The same way even the grouchiest people smile sometimes, everyone gets mad on occasion. And in small doses, according to experts like Therapist Aid, anger is both normal and healthy, an emotion that helps us stand up to others and protect our own needs.
It’s the “small doses” that present a problem for many. If you’ve crossed into the realm of frequent, highly-charged angry outbursts, anger is no longer a positive force or even a necessary evil.
But you don’t have to accept those anger issues as being part of your makeup, even if acting out has been your go-to behavior since grade school. Instead, you can seek anger counseling or try some anger management activities that may help you deal with your anger before it disrupts your home or workplace.
Here are six of the top activities that help control temper:
Know thy triggers
If you can avoid some of the situations and, yes, people that always seem to make you angry, you’re making an important first step. But before that, you’ll need to examine your triggers, going so far as to write them all down and review the list daily, Therapist Daily advises.
Since you can’t always avoid triggers, form a plan for facing them, too. You might want to avoid conflict-driven conversations when you know a trigger like being tired, hungry or upset is already in play, for example.
Take a timeout
Kids are not the only ones who benefit from a timeout. If you know a certain time of day will stress you out, give yourself a short break right about then, the Mayo Clinic advises. Just the bit of quiet may help you cope with any subsequent stress, particularly the daily variety like the kids coming off the school bus or your boss’ daily critique of your shortcomings.
See if there are some solutions
It’s easy to just get angrier if you keep focusing on what’s making you mad, mad, mad. Instead, if you can, take time to address the issue at hand. If your partner makes you mad by being late every night while dinner cools on the table, for example, ask him to pick up dinner one night a week or eat an hour later.
Start sentences with “I” until you’re calmer
When you’re angry, and you’re talking (okay, maybe screaming), statements that criticize or place blame only escalate the problem, according to the Mayo Clinic. A better option is using only sentences that start with the word “I,” along with keeping a respectful tone and only speaking in specifics.
Mayo gives this example: “Say, ‘I’m upset that you left the table without offering to help with the dishes,” instead of. ‘You never do any housework.'”
Try a “growth mindset” approach
With this technique, preparations you make ahead of time help you when you’re tempted to indulge a bad temper. The Mayo Clinic recommends starting with a “Saying is believing” exercise. Basically, you identify one of your essential struggles to keep your cool and then imagine that you’re writing a letter to someone struggling with the same issue.
As you go along, ask yourself what advice you’d give them. “Explaining how someone else can respond makes it easier to recall those thoughts and put them into action for yourself,” Mayo explains.
To make the process most beneficial, try not to dwell on a particular outcome or expectation of following this advice, instead, tell yourself, “I am curious to learn what will happen if I try this challenge.” And persist even if your shift in thinking doesn’t work 100 percent the first time you try it. Instead, tell yourself you’ll try again, or try something a little different, putting whatever you learned the first time around into practice.
Keep an anger log
Instead of focusing on how you blew it, when you do lose your temper, keep a log of the episode. This way you can establish patterns and triggers and also map out a potential way to handle it better next time. The basics you’ll want to record include what was happening right before you got angry, including how you were feeling and if you were hungry, tired or otherwise stressed. Then jot down what happened, including what specifically triggered the angry outburst and how you reacted, at first and as the situation developed.
A professional anger management counselor can also help you evaluate the notes and possible steps to take to avoid such situations in the future.
And speaking of counselors…
Along with self-directed activities that help you cope with anger issues, anger counseling can do a world of good. To find out more about how our trained counselors can guide you to better mental health, contact us today.