Using a Mental Health Journal for Anger Management Therapy

Anger Management TherapyThrough this article we will be exploring anger and how exactly to cope with extreme levels of anger. We will start by identifying what anger is and then go on to explore anger management therapy. This article will also touch on trackers you can use to help your anger management. In addition, journaling prompts will be introduced to help you journal your intrusive thoughts and improve your mental health.

What is anger? 

There isn’t one clear-cut definition to explain anger, as it is a very complex emotion to describe. Charles Spielberger defines it as an emotional state that can vary from mild irritation to intense fury and rage (R). While there is clearly a psychological aspect to experiencing anger, there are also biological changes that accompany it’s experience. For example, when you get angry, your heart rate and blood pressure will increase, as well as other hormones in your body.

Many different events can make someone angry, and these are categorized into two types of situations – internal and external events. Internal events are considered to be perceived failures, injustices, or frustrations. An example could include personal problems, quick changes, or disloyalty to yourself. 

External events are factors that provoke the feeling of anger but do not stem from interpersonal issues. An external event may include feeling angry toward a specific person or event (R)

Expressing anger 

Expressing anger can result in externalizing your behavior, which may include verbal arguments and tantrums. Some internalize their behavior, which may look like symptoms of depression or sulking. However, instinctually, our natural way to express anger is through aggression. It is a natural evolutionary mechanism that allows us to respond to threats. While our minds are trying to protect us, our behavior can come off powerful and aggressive. 

Now, there are different ways to deal with feelings of anger. The three main categories are through expression, suppression, or calming down. Expression is just presenting how you feel, which can range from being reasonable to violent. Suppression is keeping your feelings contained in an effort to create constructive behavior but can be disadvantageous of internalization. 

Finally, calming down entails controlling your external behavior and internal response by letting your intrusive thoughts subside with time. Ideally, taking a constructive approach is the healthiest way to deal with anger, where you state your concerns without hurting those around you. 

Why does anger exist? 

A question many scientists have asked throughout the decades is what is the benefit of anger? Although there are many theories proposing it’s importance, one that is widely accepted is it’s origin in regulating behavior by managing what was programmed into the neural network of humans over a period of evolutionary time. Through natural selection, anger allows an individual to respond to interpersonal conflicts of interest in an effective bargaining manner. This just means that anger motivated you to do something about the problem at hand.

When we get angry there is a flood of emotional and physical cues, and the role of anger helps us calm our nerves. This allows us to think clearly and create a solution that provides us with the most benefit (R)

Now, although experiencing anger is a normal part of the human experience, it can become a problem when the behavior gets out of control or even damaging. It can seep in and affect your personal and professional life, including relationships and commitments, creating a negative impact in your life. 

Anger might be a feeling commonly experienced by those experiencing life-altering changes. For example, Sarah is a 34-year-old woman who is experiencing a divorce. Sarah has been married for 12 years and dislikes change. This an internal event that Sarah thinks of as frustration. We will now explore how this might affect her health. 

Anger’s relationship with health 

Since we covered a little background about anger, we must ask ourselves, can anger be damaging to health? The simple answer would be no, but experiencing too much anger can have some consequences. Research has shown that when too much anger is suppressed or expressed, it can predispose an individual to various diseases. It has been shown to influence bulimia nervosa and increase the likelihood of experiencing car accidents (R).

Some health risks include coronary heart disease, bulimic behavior, and diabetes. Researchers believe that these behaviors develop because excess anger expression or suppression can be associated with following a healthy lifestyle. This includes factors like lack of physical activity and consumption of alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine. 

Sarah might have been consuming more alcohol in an attempt to go out and explore things she couldn’t do when married. This might also be influenced by the anger she is experiencing as a result of her divorce. While this is not always alarming it might be a good indication to check in on your friends and family who are going through life-altering changes like Sarah. Keep reading for tips on how you can help them as well. 

Managing anger

Anger not only provokes an emotional response but a physical one as well. You may start to feel flustered, a faster heartbeat, and increase the volume of your speech. This is the body’s way of trying to protect you, as it senses a threat. 

