One simple strategy is to take a "time out." Taking a time out means temporarily removing yourself from an escalating situation so you can cool down. The steps involved in taking a time out are described below.
- Before you are in a heated situation, identify what you are going to do or where you are going to go should you need a time out. Find a place that is quiet and relaxing for you. Also, come up with some things you can do to help you cool down during a time out, such as deep breathing or mindfulness techniques.
- Recognize when your anger levels are increasing or when a situation is getting too heated for you. Pay attention to how your body feels. If you notice that your heart rate is increasing or the level of tension in your body is going up, this may be an early sign that your frustration and anger are increasing. The earlier you catch your anger, the better off you will be in managing it.
- Once you notice that your anger is increasing, remove yourself from the situation as soon as you can and take a time out.
- If interacting with another person, tell them that you need a time out. However, don't just get up and leave. Instead, be assertive and use "I" statements.
For example, don't say, "You make me so angry I just have to leave the room." Instead, say "I am noticing that I am starting to get upset. I want to continue this conversation, but I want to make sure that things don't get out of control. I am going to take a few minutes to calm down, and then I would like it if we could continue our conversation."
Plan what you would like to say. It is important to be very clear and open about how you feel and your needs.
- Once you have identified your needs and the actions you are going to take, take steps to manage your anger or frustration. A number of different coping skills are available that can be useful in managing stress.
Keep in mind that a time out is supposed to be a way of cooling down. Make sure you don't get caught up in doing things that maintain or increase your anger, such as ruminating about the situation or engaging in negative self-talk. Mindfulness can be a useful way of preventing yourself from getting caught up in negative thoughts.
- Once you feel as though your anger and tension has reduced to a more manageable level, think about the situation and the actions you are going to take before actually returning to the situation. Plan what you would like to say and do and stick to that plan.
- When you feel as though you have a good plan, return to the situation. If you are interacting with another person, express your appreciation. Thank them for giving you the opportunity to calm down.
- Plan ahead. Time outs are not supposed to be unpredictable or sudden. Think ahead about where you can go or the things you can do during a time out.
- Time outs are not about avoidance. They are only supposed to be temporary. Make sure that you always return to a situation so that it can be resolved in a calm and effective way.
- Let others know about this strategy. Explain to others that you will be using this strategy as a way of making sure your anger does not get out of control. This shows a commitment to and concern for your relationships with others.
- Time outs will not always be effective. There may be some situations or interactions with some people where time outs may not work. Therefore, it is very important to learn other ways of managing anger. The more "tools" you have to manage anger, the better off you will be when that emotion arises.
- Practice. The more you practice this coping skill, the easier it will be to implement.