Manage Your Anger:

Tips and Techniques That Change Lives!

Ronald L. Krannich, Ph.D. and Suzan Russell Kiepper, MSW

It’s not easy to control one’s anger, especially if anger tends to control you. Like many addicted people, you may struggle with breaking bad habits, overcoming addictive behaviors, and coping with relapse and recovery. If you’re motivated and focused, you can begin changing your life by incorporating many useful tips from anger management experts. Most are “self-calming techniques” focused on exercise, meditation, mindfulness, deep breathing, empathy, and self-talk.

Self-Help or a Helping Hand?

You can learn and apply many self-help tips on your own. Others may require assistance from support groups and professionals. In fact, only a few people – maybe 10 percent – are self-starters who take advice and transform their behavior. Examples of this self-transformation reality are readily apparent among people struggling with debilitating addictions (drugs, alcohol, sex, binge eating, shopping) – few can do it on their own. Although many make good starts, they soon relapse into old behavior patterns. Some eventually hit bottom where they may get professional help or end up in jail. Most such people need outside intervention and support in the form of individual or group training, mentoring, counseling, or therapy. Try as they may with good intentions, strong determination, and sheer willpower, these seasoned addicts simply can’t make the necessary long-term changes on their own. Change is hard. They need HELP!

Quick and Easy On-Your-Own Tips

Let’s think positively about all the things you need to do to take corrective action so that anger doesn’t control you. At the risk of standing on a mountain top and throwing down commanding bolts of lightning, here’s my list of recommendations on what you can do on your own – if you’re motivated and focused – to achieve self-transformation:

  1. Change your thinking, especially your attitudes towards others. Read Keith Harrell’s Attitude is Everything: 10 Life-Changing Steps to Turning Attitude Into Action and explore the benefits of cognitive behavioral therapy (start with Rhena Branch’s and Rob Willson’s Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Dummies).
  2. Set clear goals and develop a purpose in your life. For hints on how to do this, see Brian Tracy’s GOALS! How to Get Everything You Want Faster Than You Thought Possible and No Excuses! The Power of Self-Discipline; Richard Leider’s The Power of Purpose: Find Meaning, Live Longer, Better; and Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?
  3. Take greater responsibility for your actions. Taking ownership of your choices (you choose to be angry) is an important step toward self-transformation. Explore Dr. Brené Brown’s five books on living a more meaningful and authentic life.
  4. Become more tolerant of what others may do to you. When responding to other people’s questionable behaviors, take the long view by keeping in mind that “This too shall pass.” They may be having a bad moment or day and will probably later regret their actions. Giving people a pass on seemingly bad behavior may be refreshing for your psyche!
  5. Address the critical issue of boundaries in relationships. You MUST set boundaries in relationships. Otherwise you’ll have troubled relationships as others enter your space and take advantage of you – a major source of anger. See Henry Cloud’s and John Townsend’s ground- breaking Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life.
  6. Develop a set of trigger words and phrases to address stressful moments. Try some of these for starters:

 

            WORDS:

  • Forgive
  • Love
  • Funny
  • Unfortunate
  • Ouch!
  • Embarrassing
  • Stupid
  • Wonderful!
  • Jesus Christ

 

             PHRASES:

  • This too shall pass.
  • It’s really okay.
  • It’s not important.
  • Just forget it.
  •  Let’s move on.
  •  Who cares?
  •  I feel sorry.
  •  F#%@k you!
  •  That’s real classy.

 

  1. Learn to simultaneously forgive and apologize. Forgiveness and sincere apologies can be tremendously liberating. They can repair and revitalize damaged relationships. Explore these two books: Sidney and Suzanne Simon, Forgiveness: How to Make Peace With Your Past and Get on With Your Life, and Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas, When Sorry Isn’t Enough: Making Things Right With Those You Love.
  2. Work on developing a healthier lifestyle relating to food, exercise, your mindset, and aging. Explore these books for starters: Joel Fuhrman, Eat to Live; Daniel Amen, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life; and Daniel J. Levitin, Successful Aging: A Neuroscientist Explores the Power and Potential of Our Lives.
  3. Practice these 19 on-your-own stress reduction or relaxation techniques:
  • exercise more (walking, running, yoga)
  • lie on your back with your legs arched for 15 minutes
  • breathe slowly and deeply
  • take time out (count 100 backwards)
  • meditate for 15-30 minutes
  • re-imagine your environment (take a mental trip)
  • visit a tranquil place, such as an uncrowded beach, lake, stream, museum, or chapel
  • focus on only one positive thing for 5-10 minutes
  • decompress with a warm-heat wrap or well-targeted massage
  • reach out to others by phone or a face-to-face visit
  • think of something funny and have a good laugh
  • play relaxing, soothing music
  • practice your favorite musical instrument
  • listen to and look at a water fountain or waterfall
  • play with your pet
  • count your blessings (be grateful for all the good things that have happened to you)
  • take a warm and bubbly bath for 20 minutes
  • pray for others and yourself
  • read a warm feel-good book

Whatever you do, avoid medicating yourself with drugs and alcohol or stimulating yourself with high decibel, stressful noise – approaches that may exacerbate your stress and negatively affect your mental wiring.

For more information on this subject, please see the author’s The Anger Management Pocket Guide: How to Control Anger Before It Controls You! (Impact Publications).