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FEBRUARY: THE MONTH OF LOVE

“There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.”
~Sylvia Plath

Many people who struggle with anger often want to know how to deal with this powerful emotion, especially in moments when their anger is at its worst. They want the “magic pill” that will decrease their anger from a 10 to a 1 in 0.5 seconds. Unfortunately, that pill simply does not exist!

What does exist, however, is a simple yet powerful tool which can help greatly reduce your anger: prevention. You’ve heard it before, but it’s true! Prevention is the best medicine, and one of the best ways to prevent your anger from spiraling out of control is learning how to practice stress management.

Why stress management, you may ask? Stress is one of the biggest factors that can negatively impact your anger. Therefore, the more you learn to control your stress, the better chance you have to control your anger. In other words, when you feel calm and relaxed in the moment, it takes a lot to make you angry; on the other hand, when you feel stressed out and frazzled, it doesn’t take much at all to get you riled up!

What’s the key to managing stress, then? Catch it early!! The sooner you notice yourself feeling stressed and the sooner you take action, the more quickly you can reduce your stress and, in turn, your potential for feeling anger. In addition, the stress management techniques you utilize can be on any or all levels, including the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels. Choose what’s right for you, and remember….take action as soon as possible.

Call to Action!

This week, choose 2-3 stress reduction techniques that you enjoy. For example, you could try getting a massage, exercising regularly, journaling your feelings, walking in nature, getting rest, and/or breathing slowly. No matter what activities you choose, see if you can do them as soon as you notice the first sign of stress. Take action, and watch your stress melt away….

Sometimes it is hard to remember all the tips and remedies for defusing anger. When you experience a situation with someone that results in feeling upset, the following three principles are basic to dispelling and/or preventing anger from arising.

1. Think: This situation is not meant personally against me. This person is having a bad day. I have had bad days and know that I do not always put my best foot forward under those circumstances. I must find out more so I will ask the person disarming questions (if possible) about how his/her day is going. I call this the “Not -Personal Principle.”

2. The Golden Rule applies: Am I treating this person as I would like him/her to treat me? (Irrespective of how I think they are treating me). I call this the “Respect Principle.”

3. Ask yourself: Do I need to fight this battle now? At all? If not, I should take a break and tell this person that I will get back to him/her later (specific time) when I am able to think more rationally and I respectfully hope that he/she will do the same. I call this the “Another Time Principle.”

In the meantime one can review other ways of problem-solving or dispute resolution which may eliminate the problem altogether in the long-run.

Author: Michael L. Hecht, MA, MFT
October 4, 2011