Learning to manage your anger involves adopting new ways to react that are more in line with your values or goals and that result in more positive outcomes for yourself. As a first step, it is important you have a good understanding of what anger is exactly and why it arises. Therefore, before reading this article, we suggest you read this article on understanding anger first.
In this article, you will find some tips and several exercises that you can perform step by step to help you prepare for managing your anger effectively.
Motivation makes an important contribution to effective behavioural change. By increasing your motivation, you have a bigger chance of success and will show more perseverance when things get difficult. Therefore, a valuable exercise can be to become aware of the effect that anger has on your life. How is it impacting you, both positively and negatively? How does it impact those around you and/or your relationships? Is anger preventing you from reaching important goals or values?
You can use the table below and fill out the sections that apply to you:
|Value||How you would like things to be||How does anger interfere with your values?|
|Relationships with friends|
|Relationships with family|
|Relationship with partner|
|Health & fitness|
Identify your anger cues
Reflect on the moments during which you get angry: are there particular situations, sensations or experiences which cause you to feel angry? Does it occur when you feel attacked or criticized, for example? Or maybe it’s when you feel people are acting in a wrong way?
Other common examples include:
- When someone disagrees with you
- When you experience physical or emotional pain
- When you are being told ‘no’
- When you’re not able to express yourself or your opinion
You can use the NiceDay app to help you with this. Turn on the custom tracker for ‘Anger’ and keep track of the moments you feel angry with the help of the app. Write down what happened, how you felt, what you were thinking and what happened afterwards. After a week, look back at your registrations and write down any patterns you noticed in your NiceDay diary. What regularly caused you to feel angry? Are there any overarching themes?
Taking care of yourself
Anger – and emotions in general – is difficult to manage and can feel overwhelming at times. Therefore, trying to manage anger takes significant effort and helpful resources. Furthermore, it has been suggested that emotional regulation is a finite resource, thus, when you are low on resources/energy, your emotions become more difficult to manage. Think about the last time you couldn’t sleep or when you skipped a meal. Were you a bit more irritable or sensitive than you normally are?
You can replenish your resources by taking care of yourself; our physical state is interconnected with our mind. Getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and staying fit, for example, can help to replenish your resources. When you are not in a good physical state, you have less resources at your disposal and, therefore, will be more vulnerable to your anger. A big part of managing your anger consists of ensuring that you have the available resources at your disposal. Read our lifestyle library and write down any improvements you can make in your NiceDay diary.
Avoiding your anger cues
Your resources also become depleted as you use them. You can compare this to exercising your muscles. When you lift a heavy object, your ability to lift it reduces over time and while your muscles are still tired and achy, you probably won’t have the strength you had at the start. The same thing happens with your anger: if you are regularly provoked and have already spent a lot of resources on regulating your emotions, you will have less resources left to manage them the next time you are provoked. Therefore, avoiding your anger ‘cues’ if possible is also an effective strategy to help you manage your anger more effectively.
Take a look at the list of anger cues you made earlier: are there any situations, things, or people you can try to avoid? Plan the steps you can take to help you avoid or limit your anger triggers in your NiceDay planner. For example: if getting stuck in traffic causes you to feel angry, plan to take a less busy route to work.
These are just some tips and exercises you can use to put you in a stronger position to deal with your anger when it arises. In part 2, you will find some more tips and exercises you can use to manage your anger or rage in the moment itself.
Do you want to learn more about these skills and other exercises you can try out? You can find them in The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook for Anger.
Chapman, A. L., & Gratz, K. L. (2015). The dialectical behavior therapy skills workbook for anger: Using DBT mindfulness and emotion regulation skills to manage anger. New Harbinger Publications.