Coping skills

How To Stop Self Harm

Katie Donahoo

Self harm is a serious issue that affects millions of people around the world. It is a coping mechanism that is often used to cope with difficult emotions or situations, but it can also have serious consequences on both physical and mental health. If you are struggling with self harm urges, it is important to know that you are not alone and that there are ways to cope with these urges and find healthy ways to cope with your emotions.

First and foremost, it is important to understand that self harm is not a healthy way to cope with difficult emotions or situations. While it may provide temporary relief or a sense of control, it ultimately leads to more harm and can even lead to addiction. It is important to find healthy ways to cope with your emotions and address the root causes of your self harm urges.

One way to cope with self harm urges is to find healthy outlets for your emotions. This can include talking to a therapist or trusted friend or family member, writing in a journal, or engaging in physical activity such as exercise or sports. Finding healthy outlets for your emotions can help you process and cope with difficult emotions in a healthy way.

Another way to cope with self harm urges is to have a plan in place for when the urges arise. This could include having a list of healthy coping mechanisms that you can turn to when the urges arise, or having a trusted friend or family member that you can reach out to for support. It can also be helpful to have a list of distractions or activities that you can turn to when the urges arise, such as watching a movie, reading a book, or engaging in a hobby.

It is also important to practice self-care and prioritize your mental health. This can include getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and taking breaks when needed. It can also be helpful to engage in activities that bring you joy and help you relax, such as listening to music, spending time with loved ones, or taking a warm bath. Taking care of yourself can help to reduce stress and improve your overall well-being.

Another way to cope with self harm urges is to learn healthy ways to manage your emotions. This can include practicing mindfulness, which involves paying attention to the present moment and accepting your emotions without judgment. It can also be helpful to learn coping skills such as relaxation techniques or deep breathing, which can help to reduce stress and calm the mind.

If you are struggling with self harm urges, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional. A therapist or counselor can provide you with the support and guidance you need to address the root causes of your self harm urges and find healthy ways to cope with your emotions. They can also provide you with tools and strategies to help you manage your emotions and reduce the risk of self harm.

In addition to seeking help from a mental health professional, it can also be helpful to connect with others who have experienced self harm. Support groups and online communities can provide a safe and supportive space for you to share your experiences and find support from others who understand what you are going through.

Self harm is a serious issue that affects millions of people around the world. While it can be a difficult and challenging journey, it is important to remember that there is hope and that there are ways to cope with self harm urges and find healthy ways to cope with your emotions. By seeking help from a mental health professional, finding healthy outlets for your emotions, and practicing self-care and emotion management, you can take steps towards healing and finding a healthier way to cope with difficult emotions.Healing is possible, help is available.

Coping skills

7 Strategies Anger Management

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Katie Donahoo

Anger is a natural human emotion that can be difficult to manage, especially when it gets out of control. Many people struggle with angry outbursts, which can lead to conflicts and damage relationships. Learning how to manage anger effectively is crucial for personal and professional success, as well as maintaining healthy relationships.

Here are some tips for managing anger:

  1. Recognize the signs of anger

The first step in managing anger is to be aware of it. This means paying attention to your body and noticing the physical signs of anger, such as tense muscles, rapid breathing, and an increased heart rate. You may also notice that your thoughts become more negative and critical, or that you feel a strong desire to react aggressively.

  1. Identify the root cause of your anger

Anger is often a secondary emotion, meaning that it is usually a response to something else. For example, you may be feeling angry because you are frustrated, hurt, or scared. By identifying the root cause of your anger, you can better understand why you are feeling this way and take steps to address the underlying issue.

  1. Practice relaxation techniques

When you are feeling angry, it is important to find ways to calm down. This can help you think more clearly and make better decisions. Some relaxation techniques that may be helpful include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness meditation.

  1. Use healthy coping mechanisms

There are many healthy ways to cope with anger, such as talking to a trusted friend or family member, writing in a journal, or engaging in physical activity. These activities can help you process your emotions and find more constructive ways to deal with your anger.

