The term "anger management" refers to a set of tools and skills that can help people control their behavior when they become stressed or aggravated. The practice is composed of a variety of techniques, such as deep breathing and thought monitoring that can help people cope with their emotions in different ways. The activities also help people relax.
If you look online, you'll find plenty of advice on anger management. Counselors and practitioners use various strategies such as meditation and mindfulness. But some skills can be harder to master than others. And, if you're looking for anger management skills to learn, you're likely to find that some just simply aren't your cup of tea. For these reasons, it can be helpful to explore a variety of anger managment techniques to find the strategy that works best for you.
Activities for Anger Management
People turn to anger management for a variety of different reasons. One of the main objectives is to navigate anger-inducting situations in a way that is appropriate and productive.
Of course, it's normal to get angry or upset. If you spill your coffee on your keyboard, step on a piece of gum while wearing your favorite pair of shoes, or get stuck in a traffic jam when you're already behind schedule, it is likely that you'll become irritated. Some people are able to handle these situations a sense of calm and surrender, while others need to put in more effort to control their emotions.
It is okay if you notice that you handle your anger differently than the people around you. Your response can be influenced by your personality, triggers, and background. This is why there are different strategies and approaches to anger management. Find the best activity that works for you and put the coping skill to practice.
Use an Emotions Pie Chart
One of the best ways to work on behavior is to view it objectively. This perspective can help you better understand your anger triggers and the way in which your emotions manifest into actions. The Emotions Pie Chart is a method that can help to give you an outsider's view of your anger so you can better understand and control it.
- Print out the Emotions Pie Chart from above. Or, if you really want to flex your creative muscles, grab a piece of paper and draw a large circle. This circle will represent your entire day.
- Think about the main emotions that you experience each day. Then divide them into two categories: positive emotions and negative emotions. Positive emotions can include feelings of calm, contentment, and friendliness. Negative emotions can include feelings of anger, jealousy, and aggravation. You can customize the emotions listed in the Emotions Pie Chart printable. Or, if the listed emotions are a good fit for you, keep them as is.
- Each day, color in a bit of the pie slices that represent whatever emotions you experienced. For example, each time you're angry, color in some of the slice. And, each time you're happy, color in some of that slice.
- You can start a brand new pie chart each day. Or, shade in smaller amounts and use the same pir chart for an entire week. At the end of your week, you will have a chart that showcases all of your emotions. You can use this to evaluate your feelings and how often you experience them. How much of your circle is filled with negative emotions? How about positive ones? Which days did you have the most negative emotions? What happened on those days?
This emotions pie chart will give you some idea of the intensity and frequency of your anger. Continue this exercise for several weeks for a more accurate assessment of how often you feel negative emotions. Over time, you can gauge which days and events trigger your anger, and plan ahead with coping strategies.
Dissolve Anger with Humor
Research shows that humor can have a positive impact on stress management. In fact, it's often referred to as laughter therapy, and it has also been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. This means that you can harness the effectiveness of humor whenever you are feeling intense emotions to help reduce your stress and boost your mood.
You can learn to use humor when you find yourself in a stressful or upsetting situation. For example, maybe you are stuck in traffic, in a long line at a doctor's office, or squished in a crowded bus. Then try to follow these steps.
- Begin to count. You can do this under your breath or in your head. However, there's a twist. Try and tie each number you count to a silly mental image. Something like: "1 funny pig, 2 scowling bananas, 3 zebras wearing suits, 4 tumbling librarians…" and so forth. The sillier the better.
- Imagine these pictures as vividly as you can, and let your creativity roam. Were the zebras wearing pinstripes or zoot suites? Was the pig in a silly hat or doing stand-up? The point is to make this counting as funny as possible.
- You can even connect your counting to your breath. For example, you can breathe in to the count of one, and breathe out as you imagine a pig in a tutu. This can help you practice a relaxation technique, while also giving yourself something to laugh about.
This technique can help you distract yourself from your current undesirable situation. When you aren't actively thinking about whatever is making you angry or stressed, you might notice that the situation doesn't have as great an impact on your emotions.
Picture Yourself From an Outsider's Perspective
Your emotions are heightened in stressful situations and you might notice physical sensations in the body. For example, your jaw might feel tight or start to hurt, or you might notice that your eyebrows are furrowed. These are common reactions when someone is upset. However, you might be acting on emotions that you would rather only be feeling.
