Here's Exactly What Therapists Do When They Feel Very Angry

Here’s Exactly What Therapists Do When They Feel Very Angry

If taking a few deep breaths isn’t enough (you know, when you’re Great checked), you can still use the power of your lungs to your advantage. Atmakuri recommends exhaling forcefully (think of a fire-breathing dragon), sighing loudly, exercising in a way that gets your heart rate up, or simply shouting out the negativity.

6. Consciously think about something else.

Once you reflect on your anger and begin to process or release it, you may realize that you are upset about something that is actually quite insignificant, such as your partner being a few minutes late. In this scenario, Chloe Carmichael, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist and author of Nervous Energy: Harness the Power of Your Anxietyturns to what she calls the technique of “mental screening”.

The practice is to focus on other thoughts whenever you’re tempted to simmer on something that’s truly insignificant – a “burger nothing,” if you will. So in the case of your partner who is slightly behind, your “mental shortlist” might include things like catching up on reading, sorting through pictures on your phone, listening to that podcast you wanted to catch up on, or anything else that makes sense to you. will force you to intentionally redirect your thoughts. Or if you want to put things on a positive spin, it might involve “thinking about gift ideas for your [partner] or conversation starters you can’t wait to discuss when they come up,” says Dr. Carmichael.

If you find yourself constantly irritated by the “burger nothings,” this is worth paying attention to. “You might want to take a deeper dive to see if there’s something bigger bothering you and causing irritability,” Dr. Carmichael notes.

7. Physically adjust your body to temper your emotions.

Therapists are no strangers to the mind-body connection, a concept that comes up often in their personal approaches to frustration. For example, when she swirls around in angry thoughts, Wang adjusts her facial expressions and the positioning of her hands. Specifically, she turns to a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) technique called “Willing Hands and Half-Smiling.”

For “willing hands,” she places her arms along her body, keeping them straight or slightly bent at the elbows. She then turns her hands outward, loose, fingers relaxed and palms facing up. To practice the “half-smile,” she tries to relax her face, letting go of her facial muscles and tilting the corners of her lips upward, adopting a serene facial expression. “It’s very hard to stay mad at ‘Willing Hands and Half-Smiling.’

8. Give your body the attention it deserves.

“Emotions live in our body,” Wang points out. “So when I feel irritated, my first thoughts are: have I eaten? Am I hydrated? Should I take a nap? Most of the time, I feel better when my physical body is taken care of. When you take care of your body, you also nourish your mind and give it the support it needs to deal with the stress of anger.

To better understand the needs of her own body, Rachel Weller, PsyD, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, turns to a mindfulness skill called body scanning. It involves relaxing in a comfortable position while noticing external sensations (like sounds and smells) and observing your breathing. Then, starting from the top of your head, mentally analyze your body, section by section, acknowledging how each part feels. Are your eyes heavy? Is your neck tense and sore? Your stomach growls?

As Dr. Weller explains, “Listening to our physical sensations, such as muscle tension, breathing, pressure, and tingling, often allows us to increase the connection between our brain and our body. This, ultimately, can help you uncover the deeper meanings behind fiery emotions — anger and everything in between, she says. After all, she says, “our body often contains facts that our mind is unable to discover.”

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