How to Control Your Anger

How to Control Your Anger

Anger: everybody knows the feeling. It is the feeling of white, hot rage that causes your blood pressure to skyrocket and makes you feel like you are about to boil over. Anger is one of the most basic emotions, along with sadness, fear, happiness, and others. It is a useful emotion which serves a protective purpose by preparing us to fight when our sympathetic nervous system becomes activated. It can also serve as a mechanism to mobilize us to complete a goal or make changes in our personal lives and communities when we feel that things are not up to snuff. However, too much anger can be detrimental to our health and can hurt, or even destroy, relationships with our loved ones. If you feel that anger controls and dominates your life and you have trouble handling it, below we have some helpful tips on how to control your anger.

  • Develop and Practice Relaxation Techniques – When you feel that you are about to lose your temper, put relaxation skills to the test. These may be individual for everyone, so find something that works for you. Some examples of relaxation techniques are: deep breathing exercises, mentally or verbally reciting calming phrases, imagining pleasant and relaxing scenarios, journaling, progressive muscle relaxation, and doing yoga poses. If none of these seem appealing, you can explore and find what helps you cool your temper down.
  • Monitor Your Thoughts and Speak Carefully – It is easy to say something hurtful or destructive when you are angry, which you will probably regret once the feeling subsides. Before you say anything, take some time to collect your thoughts and allow other individuals who are involved to do the same. This is a good practice as saying something hurtful to someone else or someone saying something hurtful to you can result in even more anger, which can spiral out of control into an anger storm.
  • Use Humor  – Using humor can help lighten the situation and relieve pressure. You can use humor to identify and face what is making you upset and even calm you down, as a good laugh will usually help with that. Remember to keep it playful and light, as using put-down jokes, sarcasm, mimicking, or other negative humor can cause more hurt.
  • Exercise – Any type of physical activity, whether it be lifting weights, running, power walking, yoga, and others can help reduce the stress which causes us to become angry and upset. If you feel tensions rising, go exercise!
  • Use “I” Statements and Avoid “You” Statements – Use “I” statements, such as “I feel…”, “I think…”, rather than “You” statements, such as “You did…”, “You are…”. These are good and useful for avoiding criticism, placing blame, and taking ownership of the problem. Remember, when doing this, be respectful. Using “I” statements as a chance to be mean usually does not work and can continue to escalate the situation. A good example is saying “I’m upset because you did take out the trash when I asked you” rather than “You never do anything.”
  • Temporarily Remove Yourself From the Situation – Take a moment to calm down with a method of your choice and then return to the situation once you are thinking clearly and some of the tension has diffused. Once you return, you can tend to the situation by allowing everyone to state their feelings and concerns, which can ultimately help identify possible solutions to the problem and solve it without corrosive and destructive behavior.
  • Take Mental Breaks – It is a good idea to take breaks during stressful points of the day to help you wind down and relieve pressure. This will prevent and reduce the amount of stress that builds up inside of you, which will help you be prepared for emotionally hazardous situations. Coming home from a long, stressful day of work where you did not take any mental breaks is an excellent primer for anger about insignificant events that can be solved calmly, without the use of anger.
  • Come Up With Solutions – Rather than focusing on your anger and what is making you mad, thus amplifying and intensifying your anger, focus on coming up with solutions to the problem.  Using anger in most situations will not prove useful, won’t fix the problem, and make things worse. Try shifting your attention from anger to solution. You can also come up with solutions to common events in the future that cause your temperature to flare so you can either be prepared or avoid them all together.
  • Forgive Yourself and Others – We are human, we all make mistakes. Forgiving yourself for being angry and others who either intentionally or unintentionally made you angry can prevent you from harboring bitterness, anger, and resentment. Holding onto these feelings for an extended period of time can make you volatile and keep you angry when you see and interact with that individual, resulting in a never-ending anger loop. When you forgive and ultimately get over this anger, you can come back to the situation and resolve it.
  • Seek Professional Help – If all else fails and anger is still getting the best of you, seek out professional help. There are many trained therapists which can help you learn how to manage and control your anger. Therapy will help you identify triggers, explore underlying mechanisms for what is behind your anger, look at past issues, and teach your relaxation techniques. If you are a loved one need help with anger, you can contact us to make a counseling appointment or read about personal growth counseling. If we are not a good fit for you, we will help you find a good match, as we are tied to a very large network of mental health professionals in the Austin area.

