Stephanie Misaki Whiting, ENFJ, MS


. . . Part 4 of a series of four articles on Anger Management

Concerned about your anger? Does it feel like a symptom of "worseness" rather than wellness? Is your anger behavior becoming noticeable or disruptive in the workplace? Have your personal relationships begun to suffer?

In this series of four articles, I will focus on practical steps that can help you change how you experience and deal with your anger. Following these steps, you will learn how to pay attention to your anger and how to handle it in a calmer, more effective way. You can learn to use your anger constructively by letting your anger become a wellness lesson.

Step 4: Practicing Calming Techniques

This is the last article in the series, Handling Your Anger Well. Throughout the preceding articles, you have been given techniques to help you increase self-awareness, the first stage in any behavior change. Step 1, the first article, encouraged you to observe yourself -- to consider the consequences and costs of your anger, to identity typical trigger situations and to use the 1-10 scale to gauge and contain your anger. Step 2 guided you to look beneath your anger to explore your beliefs about anger-inducing situations and to uncover other emotions you may be experiencing. Exploring thoughts and feelings underneath your anger can help you gain perspective on your unmet needs and lead to insight on how to work through problematic situations. Step 3 described how effective communication methods promote conflict resolution and relationship building. Now on to Step 4, using calming techniques to slow down your anger response.

* * * *

The emotionality and intensity of anger is often reflected in the language we use - steam was coming out of my ears, I was hopping mad, I was ready to blow my top. Becoming angry is a sure fire way to bring on the "fight or flight" response, when blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate and adrenaline all increase dramatically. Adrenaline accelerates and fuels our angry thoughts, words and actions, leading to behavior we may later regret. Slowing down this response gives you a chance to think about alternative words and actions, which can bring about more positive results.

The key to calming anger reactivity is to slow down your breathing. Take long.slow.deep breaths to head off your increasing adrenaline, which can fuel the "fight" response. With this type of relaxation breathing, you can decrease flight or flight physiology, giving you time and space to think about your choices. During this moment of contemplation, you may even find that no response is warranted ("Do I need to speak or act?"). Slowing your breathing can also help you to pace your interaction and communication as you attempt to problem solve the situation.

If awareness is the first step in behavior change, then practicing new behaviors is the way to improve your anger management skills. Set aside a few quiet minutes everyday to practice relaxation breathing. Sit comfortably, lightly close your eyes and deepen your breathing. Focus on your breath, listen to it and feel it as it becomes more regular and evenly paced. Now use your breathing practice to develop non-judgmental awareness of your thoughts and feelings. As you breath, simply notice your thoughts and let them go, and return to experiencing your breath

Observing your thoughts can help bring clarity to your concerns. Use this practice of mindfulness to take note of your concerns, rather than getting caught up in them. You can apply this reflective ability in situations where you begin to feel angry, when you notice you're at a "3". Take a deep breath and ask yourself "What am I concerned about? What else am I feeling? What is my discomfort telling me about me?" This is an opportunity to gain insight into your needs and into what you are missing. Use your anger as a wellness lesson and look for ways to grow.

If you find yourself reverting to old, inappropriate anger responses, do your best to apologize for hurtful behaviors, then go back to your new problem-solving strategies of handling your anger well. You've made a decision to improve your life and your relationships, congratulations!

<<Return to Part One

<<Return to Part Two

<<Return to Part Three

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