We all experience anger from time to time. Anger is a normal human response to an emotional disturbance, such as feeling frustrated or the sense of being slighted by someone. We learn to manage our anger through the executive functions of the brain’s limbic system, which also controls decision-making and impulsivity. When emotion regulation is not adequately developed, people may struggle with anger issues.
Allowing anger to creep into the fabric of daily life can potentially lead to relapse as an attempt to calm angry emotions with alcohol or drugs. In recovery, it is essential to learn ways to cope with those situations or people that might trigger feelings of anger.
The Importance of Anger Management in Addiction Recovery
While experiencing anger or angry outbursts may have been common while in active substance use, usually exacerbated by the substance itself, you might expect anger to go away once you are living a sober lifestyle. Anger, however, is still something to contend with in recovery. It can be stoked by lingering emotions that haven’t been adequately processed and healed, or as a response to the negative consequences being experienced due to the prior substance use.
Learning how to regulate negative emotions is an important aspect of rebuilding a healthy life in recovery. Anger management techniques provide methods for coping with surges of frustration or anger without allowing these emotions to overwhelm you. Healthy coping skills become a critical component to maintaining sobriety and achieving optimal wellness.
5 Anger Management Techniques in Recovery
Maintaining mental health in recovery includes learning how to better manage negative emotions. Anger is a powerful and sometimes toxic emotion. To reinforce recovery efforts and help avoid a relapse, anger issues need to be addressed and worked through. Besides avoiding known anger triggers, help regulate angry emotions in recovery with these 5 tips:
- Use Relaxation Techniques. Make use of natural stress-reducers that can be immediately employed, such as deep breathing techniques and mindfulness. Both of these activities will swiftly bring about a sense of calm.
- Deep breathing involves drawing a slow deep breath to the count of 5, holding the breath for a count of 5, and then exhaling for a count of 5. Repeat this 5-6 times to experience a reduction in blood pressure and heart rate.
- Mindfulness involves redirecting the negative thoughts and addressing the present emotions and sensations being experienced. Doing this without judgment, acknowledging the angry feelings and accepting them, can diffuse the situation and reduce the power of the negative emotions.
- Distract Yourself. Sometimes just getting some space between you and the triggering situation is enough to take emotions down a notch or two. If you feel anger bubbling up, grab a book, turn on Netflix, or clean the house. Just removing yourself from the upsetting situation may be enough to put a lid on the anger.
- Get Some Exercise. Physical exertion is a superb solution for regulating emotions. Not only will the endorphins quickly cancel out the negative thoughts and anger by lifting mood, but also the production of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine will help reduce stress.
- Take a Pause. If you find yourself quick to anger, try taking a brief pause before expressing your angry feelings. That short space of time allows you to reflect a bit on the situation and calm yourself down, and can help avert an angry outburst. Better yet, do a little deep breathing during that short pause.
- Redirect the Energy. When negative energy is threatening to upend your peace, try channeling it into productive actions. Build something. Cook something. Fix something. Do something constructive to help sop up that negative energy, and then have something positive to show for it.
While in the heat of the moment it may seem like anger is the inevitable and justified response to a situation. However, by practicing these five anger management tips you can make real changes in the way you respond to a triggering event, diffusing the situation and achieving a more positive outcome.
Anger Management Help
If you are feeling overwhelmed by negative emotions like anger, seek the guidance of a therapist who can provide cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps to restructure the negative thoughts or thought distortions that continue to cause angry emotions. The therapist guides you toward reshaping those negative thoughts into new ways of thinking about triggering situations or people. As new positive self-messaging becomes habit, the angry behaviors will also change. If anger issues threaten your recovery, reach out to your outpatient therapist for help with cognitive restructuring through CBT.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer both inpatient and outpatient programs, holistic addiction treatment, drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to heal each individual with respect and dignity, and reflects on our ongoing commitment to meet new challenges. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.