HALT: Anger Management
Over time, unchecked anger takes a toll on your mind and body. It can lead to a wide range of uncomfortable symptoms—including teeth grinding, headaches, anxiety, muscle tension, and trouble sleeping. If you’ve ever heard the HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired) acronym used to describe the most common relapse triggers, you know that it can also put your recovery at risk.
If you find yourself frequently struggling to keep your temper in check, here are some anger management tips that can help you take control of your feelings and continue moving forward in your recovery journey.
Acknowledge That Your Emotions Are Normal
There is nothing inherently negative about being angry. For example, it’s natural to feel angry when you’ve been mistreated. In fact, your anger might even be productive if it spurs you to realize that you need to set stronger boundaries with your friends and family as you move forward in your recovery.
Issues with anger management are often rooted in outdated gender stereotypes that try to convince us that emotions are inherently masculine or feminine. Emotions don’t have a gender because they are a natural and normal part of being human.
For men, anger can become the “go-to” emotion whenever a situation is uncomfortable. Traditional views of masculinity can make it seem more acceptable to yell or punch a wall than to acknowledge feelings of fear or sadness. These men may use being drunk or high as an excuse for their angry outbursts.
Often, women who struggle with anger management grew up believing that anger was a shameful emoticon. When they expressed their anger, they were told they were being “hysterical” or “irrational.” As adults, they may rely on drugs and alcohol to escape from the shame they feel over being unable to regulate their emotions.
Empathy refers to the ability to recognize and understand the thoughts and feelings of another person. It’s the basis of the old expression that urges you to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” before judging their life choices.
When you feel like your anger is starting to get the best of you, take a step back. Resist the urge to assume that people are trying to be hurtful and consider if the situation could be nothing more than a misunderstanding or miscommunication.
A friend who kept you waiting at a restaurant where you were supposed to meet for lunch might have been dealing with a sick child at home. A coworker who snapped at you when you asked for clarification about an assignment may be going through a painful divorce. A family member who has been less than supportive of your recovery efforts might be secretly wondering if they should also seek addiction treatment.
Sometimes, practicing empathy means choosing to forgive those who’ve hurt you as a way of releasing the negative energy in your life. When you choose to treat others with grace and compassion, it becomes easier to show yourself the same consideration.
Find Healthy Ways to Express Your Feelings
Anger is normal, but it’s not an excuse for aggression. You are entitled to your feelings, but it’s not acceptable to become violent or verbally lash out at a person who has made you angry. Finding healthy ways to deal with your feelings is a key part of the recovery process—especially as you’re trying to rebuild trust in your relationships with those who’ve been hurt by your past addiction-related behavior.
Some healthy ways to cope with your anger include:
- Practicing yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises
- Writing about our feelings in your journal
- Distracting yourself by watching a funny movie or listening to music you enjoy
- Diffusing the situation with a gentle joke about unrealistic expectations or factors beyond your control
- Stating how you feel by using “I” statements that avoid judging or blaming the other person
- Taking responsibility for your actions and apologizing when you’ve acted inappropriately
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is well-known as an effective treatment for substance use disorders, but it can also be useful in anger management. CBT techniques can help you identify their triggers and root causes as you work towards disrupting and controlling your anger. The goal of CBT for anger management is to replace aggressive and confrontational communication with a calm, assertive way of expressing yourself.
Ask for Help
A lasting recovery is about more than simply abstaining from addictive substances. Managing your substance use disorder on a long-term basis requires examining how your thoughts and feelings influence your day-to-day behavior. If you’re struggling to manage your anger, the team at St. Joseph Institute for Addiction is here to help. Graduates of our Pennsylvania residential addiction treatment center enjoy access to a full continuum of care that helps support the transition back to independent living. No matter what challenges you’re facing, we’re here to provide the support you need to face the future with confidence.