Anger Management Exercises: Find the Path to Peace

Is anger putting a strain on your relationships, damaging any self-respect you have left, and taking a toll on your peace? This article will present some sound anger management exercises to help you manage your anger and finally walk in the joy of self-control.

Acquire a Box of Tools and Use Them

Taking a time-out

A good number of individuals with extreme anger issues say that their rage usually surges from of 0 to 60 in a matter of mere seconds.

When their anger is at its peak, rational thinking just doesn’t happen. Because of that, taking a time-out is usually the best remedy so that foolish and irrational behavior doesn’t happen and destructive, cruel words are not uttered.

If you find yourself riled up and anger is swelling, these activities can help you settle down during your time-out:

  • Don’t speak until you think. Often times, it is not so much what it is that you actually say, it is the manner in which you say it. When you take time to consider your response to the matter that has angered you, it is helpful to also think whether it would be pleasing to God, conducive to your relationship and if it is respectful. Writing your response down is very helpful so you can take it at face value and so you don’t change it around in your own head.
  • Explore possible solutions. No matter what situation you are in, brainstorming possible solutions can help you see the situation more clearly. Ask for God’s help in having thoughts that are not confined to your own box and those that are in your comfort zone.
  • Keep notes. It is a good idea to employ the use of a worksheet that tracks your emotional incidents and pinpoint within your writing such things as your thoughts, emotions, needs, desires, errors, and any useful strategies you might use to overcome. Chart the progress you make too. It will encourage you to see how far you have come.
  • Taking a walk works wonders. You might be surprised how much it can help. No matter if it’s a walk down the street, through the woods, or up a mountain, it gets you out and away from where you are and can greatly promote problem-solving deep thinking. Aerobic activities have been proven to release endorphins which enhance your mood so that is another plus.
  • Try listening to music that is soothing such as instrumental tunes or Christ-focused music. Lie down or sit comfortably so the tunes can calm your mind. Fix your thoughts upon Jesus and see how your mood changes.
  • Take a shower or a bath. Just the sensory experience has the ability to soothe you and to relieve stress. It also gives you some time and space to think of positive ways to make wise choices you can make.

Recognize early stage warning signs

In order to be able to implement a time-out and to use tools to help you successfully and constructively deal with your anger issue, you will need to become aware of the mental, personal, and biological signals you put off. If you don’t know the warning signs that take place before a melt-down, you will not have time to employ the use of your tools.

Pay very close attention to all the things you note about your thoughts and feelings prior to your melt-down stage, be sure to record those things so you can take preventive action in future cases.

Below are some indicators that are common to those who have issues with anger:

  • Teeth grinding and jaw clenching
  • Shaking
  • Clenched fists
  • Feeling hot and sweating
  • Stomach ache
  • Headache
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Red face
  • Heavy breathing
  • Yelling and screaming
  • Pacing
  • Blank mind
  • Hurling insults
  • Obsessions concerning the problem at hand
  • Feel like breaking, hitting, or throwing, or breaking things

Engaging in physical activity

Taking part in a physical activity distracts your brain from the problem at hand and also discharges energy and diminishes the stress hormones which are produced when anger is present. It also helps release negative emotions. Riding a bike, jogging, building something, working out, playing sports, and hiking are examples of things you might consider doing.

Use distraction methods

When you find something that you can do in order to distract your mind from what it is you are angry over, your autonomic nervous part in your body will have the opportunity to recover. You can cook, talk to a friend, work in the garden, go see a movie, or take work on a hobby. What you chose to do really doesn’t matter as long as it is able to redirect your thoughts.

