Anger management. It is hard for me to read these words and not see the grimacing faces of Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler butting heads. I never actually saw the movie, but the poster and trailers left an impression on me that society frowns on all forms of anger, even methods aimed at helping. Anger management is therapy and therapy carries connotations that the one receiving it is not well. Anger management seems to be just as taboo if not more so, than having anger in the first place.
If I can strip away the negative associations, I realize that anger management is a practical skill set to have for responding well to anger. The perfectionist in me is a severe drill sergeant who is not gentle, forgiving, or gracious about mistakes. I beat myself up for doing things wrong, and I have a powerful sense of regret when I act out of anger. Perfectionism keeps score, reminding me never to forget the infractions I’ve made. I rationalize this as a way to keep my feet on the ground, and not consider myself better than others. I grow so tired of punishing myself that way. Learning how to notice things that trigger my anger is essential in dismantling the grip of perfectionism over my life.
Here are a few positive coping skills and preventative measures that I have found help me stave off an angry outburst.
–Exercise is helpful in dealing with the energy that surrounds anger. The hormones released when a person is angry are similar to those released in stressful situations. Take inspiration from the Fight or Flight response, some physical activity that might feel especially gratifying in relieving anger could be running, or boxing.
–Having adequate sleep is vital to overall well being. I know that when I am well rested, I have more patience. Making quality sleep a priority is a great preventative measure for keeping anger at bay.
–Planning difficult conversations is an interesting suggestion I read recently for managing anger. The idea was, whenever possible, to avoid having difficult conversations under stress by other factors like being tired or distracted. They went one step further to suggest planning out what to say during those unsettling discussions to be as calm as possible.
–Take a break or walk away from a situation when angry. It is better to delay a response and be calm rather than engage aggressively. There is a difference between being assertive and being aggressive, and those lines get easily blurred when I am angry. A step back creates the distance I need to be objective about the situation. While I am walking away, I try to breathe slowly and relax as much as possible.
What are your coping mechanisms for dealing with anger?