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Tips for Coming Out

Tips for Coming Out

By Kyla Winlow, LCSW

Coming out is a journey. I definitely experienced the rainbows and joys of living my truth by coming out. But there were also some cloudy days and stormy weather along that path. Here are some tips I have picked through my journey:

  • First, I want to take away the pressure of needing a name or label for this part of you. You don’t need to identify as gay, lesbian, queer, pan, bi, asexual, heteroflexible, homoflexible, or any other term. Sexuality exists beyond labels for it. You can decide what language to use or not use—maybe coming out is introducing your partner as your partner with no need/desire to label it.
  • Have support! Maybe you have a close friend or family member who you know will accept this part of you with open arms, or you might find support via an online community. You need to know that you are not alone and that someone has your back.
  • Before coming out, consider if you are dependent on anyone who you are going to come out to, such as family members, a spouse/partner, or a boss. Coming out could impact your finances, employment, health insurance, housing, or tuition. If coming out might affect these parts of your life, create a backup plan.
  • Be prepared for an array of reactions. Just as our sexuality is a journey for us, it can be a process for our loved ones, as well. Sometimes, a friend or family member grieves the loss of what they expected our lives to look like. Though this can be painful for us, this is not about us—this is about them and their process. Unfortunately, people may respond worse than needing time to grieve. Some of us will lose family, friends, or communities. One of the scariest reactions can be violence—we cannot ignore the statistics of hate crimes against the LGBTQIA community.
  • Consider safety. Does this situation feel safe? I’m talking about that gut feeling in your stomach. Listen to that vibe or those hairs that are standing up on the back of your neck. It might not be the time to hold your partner’s hand as you walk down the street in a place that does not feel safe. THIS IS YOUR CHOICE. You get to decide in what situations you want to share this piece of you and in what circumstances you think that it is best that you don’t.
  • If it’s not just a matter of your safety; if you don’t know if you want to be outed or seen as different, I’d encourage you to consider the other side of this coin. Imagine if you saw more queer people showing each other affection when you were younger. How might that have felt for you? I think it would have helped me feel less alone and different. Unknowingly, you may be offering support to someone who needs it by outing yourself or by letting yourself be seen.

In closing, coming out is as unique as our individuality. People often ask me if their experience or journey is typical, and the answer is yes! Whether you came out when you were a young child, if you came out later in life, or if you are still contemplating the decision to come out, you are normal. That was and is your journey. Honor it because it brought you to where you are today.

If you liked this post and want additional advice on coming out, you can read Tips On Coming Out at Work.  If you or a loved one need any assistance with this process, you can check out our fantastic LGBT therapists, read more about LGBT counseling, or contact us to make a counseling appointment.

Need some more resources? Looking for ways to connect with the LGBTQ community? Check out some of these links:

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How to Become a Morning Person

How to Become a Morning Person

Waking up early in the morning can difficult. The bed is warm, you are comfortable, turning off the alarm clock is easy, and an additional 5 minutes (which is shorthand for no less than 30 minutes) of sleep is an alluring idea. I’m sure that all of us have encountered this exact scenario many times throughout our lives, myself included. This is why I can absolutely identify with the challenge of switching gears and waking up early. I have never been a morning person until I traveled to Asia and came back from the trip and found myself waking up before sunrise. Let’s just say that this tickled my fancy enough to want to get back in this groove multiple times and I have had clients with this same desire as well.

If you want to become a morning person, below are some practical tips and pieces of advice that may help you get to sleep earlier and become an early bird (who gets the worm).

  • Identify why it’s essential. This may sound basic, but if you don’t know why you are doing it, then you aren’t going to keep it up.
  • No napping during the day. This may sound simple, but it’s imperative and a common mistake, as you will not be able to fall asleep later in the evening. You can take a power nap of 10-15 minutes, but nothing more than that if you do. My general advice for those that have a tricky time with napping is to avoid it.
  • Personally, I am a fan of taking melatonin and getting into bed a little early with a book that has nothing to do with your daily world. It helps to close the browser tabs of your mind. This varies by person as some people can’t put down a good book and it may keep them up later. Know your vices on this one.
  • Remove anything stimulating like cell phones and tablets. These devices are slippery slopes and allow work or play to encroach on your beauty sleep. Cell phones, tablets, and other electronic devices also negatively affect your rest in many different ways.
  • I think it helps not to have an alarm clock close to your bed.
  • Try different things like having an alarm clock that makes you solve a puzzle or that wakes you with the news. See what works. The goal is to have it in your head you are doing something different and that you are being woken up to some sort of activity. This will help prevent you from merely shutting it off and going back to sleep.
  • If you use an Alexa Spot, you can have Alexa do sleep meditations from places like Headspace or wind down to music before falling asleep.
  • I have had clients use animals as their alarm clocks as the dogs will follow up where the alarm clock falls off.
  • Use a sleep calculator to see when you should go to bed for your goal time of waking up.
  • I knew of several clients that developed unique ways to wake themselves up: one used a Christmas tree timer connected to a hairdryer. Odd, yes, but it worked. Another used an alarm clock for those with hearing impairment. It would vibrate and flash a light.
  • I had a client who used a more zen approach and had a light that would gradually turn on and a bell that would ding and slowly become more frequent.
  • Some people suggest eating a banana and having milk, turkey, and carbohydrates as they have natural sedative effects due to tryptophan. Similarly, a hot shower or bath 60-90 minutes before bed can be calming and relaxing; it can also assist in dropping your body temperature, which is a natural signal in your body that it is time to rest.
  • Part of what makes waking up at a different time so tough is breaking a sleep cycle. Another thing can is sleep deprivation in general, as sleep is shown to affect mental health. Working as a counselor, I absolutely see the role of reduced sleep attributed to many diagnoses that can easily be treated through good sleep hygiene (ADHD, mindless eating, anxiety, depression, stress).
  • For going to bed, I think it helps to think of yourself lying in a place with everything you associate with relaxing. For me, that’s a lake with nothing else around it and laying on a raft. Find the visualization that works for you and allow yourself to steep in it. This helps your brain let go of control.
  • If you wake up, try counting and focusing on your breath. Slowly counting as you breathe in and slowly as you breathe out. This helps to turn off that logical part of your brain that sometimes kicks on “What time is it? Do I have to pee? How long was I out?” These thoughts never help and don’t check the clock.
  • Visualize what you want to do with your new routine and know that the first few days will likely be the toughest. Build in a morning reward for your new behavior. If you get tired during the day, try to walk or get some exercise. This helps you to get the most of out of the day so you can crash later.
  • Oh, a note on caffeine. Mileage varies on this advice, but I first ask people how sensitive they are. I then have them cut back their caffeine intake, so nothing is after 3 pm and then try to cut it back even further. It can easily mess up the best-laid plans.
  • Ambien and other sleep medications can be a slippery slope in my experience and research points it this way too. It’s not suitable for long-term use, and it’s not that much more effective than trying to sleep without it.