Practice relaxation techniques

Many Christ-centered counselors suggest the popular methods below to help their clients relax:

  • Breathing deep. One exercise that is considered to be very effective is to take in slow breaths through your nostrils while counting slowly to five, then to exhale through your mouth while counting to seven, then once again repeating over again and over again, until you find yourself relaxed. You should focus on your breathing which will help distract your thoughts from your anger.
  • Progressive relaxation. The technique of progressively relaxing involves the slow and systematic tensing then releasing of areas of your body however long it takes until you are fully relaxed.
  • Stretching and yoga. Yoga is known to relax your mind and body as is stretching. You are sure to find a myriad of resources available for learning both if you look online.
  • Thought-stopping and imagery. Commonly referred to as going to your solace or happy place, this tool can be implemented to help you take your thoughts captive as the Bible tells us to do. Picture being in your favorite spot. Think of pleasant situations. Eliminate the scrambled, negative thoughts in your head and relax your body and your mind.

Journal

Putting your feelings and thoughts down on paper is very therapeutic. It helps put things into perspective. Those who have problems with rage often see things out of proportion. Writing in a journal can offer the chance to physiologically calm down a notch and to steer stray and negative thoughts into a more constructive and positive direction.

You might try what is called a three-pronged journaling approach. The first step is to acknowledge your angry feelings by venting. Try to get in touch with the emotions that are associated with your anger like fear and hurt.

Next, begin to look to God for answers. The more you meditate and note the promises God has given you, the more your notes will reflect positive solutions and hope. Then, practice gratefulness by listing all the good things in your life. In other words, count your blessings. Look back on your past writings as you continue writing new entries. You will find it is life changing.

Getting to the Cause of the Anger Within

When your anger begins to rear its ugly head, use the tools in your toolbox. It is imperative to find out where your anger is stemming from and why it tends to become unmanageable. Soul searching will help immensely.

Make a fearless and searching inventory

By taking a fearless inventory of your morals, you are able to take a really good, honest look inside yourself. You can see where your intents are good and when they are not so good. It is easy to be fooled but when you get down to business you won’t be able to deny the truth.

Then you can let God clean house and get rid of the things in your life that do not belong there like resentments and pride. He will replace them with such things as love, joy, peace, and happiness. Forgiveness will often need to be sought after taking such an inventory.

Practice listening effectively

Individuals who have short fuses and who are chronically angry often fall into a habit of supporting their angry thoughts and feelings by hearing what they want to hear when listening to what others are saying, rather than really hearing what it is the other person is actually saying. Here are some listening skills that can help:

  • Practice empathy. Try to picture yourself in the shoes of the other individual so you can begin to imagine how they feel.
  • Intently and intentionally listen for important information so you can stop filtering out things, consciously or subconsciously. This will keep you from jumping to conclusions.
  • Check to see if you have a real perspective of what the other person is saying. Try to understand their viewpoint, even when you disagree.

Look for the humor

Have you ever thought about lightening up a bit when you are angry? Anger usually involves a lot of overreacting. You tend to look and act ridiculous. Why not find the humor and just crack up laughing rather than exploding in anger?

Learn to be assertive

A lot of people become angry because of passiveness. They never seem to let others know what they really think and feel or what they really want and need. When you learn to express such things, you will begin to feel freer and less angry. Setting some healthy boundaries and keeping them is a good assertive practice too. Why not try it?

Practicing good self-care

When you aren’t taking proper care of yourself and your own needs, it’s easy to fall victim to anger issues. It is imperative to pay attention to these areas to keep your anger from getting out of control:

  • Eat right
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Be social and nurture relationships
  • Get regular physical exercise
  • Relax and rest
  • Do things you enjoy
  • Exercise regularly
  • Keep your relationship with God active and alive

Live your life agreeably

In times that we act or think in wrong ways, an inner turmoil is bound to follow. Anger management that really works takes work. It requires self-assessment on a regular basis and also requires that you line your values and actions up.

Seeking the help of God & standing on His Holy Word

Lack of control over your anger is often a very stubborn problem. Those who struggle may say that the tools received in therapy are not effective. They long for a cure-all pill instead – an easier, softer way of dealing with it. What we all are in desperate need of is the Holy Spirit’s power.

