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Coping with Frustration and Anger

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Anger is a normal, healthy emotion, and can be an adaptive response to threats in our environment. But, when chronic, explosive anger spirals out of control, it can have serious consequences for your relationship, your health, and your state of mind.

You can learn to control your anger

You have more control over your anger than you think. You can’t always control the situation you’re in, but you can control how you express yourself and you can learn to express your emotions without hurting others. When you do, you will not only feel better, you will also be more likely to get your needs met. Even if someone is pushing your buttons, you always have a choice about how to respond.

Why anger management is important:

  • Improve your physical health
  • Better your mood
  • Further your career
  • Enhance relationships with others

The guidelines below are intended to help you manage your anger and feel more in control of your response:

Be aware of your anger warning signs and triggers

While you might feel that your anger erupts suddenly without warning, in fact, there are physical warning signs within your body. Becoming aware of your own personal signs that your temper is starting to rise allows you to take steps to manage your anger before it gets out of control.

Use relaxation to calm down

It’s very difficult to remain angry when you are physically relaxed. Deep, slow breathing helps counteract rising tension and enables you to think more clearly when you are upset. The key is to breathe deeply from the abdomen; four counts in through your nose and four counts slowly out your mouth. Three deep abdominal breaths three times a day can drastically reduce your overall level of tension and help you manage difficult situations more effectively. Try accompanying your deep breaths with some light stretching and massage. Roll your shoulders if you are tensing them, for example, or gently massage your neck and scalp. You can also use your five senses to cool down. Lastly, visual imagery can be a very powerful tool for relaxation. Visualize a relaxing experience, from either your memory or from your imagination.

Change your thinking

You may think that external things – the insensitive actions of other people, for example, or frustrating situations – are what cause your anger. But anger problems have less to do with what happens to you than how you interpret and think about what happened.

Common negative thinking patterns that trigger and fuel anger include:

  • Overgeneralizing
  • Obsessing on “should” or “musts”
  • Mind reading and jumping to conclusions
  • Focusing on the negative
  • Blaming

Remind yourself that getting angry is not likely to solve the problem at hand, and probably won’t make you feel better. In fact, it may actually make you feel worse!

Express yourself

Anger often stems from an emotion that is lying underneath the surface – usually sadness, fear, hurt, or loneliness. In order to get your needs met and express your anger in appropriate ways it is important to identify with these emotions.

Follow these guidelines to express yourself fairly:

  • Make the relationship a priority
  • Focus on the present
  • Choose your battles
  • Be willing to forgive
  • Know when to let something go

Engage in healthy distraction

If your anger seems to be spiraling out of control, remove yourself from the situation for as long as it takes you to cool down. Research suggests that a minimum of 20 minutes is required to fully rid your body of the stress hormone in your blood stream. A brisk walk, a trip to the gym, listening to music or writing in your journal should help you calm down, release emotion and approach the situation later with a clearer head.

Consider Professional Help

Learning to control anger is a challenge for everyone at times. If you have been unsuccessful in managing our anger on your own, or if you are getting feedback from loved ones that your anger is impacting your relationship, consider seeking professional support. Therapy can be a great way to explore the reasons behind your anger. If you don’t know why you are getting angry, it is very hard to control. Therapy provides a safe environment to learn more about your reasons and identify triggers for your anger. It is also a safe place to practice new skills in expressing yourself.

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