Being able to recognize specific signs your body creates when you start to feel angry will help in managing your anger. The biggest tip is to remember that although powerful, it is just a feeling and our mind can help control it. 

Acting out of anger never solves any problems, so it is important to find ways that will help you act productively. Here are some ways you can help manage your anger: 

  • When you are feeling angry, remember the statement “think before you speak.” Assess the situation you are in and find out why you are feeling this way. This can be helpful to pinpoint the cause of your feelings and create a starting point for resolution. 
  • Talk to someone you are comfortable with and express your feelings to them in a calm and appropriate manner. Sometimes talking to someone and feeling heard can be very helpful. Even if talking to someone doesn’t help, just hearing yourself speak aloud and listening to your thoughts can allow you to recognize what is going on.

Overall, the focus of these techniques is to identify positive solutions and navigate any intrusive thoughts into positive affirmations. Being aware of what you are feeling can go a long way in helping with managing you anger. Self-awareness and self-control will play a vital role in your road to discovering yourself in this active journey. Something to also keep in mind is that change will take time! Do not be hard on yourself if you do not see results right away, practice is what will help you see improvements. Be patient with yourself!

Signs of when anger is a problem

As stated previously, anger is a normal and healthy feeling to experience. We all get angry sometimes, and it is a natural part of the human experience. However, when you are feeling angry all the time it can lead to detrimental physical and mental problems. It can cause problems that may lead to hurting yourself or others. 

Here are some examples indicating you or your loved one’s anger may be a problem:

  • Internalizing your anger – to a point where you can feel sick and make yourself and others feel badly. 
  • You provoke fights and/or hurt others physically and emotionally. 
  • Distance yourself from friends and family. 
  • Threaten to hurt other people or damage their property. 
  • Prolonged periods of anger or feeling worried/scared about your anger. 
  • When you get angry, you feel like you cannot control it or blackout. 

If you feel that some of these statements resonate with you or someone you know, below are some ways to learn to cope with the problems you are experiencing. 

What is anger management?

Anger management is the progression of learning how to identify the signs of when you are becoming angry and trying to process these emotions in a calm and productive manner (R). It is important to note that anger management therapy does not hinder your ability to feel angry, let alone make you want to completely stop feeling that emotion. It would be unhealthy if you were taught to block angry feelings. The purpose of this strategy is to regulate intense anger emotions, allowing you to appropriately express this emotion. 

Ways to Limit Anger 

Anger can never be completely gone; nor should it be. However, there are ways to control any outbursts. There are simple everyday tips that you can incorporate into your lifestyle that can help with this. 

  • Start getting active. This can mean anything from taking your dog on a walk to following a fitness routine. Exercise releases “happy hormones” which promote a positive mindset and good energy.
  • Get 8 hours of sleep. Sleep is very important, and a lack of sleep can create mood changes and result in getting annoyed easily.
  • Write out your thoughts. Journaling is a very beneficial technique to practice. It helps control your symptoms and improve your mood. It can allow you to recognize and prioritize your problems and fears. Additionally, by tracking your day-to-day symptoms, you will be able to recognize triggers in order to help correct negative thoughts and behaviors. You can even maintain a future self journal, where you write down a piece that will be ready for when you need to calm yourself down. 
  • Practice calmness. This can include meditating, deep breathing, or even yoga. 
  • Have a friend or family member check in on you and be your support group.

If you have a friend like Sarah or are Sarah, who is experiencing change and as a result, extreme levels of anger check in on them. Having a support system and group of friends to check on you in trying times is important. 

What does anger management therapy look like?

Research has shown that different types of therapy have been immensely effective in treating uncontrolled anger. A meta-analysis study suggested that almost 75% of people partaking in anger management therapy experience improved results (R). Most studies have found that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been the most helpful in teaching patients how to identify negative patterns and change false beliefs. A well-known CBT practice for anger management is Stress Inoculation. This is when a person is exposed to imaginary situations that would provoke anger, while simultaneously providing opportunities to self-monitor their anger and practice coping mechanisms. 