The tools detailed above cannot be effective if you don’t initiate and practice them. Asking for help from The Great Physician is necessary for experiencing true victory. Just ask Jesus to reveal the root of your anger and lead you in the path of righteousness and deliverance. Be sure to read the Bible with an open heart and cling to God’s word.

There are many times that living in this fallen world will present opportunities to become angry. Did you know that anger is actually an emotion God gave us that signifies something is not right? What we are angry about may have a legitimate cause, in which case, God instructs us not to sin though we are angry (Ephesians 4:26). On the other hand, our perception may be off, in which case we are to “put aside…anger” (Colossians 3:8).

If you find that anger is causing problems in your life, reach out to a Christian counselor who can give you the support and help you need to learn and make use of the tools above.

Photos:
“Angry Man”, Courtesy of Pixabay, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Angry Enough to Kill”, Courtesy of WenPHotos, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Write in Journal,” Courtesy of Walt Stoneburner, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2,0); “Hide My Face”, Courtesy of MMckein, Pixabay.com, CC0 License

Struggling with Anger Issues? Help is Available

Sometimes a couple can look like they have it all together on the outside, but really be struggling on the inside. This was true of Sarah and Zach. They were engaged and in the process of planning their wedding. They picked a date and a venue and had even announced the news to families and friends. All seemed to be going perfectly, but in private, they were struggling and second guessing their decision.

Their arguments weren’t healthy. They would begin small and escalate to nasty fights filled with loud outbursts. It usually ended with Sarah shouting, while Zach left. Sarah felt dismissed and ignored by Zach, which irritated her, while Zach felt disrespected and was upset because Sarah would stew on things and then explode.

They were caught in a vicious cycle. The more Zach dismissed Sarah’s emotions and thoughts, the more angry and aggressive Sarah became and things continued to spiral downward.

Finally, they decided to see a counselor named Megan. They hoped that a therapist would help them deal with the conflict in their relationship. When Megan heard their story, she recommended that Zach and Sarah begin seeing her on an individual basis.

In the first few sessions, Sarah’s anger issues surfaced and Megan shocked Sarah by suggesting that she should explore how to express her anger. Sarah laughed at her, outright, saying “I don’t have any issues expressing anger! I’m usually a hothead.”

Patiently, Megan explained that these expressions of anger were not the core of her anger, but only symptoms of it. The deeper issue was manifesting as rage, but the real issues weren’t being dealt with in a way that could be considered healthy.

Megan also explained that her angry outbursts were hiding the true feelings she was having, keeping her from understanding what was really going on in her heart. When Megan asked her to try to explain and describe the underlying feelings associated with her anger, Sarah didn’t know what to say.

The most Sarah could do was share that she had been raised by a father who punished her for any expression of anger because it was “disrespectful.” At the same time, her father would hypocritically excuse his own angry and abusive outbursts, placing the blame on Sarah or on her mother.

To make things worse, Sarah’s mother passive-aggressively took out her anger on Sarah and taught her that anger was unladylike and needed to be avoided by women. This unhealthy message made it hard for Sarah to understand her anger or express it well, while simultaneously making her feel anxious and guilty about her anger. Her inability to cope with and express her anger, combined with her anxiety regarding it, created the cycle of anger she was experiencing.

Megan also explained to Sarah that both Zach and herself were ignoring her feelings. Sarah tended to resist any feelings of anger and push them away until she couldn’t control them. Before Zach could ever dismiss them, Sarah’s feelings had already been ignored and rejected by Sarah.

This created issues before Zach even got involved and explained why Zach felt that Sarah would wait until it was too late to express her emotions. She wasn’t just hiding them from him, she was hiding her feelings from herself but the anger would come out at Zach when Sarah accused him of something or exaggerated a relational misstep.

When this happened, Zach would walk away, albeit against his will. He knew she was hurting, but by her anger and intensity was sometimes more than he could take.