  1. Communicate effectively

Effective communication is key to managing anger. When you are feeling angry, it is important to express your feelings in a clear and respectful way. Avoid using aggressive or threatening language, and try to stay calm and focused on the issue at hand.

  1. Set boundaries

Boundaries are an important part of managing anger. By setting limits and boundaries, you can protect yourself and your relationships. For example, you might set a boundary around how much time you are willing to spend with someone who regularly triggers your anger.

  1. Seek help if needed

Sometimes, anger can become overwhelming and difficult to manage on your own. If you find that your anger is causing problems in your relationships or leading to destructive behaviors, it may be helpful to seek the help of a mental health professional.

Managing anger is a skill that takes practice. By recognizing the signs of anger, identifying the root cause, and using healthy coping mechanisms, you can learn to control your anger and improve your relationships and overall well-being.

Coping skills, Education

How To Get Better Sleep

Katie Donahoo

Sleep hygiene is a term used to describe the habits and practices that help you get a good night’s sleep. It’s important to prioritize good sleep hygiene because sleep is essential for our overall health and well-being. Lack of sleep or poor quality sleep can lead to a number of negative effects on our physical and mental health, including weight gain, poor concentration, irritability, and an increased risk of chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

So, what can you do to improve your sleep hygiene and get a better night’s sleep? Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Stick to a consistent sleep schedule

One of the most important things you can do to improve your sleep hygiene is to follow a consistent sleep schedule. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends. By following a consistent sleep schedule, you can help regulate your body’s internal clock, which will make it easier to fall asleep and wake up feeling refreshed.

  1. Create a sleep-friendly environment

The environment in which you sleep can have a big impact on the quality of your sleep. Here are some things you can do to create a sleep-friendly environment:

  • Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet.
  • Use a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  • Remove distractions such as TVs, computers, and phones from the bedroom.
  • Use blackout curtains or an eye mask to block out light.
  1. Practice relaxation techniques before bed

Relaxation techniques can help you wind down and prepare for sleep. Some options include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation. You could also try using a white noise machine or listening to calming music before bed.

  1. Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed

Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake, so it’s best to avoid consuming it within four to six hours of bedtime. Alcohol may make you feel drowsy at first, but it can actually disrupt your sleep later in the night.

  1. Get regular exercise

Exercise can help improve your sleep quality, but it’s important to avoid vigorous exercise within a few hours of bedtime. Instead, try to get some moderate exercise earlier in the day.

  1. Eat a healthy diet

A healthy diet can contribute to good sleep hygiene. Avoid eating large meals close to bedtime and try to limit your intake of sugary or high-fat foods.

  1. Avoid screens before bed

The blue light emitted by screens (such as TVs, computers, and phones) can interfere with your body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep. It’s a good idea to avoid screens for at least an hour before bed.

  1. Manage stress

Stress and anxiety can interfere with sleep, so it’s important to find ways to manage these emotions. Some strategies include practicing relaxation techniques, talking to a therapist or counselor, and setting aside time to unwind before bed.

  1. Use the bedroom for sleep and sex only

It’s important to associate your bedroom with sleep, so try to avoid using it for activities such as work or watching TV. This can help your body and mind relax and get into sleep mode when you’re in bed.

  1. Seek help if you have ongoing sleep problems

If you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep despite trying these strategies, it may be helpful to speak with a healthcare professional. They can help identify any underlying causes of your sleep problems and provide guidance on how to address them.

Overall, good sleep hygiene is essential for maintaining good health and well-being. Hopefully you find these tips helpful in improving your own sleep.

