Previously we looked at what anger is, and we learned to recognise some of its symptoms. We also looked a little more deeply into some of the causes of anger and learned some tips on how to manage our feelings. In this article, we will look at some of the long-term coping strategies for anger.
Long-term coping depends on a couple of things. You need to learn and become aware of your triggers. You need to examine your mind more closely and understand your thought patterns. You need to develop your own communication skills. And, finally, based on these factors, you will need to make adjustments to your lifestyle. Let’s look at each one by one.
Your trigger points
Understanding the different types of situations that trigger your anger is important because it will help you develop strategies to cope. For example, knowing in advance the different types of situations that make you angry can help you plan in advance about how you might react when the situation actually happens.
You might find it helpful to keep a diary or make notes about the times you have felt angry. When you write in your diary, you can perhaps keep the following in mind:
What were the circumstances?
Did someone say or do something to trigger your anger?
How did you feel?
How did you behave?
How did you feel afterwards?
If you practice writing down notes like this, you might start to see some patterns emerging.
Understanding your thought patterns
When you get angry or upset, you might tend to think and say things like:
"This is all their fault."
"They never listen."
"This always happens to me."
"Other people should behave better."
It is good to remember that every situation – good or bad – can be seen and understood from multiple viewpoints, and not just a single viewpoint that is yours.
When you use categorical and emphatic words like ‘always’, ‘never’ and ‘should’ etc., the situation can make you feel worse. Things are not always so black and white.
It can be helpful to replace these words with softer words like ‘sometimes’ or ‘could’ etc. Using softer words may help you break the chain of negative, end-of-the-world- like thought patterns and provide you with some more space to reflect and calmly assess your situation.
Developing your communication skills
When you are angry and shouting and screaming at the top of your voice, you are unlikely to express your true feelings and thoughts. What tends to make the situation worse is that when you are bursting out on others, they tune out and stop listening to you and instead just focus on your anger. Whatever caused you to become angry never gets resolved because the person or persons responsible are not engaged in any genuine conversation. Instead, they get pulled into the theatrics of your anger, which usually draws them in too. Soon the situation spirals out of control into verbal abuse, judgments, more shouting and screaming, and, in really bad situations, also into physical violence. Nothing gets resolved. Everything seems to just break down.
A better thing to do is to express your thoughts and feelings in a respectful but assertive fashion. Being assertive simply means sticking to the facts, rather than to feelings. When you stick to the facts and communicate your thoughts calmly, you are way more likely to be understood by others.
Being assertive can:
make communication easier
stop tense situations from getting out of control
benefit your relationships and self-esteem.
Being assertive is not always easy. Here are some tips to get you started.
Think about the outcome you want to achieve. What's making you angry, and what do you want to change? Is it enough just to explain what you are angry about?
Be specific. For example, you could open your statement with, "I feel angry with you because..." Using the phrase 'I feel' avoids blaming anyone and the other person is less likely to feel attacked.
Really listen to the other person's response and try to understand their point of view.
Be prepared for the conversation to go wrong and try to spot when this is happening. If you feel yourself getting angry, you might want to come back to the conversation another time.
Generally speaking, having a good and healthy lifestyle can help you feel calmer and in better control when emotions like anger strike. As part of a healthy lifestyle, you might consider the following:
Avoid drugs and alcohol. It is easy to think and feel that these substances help you cope with your issues but alcohol and drugs can both affect your ability to control your emotions and actions and can be a factor in violence.
Be more active. Give your body ample doses of rigorous physical activity. Rigorous physical activity can help you release physical and mental tensions. Even gentle exercise like going for a walk can make a difference.
Get good sleep. Not sleeping well can have a huge impact on how we're feeling, and how well we cope with things that happen to us.
Look at what you're eating and drinking. What you eat and drink has an impact on how you feel. It’s advisable not to have foodstuffs that are too spicy, fatty, and oily, and it's always best to avoid sugary drinks that are just empty calories. What you put into your body affects your body in many different ways including your blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels and your blood pressure. When these vitals go off track, you end up feeling unwell and sick, and, in turn, uncomfortable, unhappy, and irritated.
Learn to deal with pressure. We can feel pressured or stressed for lots of different reasons but taking some time to learn how to deal with pressure can help us feel more in control of difficult situations.
Develop your emotional resilience. Emotional resilience helps us feel more able to handle difficult emotions.
Hope the above helps you develop some good, long-term coping strategies.
Now put on your thinking hats and think about the following questions for a couple of minutes.
Can you think of some factors that may contribute to anger outbursts?
Can you think of some long-term coping strategies to help a person who is suffering from anger outbursts?
Write down your thoughts and discuss them with your students, children, and your colleagues. Listen to their views and compare them with your own. As you listen to others, note how similar or different your views are to others’.
In the next post, we will look at some treatment and support options that you can explore when you feel you need them.
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