“Don’t do something permanently stupid because you are temporarily upset.”
The unknown author of this quote realized something for all of us - we act out in ways that have unintended negative consequences because we are mad about something. The key is to learn what to do when we are mad that can help us calm down and then work to solve the problem. It is the job of parents, educators, and adults everywhere to first learn this themselves and then teach it to children.
Picture your anger as a thermometer labeled 1 to 10. When it starts creeping around five, we all start thinking irrationally. Once we hit an eight, nine, or ten we are very unlikely to be able to solve a problem in a way that has positive consequences. If we realize this, we can take steps to calm back down to a four or lower.
There are some basic steps to calm down:
1. Take a break
2. Change your negative thoughts to positive ones
3. Release the anger in a safe way
4. Solve the issue or move on
Step One means removing yourself from whatever is contributing to your anger. For example, if someone is irritating you with his behavior, move away from that person.
Step Two means changing the automatic negative thoughts we have when we start becoming upset and replacing them with positive ones. For example, “This is so stupid and unfair” might pop into your head. Replace it with “I can survive this” or “It’s not worth getting upset.”
Step Three means finding a way to release any built-up tension from what upsets you. For example, going for a walk or visualizing a happy place.
Step Four should only occur once you have dipped back down below five on your thermometer. It is then you can decide if you want to work out the problem or simply move on.
These steps look easy on paper but can be very hard to enact. Practice, practice, practice! Even when you are just a little upset (a five or less on the thermometer), use these skills so that if you hit a nine it will be easier for you.
Reference ideas from “What To Do When Your Temper Flares” by Dawn Huebner
Stefanie F. Pisarkiewicz, LPC
Experience and information from a counselor and mother- sharing her two cents on children and teens.