Coping skills, Education

How To Practice GRATITUDE

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Katie Donahoo

Gratitude is the practice of feeling and expressing appreciation for the good things in our lives. It can be a powerful tool for improving our well-being and building stronger relationships with others. Here are some ways to practice gratitude on a daily basis:

  1. Keep a gratitude journal: Each day, take a few minutes to write down three things you are grateful for. These can be big or small, serious or silly. The act of writing them down can help you focus on the positive aspects of your life and cultivate a more grateful mindset.
  2. Share your gratitude with others: Whether it’s through a simple “thank you” or a heartfelt note, expressing your appreciation to others can help strengthen your relationships and make you feel more connected to the people around you.
  3. Practice mindfulness: Gratitude is often easier to cultivate when we are present in the moment and paying attention to our surroundings. Taking a few minutes each day to focus on your breath and the present moment can help you become more aware of the good things in your life.
  4. Help others: One of the easiest ways to feel grateful is to do something kind for someone else. Whether it’s volunteering your time, donating to a charity, or simply performing a small act of kindness for a friend or stranger, helping others can bring a sense of joy and fulfillment that can help you feel more grateful for your own blessings.
  5. Look for the good in difficult situations: It’s natural to focus on the negative aspects of a challenging situation, but try to look for the silver lining. What can you learn from the experience? Is there something positive that has come out of it? Taking a moment to consider the positive aspects of a difficult situation can help you cultivate a more grateful mindset.
  6. Reflect on your blessings: Take some time each day to think about the things in your life that you are grateful for. These could be material possessions, experiences, or even intangible things like your health or relationships. Reflecting on these blessings can help you appreciate the good things in your life and feel more grateful overall.
  7. Be thankful for the small things: It’s easy to take the little things for granted, but taking the time to appreciate the small pleasures in life can help you cultivate a sense of gratitude. This could be something as simple as a warm cup of coffee on a cold morning or a beautiful sunset.
  8. Practice gratitude regularly: Gratitude is like a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. Make it a habit to express your gratitude on a daily basis, and over time you will find it becomes easier to feel and express appreciation for the good things in your life.
  9. Surround yourself with grateful people: The people we spend time with can have a big influence on our attitudes and behaviors. Surrounding yourself with grateful people can help you cultivate a more grateful mindset and make it easier to express appreciation for the good things in your life.
  10. Express gratitude in difficult times: It can be especially hard to feel grateful when you’re going through a tough time, but expressing gratitude can actually help you feel better. Even if you don’t feel particularly thankful in the moment, taking a few minutes to focus on the things you are grateful for can help shift your mindset and bring a sense of perspective.

In conclusion, gratitude is a powerful practice that can have a positive impact on our well-being and relationships. By incorporating some of these techniques into your daily routine, you can cultivate a more grateful mindset and experience the many benefits of expressing appreciation for the good things in your life.

Addictions, Coping skills

Trigger Warning

Self Harm and Other Maladaptive Coping Strategies

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Katie Donahoo

Coping skills are anything that helps you to feel clam, relaxed and brings you peace. If you read through previous posts I’ve written you will all kinds of positive, healthy strategies to help you when you are struggling. But what happens when the things you think are bringing you calm are actually hurting you? In this article you learn what maladaptive coping strategies are, how to recognize them in yourself and others, and what to do if you notice you or a loved one are using them. So lets get into it.

Maladaptive coping skills are harmful behaviors people use to cope with emotional distress. While these behaviors often provide immediate reduction in symptoms the effects are not long lasting and over time cause an increase in distress, anxiety, depression, and other symptoms. Maladaptive strategies are often learned through social influence, parental modeling, or experimentation in youth. When a person is raised in a toxic household where the adults use maladaptive coping strategies to deal with their distress it impresses upon the youth that this is how you deal with your problems. Some youth are not exposed to healthy coping alternatives and therefore rely on the maladaptive strategies to ease their burden. Others still experiment with maladaptive strategies in teen years whether from peer advice or modeling behaviors seen by friends and peers. Adults can fall into maladaptive coping patterns as well.

Maladaptive coping comes in many forms. The use of drugs and alcohol often beginning as a way to deal with stress from either daily life or a significant event. Smoking, tobacco use, vaping to manage stress is another substance use example. Self harm behaviors such as cutting, burning, or hair pulling are maladaptive coping strategies. Lesser known maladaptive strategies include gambling, emotional numbing, and social withdraw. Often, maladaptive coping goes undetected because the strategy itself is a socially acceptable behavior. Going to the bar to burn off steam after a long day at work or playing a few hands of poker with the fellas. Taking smoke breaks at work or home to get away from the hub-bub indoors. Behaviors such as pinching, pulling, or picking may even go unnoticed by the individual until commented on by a loved one.

