Everybody gets angry once in a while.
Most of us are able to resolve our circumstance and let it go. Some people, however, get stuck in the anger mode. The results of a long-term anger habit may include poor health, ruined relationships, job or legal problems and general unhappiness. Anger is a strong emotion and it triggers the reflexive fight or flight system in our brain. Anger management is the process of learning to recognize signs that you are becoming angry, and take action to calm down and deal with the situation in a positive way.
One simple method to remember the steps of anger management is to visualize in your mind a traffic light and use the colors red, yellow and green to help you. When you feel anger signals in your body and mind; STOP (red light), use CAUTION (yellow light), take a deep breath and change your thoughts to calm yourself internally; when you feel calm, GO (green light). Assert yourself to express your needs or if it is trivial, let it go. Being able to self-regulate and move on throughout your day, calm, cool and collected, is a skill that can be learned. Mark Twain is quoted as saying “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” By obsessing over angry “hot thoughts,” you fuel the internal fire that triggers more and more anger and resentment. Changing angry irrational thoughts into more balanced thoughts lessens the intensity and duration of the negative emotions. It is the essential life skill of being able to bounce back, move forward and enjoy life.
Lately, I’ve been over-reacting to things and blowing up at people. How can I get a handle on my irritability? The fact that you recognize and take ownership of your grouchiness is a really good sign. Anger management begins with prevention. When struggling with irritability, first, take inventory of how you have been taking care of yourself. Have you been attending to your physical health, need for a medical check-up, getting enough sleep, overcommitting yourself with too much to do? Uncharacteristic anger may have physical causes as well as emotional triggers. On a daily basis, it’s less about what happens to us externally and more about how we interpret and think about it that causes us to blow up. Ask yourself in those moments, am I over-reacting? How important is this in the long run? Is it worth ruining the rest of my day? When you catch yourself becoming irritated, stop, take a deep cleansing breath, reflect on the situation, calm your thoughts and choose to resolve it, cope with it or let it go.
I get angry and yell at the guys at work to keep them in line. I think people respect this and I don’t want to be a pushover. Aggressive and angry outbursts at work can damage your relationships and career. Instead of receiving the respect you desire; fear, resentment and sabotage from co-workers may result. Even if you are skilled at your job and have a good work ethic, intimidating others won’t get the job done in the long run. If you have a hard time listening to other viewpoints or are constantly on the lookout for challenges to your authority, you may want to reflect on what lies behind the anger. Many overly angry people are also overly sensitive, getting hurt by stuff that other people would typically ignore. High stress levels, anxiety, perfectionism or angry habits learned as a child also can contribute to a “hot temper.” Do not let others push your buttons — take back control over your emotions. A firm, calm and clear approach to communication at work generally results in mutual respect, cooperation and better morale.
Susanne Ringhausen, MA, LCPC, CEAP is director of Psychological Services and EAP Counseling at OSF Saint Anthony’s Health Center. For information, call (618) 474-6240.