Day 13 – Anger and our thoughts

Moving on in the series… I hope you enjoyed the break on Friday and got a chance to check out the article I linked. How great is it that we have the potential to live longer lives simply by thinking positive thoughts? That’s such good news and a much easier fix than creating massive lifestyle changes in order to elongate our lives, although those are important too sometimes!

For the next few days I am going to get specific about how our thoughts relate to  certain struggles some of us face. Today we’re going to look at how anger and our thoughts are connected.

First of all, ask yourself these questions…

1) Do you know what gets you angry?

2) Do you know when your anger is escalating?

3) Can you identify what’s causing the anger?

4) Can you control and de-escalate your anger?

To some of you, the above questions seem obvious, but a lot of times we feel emotional (anger or otherwise) and we are not even sure why. In fact, many people do not see the link at all between their thoughts and feelings (none of you who are reading this series though of course)!

As I have stated before, I will state it again… get to know your thoughts! Become friends with them. Learn how to talk yourself down from an extreme emotional state if need-be, just like you would for your best friend.

Remember a long time ago in the series when we first talked about Automatic Thoughts (Day 3)? We’re going to take a look at those again today as they relate to anger.

There are a few main triggers for anger:

1) Feeling like you are being ridiculed in some way or thought of as inadequate by others.

2) The fear/concern that you are going to be harmed.

One you recognize your own triggers, you can begin to address them the same way we have discussed with other Automatic Thoughts (Day 6). The biggest thing is to ultimately get to a place where you can think through the validity of your automatic thoughts and even replace them with new, more balanced thoughts.

A couple other tips about anger…

* If you have a hard time knowing when you’re starting to get angry and all of a sudden you’re so mad you want to punch something… pay attention to your body. Notice if you’re clenching your fists, if your jaw tightens, if your shoulders are so tense they’re practically touching your ears etc. Try to stop yourself before your anger gets so intense in the future.

* Take responsibility for your feelings. Rather than yelling at someone and blaming them for whatever made you angry, let them know how you feel instead. Use “I” statements. They can’t argue with your feelings… you feel how you feel right? This approach is assertive but less agressive than the “You! You! You!” blaming approach.

* Use relaxation strategies to help control your anger. I have explained a few helpful techniques in detail in the anxiety series on this blog. They are:

a) Progressive Muscle Relaxation

b) Counting backwards

c) Visualization

I hope this helps! See you tomorrow!

Day 6 – Taking a closer look…

We’ve covered a lot of information in just five days. I hope it’s been helpful. Today we’re going zoom in on the thoughts we’ve already gone over and take a closer look at what went wrong. Research shows that thinking happier, healthier thoughts makes a difference in our overall well-being. But it’s a lot easier said than done. If you’re absolutely furious about something or in the midst of a panic attack and just casually tell yourself to think of something happy, it’s going to be quite difficult, if not impossible. But, if you can get a handle on the types of thoughts you’re prone to thinking and understand how they relate to your intense emotions, you will begin to gain control. As with most things, this is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight, but by practicing, you’ll notice your anxiety, anger, intense emotions etc. begin to decrease in difficult situations.

Think back to the last time your emotions got out of control (whether mildly or severely). Did you record your ABCs? If not, just think back to what they were…

A) What happened?

B) What did you think?

C) What did you feel/do?

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Let’s focus on (B), since this is a series on Healthier Thinking and all… Now that you know the thought(s) that went through your head, we’re going to examine them. Ask yourself these questions:

1) Can you prove that your thought was 100% true?

2) Was it extreme in any way (i.e. did it include such words as “always,” “never,” “all,” “nothing” etc.)?

3) Were your thoughts perpetuated by how you felt at the time?

4) Was your thought logical?

5) Is there any evidence that exists that does not support what you thought?

Those are just a few to get you started. This may seem tedious but it will be really difficult to gain control of your thoughts if you don’t take a closer look and begin to understand what really happened.

After you do that, the next step is to:

Think of an alternative to the unhealthy thought.

  • Is there something more accurate you could think?
  • If your friend was describing a thought like this, what would you say to him/her?
  • When you are not in the situation that prompted the thought, what might you normally think?
  • If your thought was extreme, is there something more balanced to consider?
  • Thinking back on the past, was there a time when a similar situation was handled differently? What can you gain from that memory?

Now that you have an alternative, how do you feel? Has the intensity of your emotions decreased at all?

Okay… I think that’s enough. Are you sick of ABCs by now? :) Well, I can’t guarantee we’re completely finished with them but we will move on a bit tomorrow. See you then!

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