If you are uncertain if your engagement in some of the activities listed is simply social engagement or maladaptive coping you can ask yourself the following questions:

Does engaging in this activity consume my thinking? Do you spend a lot of time thinking about when, where, or how you will be able to engage in this behavior or activity again? Is what I think about first think about in the morning? Is it on my mind most of the day? Do I spend a lot time trying to plan or acquire the things I need to engage in this behavior again? Spending large quantities of time thinking about or actively trying to engage in the behavior again is an indicator you are engaging in an unhealthy or maladaptive way.

Am I hiding it from others? Do my loved ones know I do this? Do they partake in this behavior with me or do I engage in this alone? Engaging in behaviors in secret is a sign you are utilizing the behavior in a maladaptive way.

Do I feel guilt or shame after engaging in the behavior? When we partake in behavior in a maladaptive way we often feel negative emotions about our use of the behavior. Your use of a healthy coping strategy would leaving you feeling better, confident, and proud.

Am I only engaging in this behavior when I am alone? Isolation during maladaptive coping is common. If you wouldn’t engage in the behavior in front of your support system it’s likely because you have an intuitive sense that the behavior is maladaptive in nature. If you are isolating from your supports even when not engaging in the behavior it could be because your attempts at coping are not effective.

Maladaptive coping strategies will leave you feeling worse over time because they do not deal with the root cause of your distress. In fact, maladaptive coping will increase your symptoms due to the shame, guilt, embarrassment, and other depressive or anxious symptoms perpetuated by the strategy itself. Alcohol is a depressant. If you use it to numb or decrease your stress it will likely work initially. Over time you will find yourself feeling more and more anxious and stressed as you continue to use alcohol to cope. Maladaptive coping doesn’t work long term, it doesn’t create positive change in your behavior, and doesn’t address the root cause of your distress.

If you or a loved one are engaging in any of the strategies mentioned above as ways to deal with emotional upset, stress, or known mental health issues such as anxiety or depression there is hope. Please please please reach out for help. Somebody loves you, help is available. Crisis hotlines are for all kinds of crisis. You do NOT have to be suicidal to call a crisis line. Text 988 if you are in crisis.

If you are concerned for a loved one do not wait to address the elephant in the room. Learning new strategies and changing behavior patterns can be difficult. The person may have been using their maladaptive strategies for a very long time. Confront them immediately with love and support. Let them know that you know what they are doing and you are there to help. Whether for a loved one or for yourself seek professional support to gain healthy, effective strategies as soon as possible. Healing is possible, help is available.

Crisis Text Line: 988

Crisis Hotline: 1 (800) 273-8522


What’s In a Name?

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Katie Donahoo

While we use our names everyday it is not everyday we stop to think about what our name could mean. Perhaps your name was chosen for you with a particular purpose in mind. Or you may have been named after a relative or pop icon. Some have religious or spiritual connections. You may have even chosen a name for yourself very intentionally. Our names are just the beginning of our identity. What’s in your name?

The following activity will help your creativity start flowing while working on your self esteem:

  1. Write your name vertically on a sheet of paper in bubble lettering.
  2. List a positive quality that starts with each letter in your name.
  3. Fill in the bubble letter with a colorful deign to represent the quality. You can use color pencil, crayon, paint, chalk, ink, any medium you wish. Be sure to intentionally use colors that represent the quality.
  4. Step back from your work and reflect on how these qualities have been helpful to you in your life.

EXAMPLE: I used Sharpie marker as my medium.

Our self worth is often the result of the meaning we attach to ourselves and out lived experiences. If you want to increase your self esteem, self worth, self love, etc. complete this exercise and hang it in a place where you will see if frequently. Read through the positive qualities you have identified in yourself and remember, you are worthy. Not because of the things you do, not because of what other people think, and not because of any thing you have achieved. You are worthy. That is it. You are worthy.

