is the second link on the list.

Making the effort to manage your anger can make such a massive difference to your life and that of your family. It really is worthwhile taking time to master as many anger management techniques as possible to give you the best possible chance of bringing your anger under your control.



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