6 Steps to Manage Anger


anger.jpgI don’t really think of myself as having a hot temper. But I do have trouble speaking up when something starts to bother me. Thus, the irritant builds and builds, and instead of becoming a pearl, like a grain of stand does in an oyster, it explodes … usually on the person whose behavior I don’t care for and is responsible for making me look and act like a monster.


I’ve been talking about this with my therapist. Because I can remember nothing more horrifying as a kid as those time my dad totally lost it and threw every four-letter word at my mom, or at me or one of my sisters, or all of us, like the time we were making fun of the people in the booth next to us in Dairy Queen. Still can’t get a Buster Bar today without that memory, spanking and all.

So I went back to my parenting books, of course. Because you can find all of life’s problems in parenting books. Author Elizabeth Pantley offers six steps to staying calm in her insightful book, “The No-Cry Discipline Solution.” And, unlike those I read in most parenting books, they don’t annoy me! In fact, I think she’s got a good case. I’ve excerpted from various paragraphs to give you the following recap, but you really should get her book if you struggle, like I do, with keeping it cool when you’re with the kids:

1. Stop.

As you sense your control slipping–STOP. If you are in the middle of a sentence–STOP–don’t even finish your thought, except perhaps to say, “I’m getting mad!” If you are moving–STOP moving. Practice a STOP gesture that can be used as a way to put a physical brake on your emotions. A good STOP gesture is to hold your hands up in front of your face, fingers straight up, palms out. Push the anger away from you, and at the same time say the word STOP.

What if you are so angry at your child that you are ready to strike him and you cannot find the restraint to use your STOP gesture? In that case, channel your physical reaction into a burst of applause. When you feel yourself about to strike, clap your hands. Clap them hard and fast, while you express your feelings of anger.

This anger management technique of acknowledging anger and stopping yourself can be used for all problems. It can be effective with everything from minor irritations that bring irrational anger to major problems that require a clear head to solve.

2. Give yourself space.

When you are angry, the LAST thing you need to do is stay engaged in the situation that is making you mad–all that does is escalate your anger. It is critically important that at this point you do NOT try to deal with the situation that is making you angry. You cannot solve a problem in a fit of anger; it will likely just escalate the situation or create a new layer of problems to deal with. You are going to step away from your child so that you can calm and collect yourself and, very likely, allow your child to calm down a bit, too.

3. Breathe deeply.

Begin by controlling your internal, physical responses to anger. Likely your heart rate is increased, your breathing is rapid, your face is flushed, or your voice is raised. The first step to inner control is to breathe deeply.

Breathing deeply allows your body to fill with oxygen. This will stop the adrenaline rush that floods your body when you are angry. This extra oxygen flow will relax your body, clam your breathing, slow your heart rate, and allow your brain to resume rational thought.

Take a number of slow, even, deep breaths. Put your hand on your stomach and carry the air down until you feel your stomach rise. Try counting or repeating a calming word or phrase, such as “This too shall pass.”

4. Analyze.

Once you’ve calmed down, try to see what really happened. A good way to analyze what happened is to imagine that it happened to someone else–your sister, your brother, or a friend. Looking at the situation as an outsider might help you see the truth. You might more clearly understand where your anger came from, or you may see that your reaction was way out of proportion.

5. Define the problem.

After you have seen the situation more clearly, it is time to precisely define the problem in exact words. See if you can come up with a description of the problem in one or two sentences. Put it in clear, plain words that exactly state the real issue that sparked your anger.

6. Solve.

Once you’ve stated the problem, you can then consider options for solving it. You may want to jot down several possible options on paper or talk about options with another adult. There’s no reason for you to make decisions in a vacuum. I guarantee that the problem you are dealing with is a common one and there are lots of sources for solutions.

Originally published on Beyond Blue at Beliefnet.com

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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3 Responses
  1. I think sometimes to avoid saying “I’m getting mad!” or “I’m getting angry – frustrated or irritated” can make a difference – I used to collect vouchers and do a loyalty scheme and check for new members who had not signed up for the organisation all in the space of 10 minutes before the 80+ people would then go for a run or to gym sessions. One lovely lady (I hope she had a good therapy budget) would arrive late push her way through the crowd of well meaning people patiently waiting and demand to be checked in first.

    It was like an angry resentful parting of the Redsea – then after 15 or 20 seconds she would say “when are we leaving”, “I have a tight schedule” and “you are very inefficient with your time management” etc.

    I once thought I better refer her to the guys in charge, I was a sessional part time worker, not my rules, not my organisation nor my timescale. She apparently went into drama queen mode the following day phoned the facility manager and the head office so next time I went in I got a warning about being rude to customers.

    I did ponder telling them where to stick their role but I patiently put my side of the “incident” and it all blew over BUT next time she arrived I thought different approach required – I had no idea what it should be.

    On the longer runs we had a pathfinder to ensure everyone went the right way and a back marker. We also had several cut offs so people could reduce their run length. To cut a long story short we had a lovely group of 15 or sixteen at the back and as “misery” got tired she joined us. BAM down to 8 then 4 and as we passed the last opportunity to shorten the run we stopped and I said straight on for 12k or 9k if you skip the hill.

    They looked at each other and the spokesperson said we are going the way she is NOT going. I said “excuse me” I don’t understand. She replied she had 3 children at home one disabled and that this was her one opportunity in the week to get some downtime and relax but she was sick to death of all the negativity and criticism.

    So having a flash of inspiration I said “which way” to my “favourite person” – she was incandescent with rage – literally smouldering but strangely quiet – she said “I will go on”. So I said you run on and I will catch you up.

    I checked the others were OK with the reduced route and were going to stay together. Then I caught up with “happy shopper”. She was suddenly very talkative – she hoped nobody thought badly of her – she was under a lot of stress. Her mother was such a burden and that her daughter was angry all the time and would not communicate and was rude to her. The staff at the school were rude to her.

    Luckily you can’t really see someone’s face when you are running beside them because I thought “how strange everyone is rude to you – I wonder why”.

    The following week she arrived earlier than normal and didn’t push through the queue – someone new talked to her and then someone else before my eyes she had changed – perhaps just for that evening.

    In many situations especially after a long working day it might not take much to tip things either way and many people are not intrinsically happy or unhappy they just mirror the emotions they are faced with so there are times that giving someone the benefit of the doubt (even when they really don’t deserve it) might save you and them falling over the edge into a freefall gloom fest.