If you are struggling with low self esteem reach out today. Healing is possible, help is available.

Coping skills

What Were You Thinking

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Katie Donahoo

Throughout your life you will be spending more time in your own head than in conversation with anyone else. If you find yourself saying things like “I’m so stupid. I can’t believe I did that. What’s wrong with me? I hate myself. No one likes me.” Then this article is for you. Our internal dialogue has a huge impact on our self-esteem, emotional state, and how we behave. When we have negative internal dialogue it can cause negative emotional states and behavior that is unhelpful. Beating yourself up over mistakes or ruminating on what you said or did isn’t helpful and it won’t change the past. Challenging your thinking and reframing your thoughts can change how you feel in the moment and impact your behavior in a positive way.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, teaches us about the interconnectedness of our thoughts feelings and behaviors. We have thoughts (likely negative ones), the thoughts tigger emotions, and the emotions impact our behavior, often leading to events that trigger more negative thoughts. And so, the cycle continues leaving us trapped in a downward spiral of negativity, depression, and anxiety. Sound familiar? “How do I stop it?” you ask. Well I’ll give you strategies to try.

  1. Thought Stopping: Interrupting your thoughts by utilizing imagery, such as visualizing a STOP sign, and then redirecting your thoughts to a different topic.
  2. Cognitive Challenging: Challenging the validity, fact basis, or likelihood of the distorted thoughts you are having. Then choosing to focus on the more realistic thoughts or outcomes.
  3. Cognitive Reframing: Challenging your thinking and then intentionally changing the thought you are having to a more positive thought. For example: If you have the thought “no one likes me” you would challenge that by identifying one person who you have even the slightest positive relationship with (ex: parent, sibling, local grocer, your cat, etc). You would then re-frame your thought to a more positive one: “I don’t always like everyone so it’s ok if ______ doesn’t like me. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and that’s ok.”

Learning to interrupt, challenge, and reframe your thinking can a significant impact on your mental health. It’s not easy to start but once you get the hang of it you will be able to do it quickly therefore spending less time feeling down, depressed, or anxious. Start by noticing how often you hare having negative or distorted thoughts. Then, start identifying the thoughts you have most often or the thoughts that create big emotional responses within you. Write the ones down, literally word for word, so you can thoroughly challenge them and come up with reframes that feel genuine and true. Once you have done this you will have a mental tool box of more logical, more positive, and more genuine thoughts to use whenever you notice yourself spiraling into your negative thinking patterns. Over time this process will becomes easier and easier.

If you are struggling with your thoughts and having difficulty interrupting, challenging, or reframing them a counselor can work with you to practice, develop, and implement these strategies. Healing is possible, help is available.

Coping skills

Squared Breathing 

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Katie Donahoo

Breathing techniques are some of my favorite strategies to teach in sessions. They are so helpful and useful in a variety of situations. Breathing strategies are great because you can use them both in the moment to manage overwhelm and on a regular basis to help decrease stress and anxiety as part of your self care routine. Squared breathing can be used during morning meditations, to relax in the evening before heading to bed, or throughout the day to manage minor stressors. 

Bring your attention to your natural state of breathing. Notice the rise and fall of your chest as you breathing in and out. When we become anxious, stress, nervous, or worried our breath tends to stay in our chest and our rate of breathing increases. This leads to shallow, short breaths that increase your heart rate and blood pressure. Our goal is to interrupt this process. Therefore, it is important that you breath deep into your belly by utilizing your diaphragm. Imagine breathing in through your nose and the air going down your throat and filling you stomach like a balloon. Notice how your belly expands on the inhale rather than your chest. When exhaling be sure to blow out forcefully enough that you can hear your breath escape your lips. Squeeze your stomach muscles to get every last bit of air out that you can before holding the exhale. 

In squared breathing you will inhale, hold, exhale, and hold while counting to 4 and then begin again. It helps to imagine breathing in as if you are smelling flowers and blowing out as if you are blowing out the light of a candle.  See the diagram below for a visual aid.