Other methods in treating anger include: 

  • Family therapy: This is when a family works as a whole unit to seek and resolve conflict and improve communication. It can be helpful as it can address underlying causes that intensify an individual’s anger and deal with past trauma.
  • Psychodynamic therapy: This is when therapists help patients use self-reflection to focus on the psychological origin of their emotional distress. Many times, anger is a symptom of an underlying issue. This may be rooted from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or addiction. When psychologists identify and treat these conditions through positive reflection techniques, patients may start to see improvements in their behavior. 

Anger Management Therapy Tracking

Journaling Prompts for Mental HealthDiary

CareClinic is a health and wellness app that helps you improve your health. This includes improving your mental health. You can easily use the Diary – Prompts function to journal your intrusive thoughts throughout the day. There are a variety of prompts you can choose from, such as awareness, to calm your wandering brain. 

Maintaining a daily routine is becoming increasingly important in today’s day and age. Adding CareClinic to your daily routine will be an easy one-step process that helps you track your health. You can easily start your day by drinking a cup of coffee and using the journal prompt diary to write down your early morning thoughts. Many with anger-related disorders deal with changes in thought patterns. Keeping track of changes in thought patterns when they happen can be beneficial to anger management therapy. 

This will be useful for Sarah to track how she feels on a daily basis using the journaling prompts to improve her mental health. By posting her results daily she will be able to determine and track her progress. 

On a bad day Sarah might journal something like the following with the acceptance prompt:

I am angry today because I don’t understand why John left me. We had a great relationship. I want to scream; we have known each other for as long as I can remember. These feelings make me want to drink and punch a wall. But I know that a better way to control my emotions is by journaling or exercising. It might be a great time for me to go on my daily walk with George now.’

Symptoms

Side effects for different anger-related disorders include nausea or increased thirst (R). You can easily track your symptoms on the CareClinic app as well. If you have felt nausea you can easily search for “Nausea” and journal when it started. If this is a recurring symptom you can also track how frequent it is by tracking what days you felt it on, and how long it lasted. You can also easily add notes which might be beneficial for when you visit a doctor for anger management therapy.

Measurements

A physical symptom of anger is heart palpitations or tightening of the chest. The measurements section of CareClinic could be used to track how often this happens. If you encounter tightening of the chest you can easily search breath frequency. This enables you to input your resting heart rate and lifestyle choices. You can also input your mood and pain, this can be a key factor in your anger management therapy. Adding this following a heart palpitation could be a winding down exercise. 

ActivityAnger Journal

Physical exercise has proven to be very beneficial for mental health and tracking fitness is vital for this process. Tracking fitness isn’t hard, you can fill out your workouts easily on CareClinic. You just have to search the workouts you are completing in the search bar. Including this in your cool down will help you take a second for yourself and reflect. Fitness can be a great way to control intrusive thoughts. 

Sarah could easily input her taking her dog on a walk as an activity that she completed and add notes like:

It was a great sunny day, went on a longer walk than expected. George (her dog) loved it! It really helped me calm down from earlier.’ 

Intrusive ThoughtsFactors

Factors is a quick and easy function that lets you input obstacles that might have impacted you like social factors, digestion factors, and weather factors. If you are having a busy day and don’t want to track your daily activity you can also easily input, the factors. You can select the problems you faced that day by quickly choosing that it was a busy day. This will help you when you look back and notice that you didn’t journal one day. This also helps you keep track of what the weather was like on days and see if that impacted your behavior. 

For example, if Sarah faced a conflict that day because she had to encounter her ex-husband she can easily tap conflict. This is pictured on the right to show you how easy it would be to add factors that influenced your day. 

Sleep

There is an entire article dedicated to using the sleep tracker because it is that important. Poor sleep could be a major contributor to anger-related disorder. Intrusive thoughts that keep you up late could worsen your disorder. Tracking your sleeping patterns helps you determine and gauge the quality of your sleep. This will be a great tool for anger management therapy.

If speaking with her ex-husband or dealing with divorce-related issues impacted Sarah’s sleep she can easily track how that impacted her sleep. 

Ultimately, there are many ways we can overcome our angry thoughts before they turn into actions. Using an app such as CareClinic can be a vital tool in your anger management therapy  and can help you overcome your anger.

  

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Thiviya Thirunavaukarasu