Anger Issues: Indicators

It is possible for typical indicators of anger issues to go unnoticed in a relationship for a long time. Here are a few examples:

1. Poor, or lacking, emotional awareness

Sarah’s inability to express her underlying emotions related to anger showed how out of touch she was with her own feelings.

Psychology Today says “Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It is generally said to include three skills: emotional awareness; the ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes regulating your own emotions and cheering up or calming down other people.” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/emotional-intelligence)

Learning to empathize with Zach’s feelings and coming to understand her own was one of the most important steps for Sarah to begin controlling her outbursts. Feelings are transitory. One day they are here, the next day they are gone. When we attach negative associations to different emotions, we can prevent ourselves from dealing with them properly.

2. Unproductive communication styles

“The medium is the message” is the idea that means by which a message is delivered is actually part of the message itself. Sarah didn’t understand what she was experiencing and, as a result, she communicated about the issues in a counterproductive way.

As she became able to understand her feelings and needs, she learned how to communicate them in a useful way. Even if she knew what she needed, screaming about it wasn’t an effective medium of communication.

People who struggle with anger have predictable modes of communication when they are angry. Consider the following excerpt from the article “Assertive Communication and Anger Management” by Harry Mills, PH.D.

“As a social emotion, anger is experienced through communication. Angry people tend to have distinct communication postures that they habitually take up when communicating with others. Psychologists have described four of these communication postures, each possessing its own motto: The Aggressive communications posture says: I count but you don’t count.

“The Passive communications posture says: I don’t count. The Passive-Aggressive communications posture says: I count. You don’t count but I’m not going to tell you about it. The Assertive communications posture says: I count and you do too.

“As you might guess, angry people tend to use the Aggressive and Passive-Aggressive postures a whole lot. Aggressive communicators are more likely to start an argument than they are to get the results they want achieved, however.

“Being passive in your communications is also a mistake, as it communicates weakness and tends to invite further aggression. The Assertive communications posture is the most useful and balanced of all the postures as it is the only posture that communicates respect for all parties.

“Communicating assertively is the most likely way to ensure that everyone involved gets their needs taken care of. Learning how to become assertive rather than aggressive or passive-aggressive is an important step in discovering how to communicate appropriately with others.

People who are habitually aggressive tend to fundamentally misunderstand what it means to be assertive. Specifically, they tend to confuse assertiveness with aggression and think they already are acting assertively. This is frequently a mistaken impression, however.

“Both aggressive and assertive communications postures can involve fierce and persuasive communication. They are fundamentally different things, however, in that aggressive communication tends to go on the offense – it attacks and berates the other – while assertive communication uses anger and fierceness only in defense.

“Assertive people stand up for themselves and their rights and do not take crap from others. However, they manage to do this without crossing the line into aggressiveness; they do not attack the person they are communicating with unnecessarily. Assertiveness is “anger in self-defense” whereas aggressiveness is “anger because I feel like it”. (https://www.mentalhelp.net/articles/assertive-communication-and-anger-management/)

3. Unhealthy self-talk or distorted cognitions

Cognitive distortions are like the idea rose colored glasses. The idea that your lense, or view of the world, is not inaccurate. However, while rose colored glasses is the idea that you idealize everything, cognitive distortions are darker, distorted perspectives. There are 10 main distortions that often coexist with anger issues:

  • Personalization – This is when you take responsibility for a thing that wasn’t your fault. You personalize the problem. (David Burns’ book “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. The Clinically Proven Drug Free Treatment for Depression”)
  • Labeling and mislabeling – An extreme type of overgeneralization, instead of describing your mistake, you assign a negative label to yourself.
  • Reasoning by emotion – You think your emotions are representative of the truth as if just because you feel it, it must, therefore, be true.”
  • Jumping to conclusions – Even though you don’t have facts to convincingly support your position, you refuse to withhold judgment and choose to make negative interpretations of the events. (Involves mind-reading and fortune-telling.)
  • Should statements – You are emotionally hard on yourself and attempt to motivate yourself with sentences containing “should” or “should not,” trying to punish yourself to make yourself do right.
  • Magnification and minimization – An issue of perspective, your view of what things are important or unimportant do not conform to reality.
  • Disqualifying the positive – Only negative experiences are accepted. Anything postive is rejected because they “don’t count” for some reason. Then you are able to maintain your negativity, despite positive life experiences.
  • Mental filter – You fixate on one negative detail and ignore everything else.
  • Overgeneralization– You aren’t able to see things in context. A single negative event is seen as a repeating, inescapable problem.
  • All or nothing thinking – There are only two options: success or failure. Any sort of mistake or shortcoming equals failure.