Practicing breathing strategies, even when you are not stressed, can help prevent overwhelm and increase the likelihood you will be able to implement the strategy when needed. Take a few moments every day to practice deep breathing in the squared breathing format.

Coping skills

4 Tips for Reducing Anxiety & Depression 

Katie Donahoo

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Anxious and depressed symptoms are common throughout the lifespan. Everyone has felt stressed out, overwhelmed, sad, and lethargic. Individually these symptoms are often manageable with a few coping strategies. Here are a few tips to keep your symptoms of anxiety and depression under control. 

  1. Sleep and Wake Cycle – Maintaining a healthy sleep and wake cycle can make the world of difference. It’s common knowledge that sleep can be one of the most impactful health benefits not only for physical well being but for your emotional well being too. When you stick to a healthy sleep and wake cycle your body will be at it’s best. To do this try to wake up and lie down at the same time each day. After a while your body’s natural rhythm will adapt and you will find yourself getting tired just before you bedtime. You will likely also notice yourself waking up around the same time daily feeling more refreshed and energized than when you stay up late and sleep in. If you keep your sleep and wake cycle similar on days off you will have more success staying on the cycle than if you allow yourself to stay up several hours later thinking you will just sleep in the next day. 
  2. Look Good Feel Good – It’s easy to skip taking a shower or doing your makeup when you are feeling down. But if you are trying to fend off a depression then taking the time to get ready in the morning can make a big difference. When we feel clean, attractive, and put together we have more energy and our self esteem is lifted. When we think we look good we feel better about ourself and our interactions in the world. When we feel good it’s easier to have a positive outlook on the day. I’m not the kind of person to put too much emphasis on my looks, but I know that when I’m starting to feel down about myself or my life putting effort into these areas will impact my emotional state so I do it. Take a moment a think about the last time you really put effort into your morning routine. Wearing your favorite outfit, looking in the mirror ad liking what you saw, the pep in your step as you headed off for the day. When we look good we feel good; so put on your favorite outfit and notice the difference it makes. 
  3. Touch Base – Humans are story telling creatures. We talk to others to express all kinds of emotions. Think about the last time you had great news, you probably told everyone you know and their mother. It feels good to talk about what is going on in our lives and it’s your brains way of helping to process information. If you are feeling anxious or depressed challenge yourself to touch base with a friend, loved one, sibling, or co-worker. Simply stating what is going on with you can alleviate some of your feelings. Often acknowledging our emotions diminishes their impact. You may not be able to solve whatever problems you may be having in life, but like Mr. Roger’s said “If it’s mentionable it’s manageable. So get out there and start mentioning your feelings. 
  4. Go Outside – Step out of your house, apartment, trailer, whatever and get into nature. You don’t have to go for a woodland hike or a stroll on the beach to get in touch with nature. Sit on your porch, stoop, curb, etc and take a few deep breaths. Nature is where we belong. Take off your shoes and walk in your grass, pick up some leaves or run your hand over a bush. Spending time outdoors can help you regulate your emotional state. If you have a beautiful, nature filled area great! If you live in a more urban area don’t worry about it. Breath in the fresh air, look up at the sky, feel your feet planted to the earth. Reconnect with the world around you and you will notice a change in yourself. 

These tips are not intended to replace counseling or medications you may be taking. Adding these routines and tips to your day to life will not fully treat anxiety or depression. Tips to reduce anxiety and depression come in all forms. If you are suffering with contact anxiety or depression please seek professional help. Healing is possible, help is available. 

Coping skills

How To Control Your Anger in 4 Steps

By Katie Donahoo

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Do you lose your temper easily? Have people close to you said you have an anger problem? Is it just too easy for you to scream, yell, and in general lose your cool? Then this article is for you. Anger is a universal emotion experienced by all people at one time or another. Some people are able to grit their teeth a bear it, others lose their shit at the slightest provocation. So what stops some people from flying off the handle while others struggle to control themselves? 