Have you ever wondered what you looked like when you were angry? Or what others must face when you become overwhelmed with emotions? It can be helpful to put yourself in their shoes and view yourself from an outsider's perspective, literally.
- Carry a small mirror in your pocket, handbag, glove compartment, or somewhere else convenient.
- Wait until you start to feel your intense emotions brewing. When you can hear the tea kettle whistling and feel the steam coming out of your ears, turn to your mirror. Take it out and examine your face.
- Explore what you see. Do you notice changes to your mouth or eyebrows? How about in the emotions behind your eyes? Are your teeth hurting or are your nostrils flared?
- After you have viewed yourself from an outsider's perspective, massage your face, temples, or jaw to help your facial muscles relax. Or make a silly face to help yourself laugh.
- Wait until you feel calm and relaxed. Notice how your face changes when you are no longer stressed or irritated. Take as long as you need until you feel like you look more like yourself. Then, move on to the next part of your day and repeat the exercise as needed.
It might seem silly, but facial expressions are powerful. In fact, some studies have found that the act of frowning itself can actually make you feel sadder just by activating those facial muscles. This activity can help you manage your anger from the outside in.
Use Creative Outlets
This idea comes from one of the most renowned journalists of the 20th century, G.K. Chesterton. According to biographies, Chesterton was constantly battling his temper. In fact, when he was a schoolboy, Chesterton would create funny stories and drawings about people and experiences that aggravated him.
For example, he would imagine his principal stumbling through a door or a school bully glued to a chair. Afterward, he found that he felt less upset. You can follow in Chesterton's footsteps and use images to cope with stress.
- Find a piece of paper. You might find it helpful to carry a mini notepad with you or keep it in your car to ensure that you have something to draw on. Or, if you prefer, you can use a drawing app on your phone.
- Then, choose to either write or draw about your experience. Or, get creative and combine the two. Imagine a funny or compromising scenario, and place the person you're upset with inside it. For example, draw the person you're upset with wearing a diaper. Or, create a comic strip about them giving an important speech in their underwear.
- Afterward, throw away your drawing or delete it from your phone. This way, you can ensure that no one else will find it.
This activity will give you a creative outlet for your anger. You can use it before you enter a stressful situation to help yourself cope before you arrive. And, you can use it after you experience anger to help bring your emotions back to baseline.
Strong emotions, such as anger or fear, are often associated with triggers. Triggers are aspects, such as words, places, or people, that cause these strong emotions to arise after you encounter them. Triggers can be established due to your background and previous life experiences that you now associate with one emotion or another.
Before you begin this exercise it's important to discover your triggers. Think about what they may be. Is there a person you encounter often that makes you upset? Do certain situations often make you angry? Smells? Places? Really explore what sets you off. Then, follow this exercise.
- Sit comfortably in a chair in a private place. Close your eyes.
- Choose one of your triggers to focus on for this exercise. You can repeat this exercise with other triggers, as well, but make sure to go through them one at a time.
- Imagine as many details as possible about your trigger. For example, if you chose a person, think about the clothes they usually wear, their eye and hair color, and the expression they usually have on their face. Include sensory details as you can, such as the smell of their perfume, or the texture of their hands.
- Say the name of your trigger out loud over and over again. Continue to say it faster and louder over time. For example, if your trigger is a person, say their name.
- Continue for about one minute.
After you stop repeating the name of your trigger, check in with how you are feeling. Do you feel more or less angry than when you began? What happened the more you repeated the phrase? Did the detail seem to affect you less or more? Over time, you may notice that this exposure to your triggers helps you build resilience when you confront them in real life.
More Ways to Explore Anger Management
After you try the anger management strategies above, you might want to take your learning further. Discover more about anger management and different coping strategies with the following resources:
- Anger Management Worksheets - A selection of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) worksheets and treatment manuals for anger management that are available for therapists and clients.
- More Anger Management Worksheets and Relaxation Downloads - Printable anger management worksheets that help you identify your anger triggers and find more effective ways to deal with the emotion, as well as tips, and relaxation techniques.
- Basic Anger Management Techniques - A look into the key concepts of anger management from the American Psychological Association,
- Free Anger Management Classes - A list of free online courses that can help you manage your anger
If you've tried some anger management strategies before in the past and they didn't seem like a good fit, it's okay. There are a lot of different strategies out there that might not work for everyone. What's important is that you continue to make an effort to find the best solution for you. Each person has a different experience with anger and may need different approaches to help them cope.