4. Minimizing behaviors

Those who struggle to manage their anger, like Sarah, can develop concerning behavior that needs to be addressed. A common trait of anger disorders is minimizing. Minimizing is when someone belittles what happened during the escalation of a conflict.

Refusing to accept or recognize personal behavior in a conflict is an obvious sign that the anger is not being dealt with well. Abusive behavior includes disgust directed at an individual rather than a problem, yelling, disrespectful speech, and physical contact, like hitting or kicking.

Let’s think back to the case study of Zach and Sarah:

Through counseling, Zach shared that during two instances of Sarah’s anger, she actually struck Zach in the middle of an argument. When confronted with this, Sarah became defensive, claiming Zach was “too strong for it to have hurt him.”

Megan saw that Sarah blamed her angry and violent actions on Zach and his dismissive behavior, so Megan calmly explained the issue of minimizing and blaming. Slowly, Sarah’s attitude changed, and she began to take responsibility for her own actions.

In more extreme cases of domestic violence, the perpetrators have been known to minimize and blame regularly. A good example was a moment during my time working with domestic violence offenders in the state of Georgia.

I worked with a participant during group counseling who was being confronted because his partner needed to get stitches as a result of his physical abuse. The perpetrator responded that “It was only a couple.” A very sad, but classic example of minimization.

Maybe the best starting point for evaluating anger issues is to be on the lookout for indicators that anger is being poorly managed or expressed. Psychguide.com offers a good description of the signs of the physical and emotional states of anger issues. If any of these indicators are present in your relationships, then perhaps anger management training or counseling is for you.

Some of these emotional states are recurring irritability, uncontrollable rage, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, confusion, and fantasizing about harming yourself or others. The physical symptoms can include tingling, tightening of the chest, heart palpitations, heightened blood pressure, fatigue, and pressure in the head or sinus cavities.

Losing your temper doesn’t mean you have an anger problem. Anger is a powerful emotion that, at times, can trigger our adrenal system. It can move us to stand up for ourselves and our loved ones.

Anger becomes a problem when it is recurring, minimized when the deeper emotions are left un-validated and unexpressed, when it affects your relationships, and when it leads to hateful attitude and abusive behavior.

Unaddressed, anger often becomes a harmful and corrosive force, emotionally and physically. If it remains unresolved, then it can turn into contempt. In the book Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Gottman explains the four horsemen, which are indicators of future marital failure. Contempt is the most dangerous of the four horsemen. So anger issues left untreated, are no small thing.

But there is hope. One can deal with anger before it gets out of hand and threatens your relationships. Both anger management classes and counseling are available and have been proven effective. These resources can help those struggling with anger issues and train them to manage their anger in a healthy way.

Photos:
“Beautiful Argument”, Courtesy of Vera Arsic, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Angry,” courtesy of Forrest Cavale, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Fighting Mad”, Courtesy of PublicDomainPictures, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Married Fight,” courtesy of Gratisography, pexels.com, CC0 License

How to Deal with Anger Issues in Children

Growing up is harder than it looks. Children face many challenges, everything from bullies to broken homes that can cause anger issues to build and manifest in a variety of ways from name calling to throwing a book at a sibling. There are multiple triggers that could cause anger to erupt in children and the root of that anger isn’t always to identify.