First, it helps to have an understanding of anger. Anger is a normal human emotion experienced by all people. Anger in humans is complex as we experience anger in response to a wide variety of stimuli: thoughts, experiences, events. And, as humans, we can get angry at ourselves over our own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. This self directed anger is different than what you would in any animal. You would never see an animal get angry at themself for napping when they should be working. 

To better understand anger think of a tree: deep roots, a tall trunk, and a wide breadth of leaves. The tall trunk and the breadth of leaves represent the observable parts of anger such as screaming, cursing, breaking things, verbal and physical aggression, and so on. In children you might see crying, biting, or temper tantrums. However, beneath the surface lies the true roots of anger: fear and pain. Think of these terms in the most broad sense. Fear for safety and physical pain can be included but we are talking about the psychological and emotional sense as well. Consider fears around loss of esteem or regard, losing face or embarrassment, the fear of abandonment. Do the same for pain. Consider the pain caused by other peoples words and actions, the unfairness of life, the loss of a loved one, or your own anxious or depressed thinking patterns, the ending of a significant relationship or career. 

Think back to the last time you were angry and ask yourself the following questions. What was causing me pain in that moment? What was I most afraid of in that moment? Was there another root emotion I was feeling? Have I felt these pains or fears before? 

These questions can be difficult to answer but I’m betting you will see the root of your anger in a new light. Understanding the root of your anger is the first step in controlling your anger. When we know what our fears and pain points are we can better identify our triggers for anger and, therefore, control our responses by managing our emotions more effectively. The goal should not be to never feel anger. Anger is a part of the human experience. A better goal would be to increase your control over your anger so your anger can no longer control you. 

When working on managing your emotions effectively it is helpful to consider the things that impact your daily life such as environment, physical health, attitude, and expectations. Consider, for example, the impact on your anger if you were feeling tired, in an environment that was overstimulating, if you were in an irritable mood, and if you then were let down by a co-worker who was supposed to bring the presentation you had been working on but they lost their computer. So many factors play into our everyday lives. Think about the variables listed above and where you can gain awareness around what triggers your anger. If understanding anger is step 1, then awareness around your own personal triggers is step 2. Recognizing the physical, mental, and behavioral warning signs for your anger. Do you clench your jaw or fists? What muscles tighten when you first start to feel irritated? Does your heart rate increase or your body temperature rise? Does you breathing change? Are your thoughts running a million miles per hour or circle round and round fueling your anger? 

Once you gain awareness of your triggers and warning signs you can begin to practice and implement coping strategies to help manage your emotions and self care strategies to help decrease you sensitivity to your triggers. Having a regular sleep wake routine, eating right and exercise can be helpful to maintaining emotional health. Managing expectations or avoiding specific triggering situations and help you to balance your responsibilities with unexpected triggers. For example, if you stayed up late with friends and have to work the next day you might make sure to fit in your morning work out to get your blood flowing for the day. If you are a person who doesn’t like crowds and loud sounds you may choose to walk to work or get an Uber rather ride the bus or subway. You might choose to prioritize a healthy lunch on a day when you know you have an important meeting that might run late. 

Another way to manage anger is to challenge your thinking. Is my anger justified? (Have your rights been violated or are you just disappointed?) Is my anger displaced? (Am I taking my angry feelings out one someone or something that had nothing to do with the original source of my anger?) Am I taking things personally? Am I over reatcting to something that is outside of my control? Am I expecting too much of others or myself? Who can I talk to about my anger?

Anger has a way keeping you stuck in your problem and making if difficult to get out. Talking with a trusted friend, loved one, or a counselor can help you manage your anger more effectively. Exploring alternatives or ways you have solved issues in the past with another person can help you get un-stuck. Once you begin working on controlling your anger don’t forget to reward yourself for the small wins on this journey. 

Step 1: Understand the Root of Your Anger

Step 2: Gain Awareness of Your Triggers

Step 3: Implement Coping Strategies and Self-Care

Step 4: Reward the Small Wins