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How EMDR Works in Treating Anxiety

How EMDR Works in Treating Anxiety

By Diana Schaefer, LCSW

Most people suffer from anxiety from time to time. I know I have. We all need some anxiety to function. If you had no anxiety you might not be motivated to do anything! However, too much anxiety can hinder us from being at our best.  Whether it’s situational; such as having to do public speaking, taking a test, or having to drive after having had an accident, or more generalized where you feel anxious but are not sure why, EMDR works in treating anxiety.

How Does EMDR Work for Anxiety? 

The first step is identifying what is triggering the anxiety. If it’s something like public speaking, one way I’ve used EMDR is to come up with a time when you did a good job speaking publicly and you felt successful. We would then touch on how you felt when you were successful, what positives thoughts you had about yourself, have you imagine how you sat or stood in front of the group and even think of a word or phrase to describe that feeling. We would then use bilateral stimulation, which is stimuli, either visual, auditory, or tactile, which occur in a rhythmic left-right pattern, while you experience those feelings, thoughts, body sensations, and images in your mind. Then, we would attach the word or phrase that helps you remember that feeling. This is called resourcing the positive experience.

The next step would be to have you concentrate on an upcoming event when you have to speak in public. Here again, we would have you imagine being in front of a group you’ll be speaking to identify the feelings that emerge, images, physical sensations, irrational negative thoughts you have about yourself and what you want to believe when we are done or the positive thought. I would also ask how upsetting this is on a scale of 0-10. We would then use the bilateral stimulation while you think about the situation. What usually happens is the negative feelings and irrational beliefs become more positive and the level of upset (or anxiety) goes down.

Another approach I’ve used is to have the person imagine that they are successfully speaking to a group. In this approach, we would run a movie in your head successfully speaking to the group using the bilateral stimulation, starting with the preparation of getting ready for the speech through to the end of the talk. We would stop when they feel the anxiety coming on and then we would process the anxiety until it went down.

Case Example: (all identifying information was removed and scenarios altered to maintain anonymity)

I worked with a young woman who suffered from anxiety which she felt intensely whenever she had to be the center of attention. She was getting married and the thought of everyone staring at her terrified her. She had suffered from panic attacks in the past and was very afraid she would have a panic attack at her own wedding and ruin the entire experience of her special day.

Obviously, sometimes the anxiety is based on traumatic experiences that also need to be addressed. This was also true in her case. She had a loss that left her feeling unprotected and vulnerable. We worked together for several weeks on having her imagine getting up that day, getting dressed and ready, walking with her father down the aisle of the church and doing this successfully without a panic attack. Her level of anxiety before we started the process was at a 10+. We were able to get the anxiety level down to about a 3 which was fine with her. She wanted to feel in control but the anxiety made her feel out of control. We also worked on the deeper reasons behind her anxiety. She ended up having a little anxiety during her wedding (who wouldn’t?) but it did not limit her or prevent her from having a wonderful experience.

If you feel that you or a loved one can benefit from either anxiety counseling or EMDR therapy, you can contact us to make a counseling appointment. If you would like a more general perspective on EMDR, you can read How EMDR Works.

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