Emotions are real but not always reliable

It’s important to mention that being frustrated or angry is a natural emotional response. If a child gets angry it’s not always something to be afraid of nor should a parent avoid discussing it either.

The results of that anger are what needs to be addressed carefully to successfully find a healthy way to express angry emotions. Unhealthy anger in a child could be expressed by violating someone through a form of physical aggression, verbal outbursts, seeking revenge or other negative, disruptive behaviors.

Address, but don’t suppress anger issues

Suppressing anger isn’t the solution. Children should have the freedom to express anger, happiness, sadness and the range of other emotions on the spectrum. They shouldn’t be restricted to only experiencing and displaying a certain set of emotions.

Controlling the emotions a child is allowed to feel can force those emotions to grow inward leading to depression or a host of other hidden hurts. Telling a child not to be angry is invalidating their feelings and telling them that anger emotion doesn’t exist. Acknowledging and addressing anger issues is the answer.

Parenting inconsistencies

Properly addressing anger largely falls on the parents involved in a child’s life. Parents of children struggling to manage angry outbursts, find it helpful to reflect on their own personal parenting methods.

Use of inconsistent disciplinary actions or methods leave the child with unstable boundaries and the inability to figure things out. As a result, the child is constantly frustrated due to the lack of consistency in their environment and they don’t learn the proper coping skills necessary to handle real-life situations.

A parent that remains calm during an anger outburst can easily detach from emotions and defuse the situation. Parents who model a healthy way to channel anger will be better equipped to facilitate the development of those same healthy ways in their children.

Ephesians 6:4 reads, “Father, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” In other words, Paul is admonishing fathers not to provoke their children to anger by providing them with a training process that builds their character through exposure to biblical principles that are good for them.

Freedom of choice

Life moves at the speed of our choices. Some choices move us forward while others take us back. When children learn that their choices are bringing them unfavorable results—limited screen time, timeouts, loss of privileges—they become more open to learning healthy ways to express emotions. Children have individual identities and need the opportunity to explore choices on their own.

It is helpful for parents to set clear expectations and consequences when in control of their emotions, refraining from impulse consequences that end up confusing their children.

An example would be to tell your child every night they need to wash the dishes after dinner. Failure to wash the dishes will result in no screen time that night. It’s better for a child to learn lessons from their bad choices and discover how to make responsible choices that are beneficial to their lives.

Delivering consequences

It’s a fine line between tender and tough. Letting a child know in the midst of a failure that they are still loved as they receive the consequence for failing to meet the expectation is how balance is struck between soft and stern.

For example, the child who did not wash the dishes before turning on the TV may be told, “What a bummer that you are going to miss out on tonight’s episode of your favorite show. I know next time you will remember to wash the dishes first.”

In this example, the parent’s anger isn’t evident and the consequences are upheld using a loving approach. This technique calmly explains the consequences of the child’s personal decision to disobey but focuses on the opportunity to try again tomorrow.

A child that is just yelled at only learns how much they dislike being yelled at or learns to use that in the future as their way to solve problems. Reacting to misbehavior during a crisis is never a wise option. Spanking or yelling when angry will only perpetuate that same behavior in your children.

Hebrews 12:11 (NLT) reads, “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening–it’s painful! But afterward, there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.”

Children and adults don’t naturally gravitate toward a disciplined life. It’s not easy to embrace.  Implementing expectations, giving the freedom to choose and clearly discussing consequences with your children are a few steps to take to navigate anger outbursts and prepare them for the real world.

If your child is showing signs of uncontrollable rage or hostility, it may be helpful sit down with a licensed therapist to talk through what could be causing the problem. Learning how to train your child without exasperating them can often yield great results for a child with an explosive temper.

Photos
“Let go,” courtesy of Josh Willink, pexels.com, CC0 License; “Snatching berries,” courtesy of Kelly Sikkema, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Kitchen drawer,” courtesy of Jaroslaw Ceborski, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Red head,” courtesy of Matheus Bertelli, pixels.com, CC0 License