This blog will focus on Resetting with some specific strategies to help calm and actively manage anger in the moment.
There are two ways to return to calm when feeling angry: 1) learn and use relaxation strategies and 2) release energy to reduce anger. Anger can be a strong emotion and set off the body’s fight or flight response. (Here is an image of how anger affects the brain and body: https://www.nicabm.com/sample/nicabm-infographic-anger/). Recognizing what causes frustration and anger and the physical signs and signals for each increasing level of anger helps to prevent escalation and allows more self-control. Learning how to identify when these feelings start to happen and expressing anger without losing control is an important developmental skill.
1. Learn and Use Relaxation Strategies
It is impossible to feel relaxed and angry at the same time. The goals is to actively use at the first signs (and Practice! Practice! Practice! before ever getting angry to access these skills in the moment). Belly breathing, listening to a favorite song, count backwards, thinking of a calm image or favorite place are all relaxing options.
Breathing: Take 5 slow breaths in through the nose, longer exhale out through the mouth.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Slowly tense than relax different muscle groups in body.
2. Release Energy to Reduce Anger.
Get moving! Take a run, walk, swim, bike. Go on a scooter, swing on a swing, do push-ups or jumping jacks. Give yourself a hug. Exercise increases “feel good” endorphins and burns off extra adrenaline and energy that often accompanies feelings of anger. Also- regular exercise can lower stress and frustration which lead to anger.
In addition to ACTIONS it is important to be aware of THOUGHTS. How we think about a situation influences mood. Angry thinking leads to feeling more anger. What we think influences how we feel. The more we focus on negative thoughts the worse we feel. Help children identify that some thoughts can make them feel more angry while other types of thoughts can help them get calm or cool down.
Hot Thoughts and Cool Thoughts Strategy: Practice labeling thoughts as hot or cool. Hot Thought: This is not fair, I never get my way, I can’t do it. Cool Thoughts: I am not going to let her get to me, I can stay calm and cool, this is not an emergency, take a deep breath and relax, it is just a hassle and I can deal with it, I can handle it. Practice changing thoughts and .
For Teens: Remember that hormones and stress can increase feelings of anger and mood shifts. Becoming self-aware and practicing self-control will help you react without regret. Notice when you start to feel annoyed or irritated and take action. Decide to calm and stay in control. Have a practiced list of go-tos to help relax (slow breathing, do something soothing) or release emotion (run, play a sport, go for a walk, do pushups). Also, use cognitive restructuring to re-phrase a situation. Look at it from a neutral or positive angle. Practice empathy to see the situation from another person’s point of view or perspective. The following article has a 5 step approach to managing anger: Resource for Managing Anger for Teens in a 5 step approach see: Dealing With Anger (for Teens) — Print Version - Nemours KidsHealth.
For Parents: Acknowledge how your child is feeling in the moment. Don’t minimize or tell a child to “calm down”. Validate the feeling (not the behavior if anger is expressed aggressively). PHRASES TO SAY (https://lemonlimeadventures.com/13-helpful-phrases-calm-angry-child/).
Try to say very little. An angry child cannot hear and process well in the moment. Most importantly, stay calm or actively calm yourself. You are not only the model of how to manage and express anger you can co-regulate by calming your face, voice, and body.
Helpful videos on Anger Management to watch with your child
This video shows how hard it is to use coping skills in the moment once dysregulated. Why do we lose control of our emotions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bKuoH8CkFc.
Anger Management https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbpTohPUhMw). This video shows a quick ABCDE plan for anger management: Awareness, Breathe, Count, Distance and Express yourself plan.