So, I wonder how many people still set resolutions for the new year. I stopped doing it myself several years ago. At the same time, I always catch myself reviewing my habits, goals, and the overall direction of my life when the new year rolls around. I’ve learned to be more humble about what I can decide ahead of time.
Many people are starting out 2013 with a bad case of the flu. The timing of such an illness becomes unforgettable. I remember vividly starting out 1990 with the flu. If you appreciate optimism in unusual places, keep in mind that if you start the year feeling miserable, it’s more likely that better times are ahead. Or not.
If you are a person that loves setting goals in the new year, then consider setting goals that are truly within your reach. If you must have resolutions, here are 10 suggestions:
- Swallow a live frog once per week. Mark Twain once said that if a person had to start each day eating a frog, then anything he or she did the rest of the day would seen fairly pleasant. Practically, eating a frog means tackling some distasteful task that really needs to be done, but which you persistently avoid. You know, cleaning that closet. Scanning all those papers and shredding or cleaning your garage.
- Stop multitasking so much, especially using your phone and other devices. Instead, look at people when you are speaking to them and when they are speaking to you.
- Try to do something kind without getting any credit for it.
- Speak to restaurant servers, gardeners, door-to-door sales people, and checkers as if they are human beings whose lives matter just as much as yours.
- Give a little money to someone who really needs it.
- Think about your legacy more often than you drink alcohol.
- Practice anger management techniques. Especially try to be kind when someone is hostile or behaves like a jerk.
- Confront your fears of telling the truth and your fears of learning something completely new to you.
- Take time to savor what is life-giving to you and to others. Take more photos of simple things whether or not you keep the photo and irregardless of whether you share the photo on facebook. I find that taking pictures causes me to notice what is good, beautiful, and interesting.
A Good Starting Place for Anger Management Worksheets
Do you ever catch yourself arguing with someone in your mind for hours or even days? Your brain does this to reprocess the angry thoughts and feelings of a relationship or situation. This anger management worksheet focuses on one of the most powerful anger management techniques to have in your toolbox. It’s about increasing your self-awareness about how your brain reprocesses angry thoughts and feelings. Once you understand this and work with it a little, you can gently steer this reprocessing away from being stuck on an angry, driving thought and toward positive options. Of all the anger management worksheets this one is the easiest to do, once you understand how it works.
Anger Management Techniques Skills and Concepts
Reprocessing is the brain’s way of “digesting” the memory of something so that all that anger doesn’t just sit in your gut and weigh you down.
But when the angry conversation is stuck in a repeating loop, the reprocessing has hit a snag. In other words, you can’t stop talking and arguing with the person in your mind. This repeating argument is only real inside your own head. It drains your energy without accomplishing anything constructive in the real world where you would like to see a solution.
Skill 1 one is about increasing our emotional intelligence by using simple anger management techniques to get those angry conversations unstuck. I call these anger management techniques “Steam Journaling” and “Analyzing,” respectively. Steam Journaling about venting and letting off steam by writing out all those repetitious, angry thoughts that add so much stress to our lives.
Writing uses a different part of our brain and so it is often useful for opening up a new pathway for your thoughts. This paves the way for us to remember the situation, to “see” it, from a new angle. It can be especially useful for people who like to avoid conflict because the avoidance of real, angry conversations prevents the brain’s reprocessing of anger that often occurs by talking something through.
So isn’t this just venting by writing? The answer is “Yes” and “No.” Steam journaling lets off steam by just writing your thoughts, unfiltered and uncensored. But it is different from simply venting or complaining because there is second step in which you look at what you wrote and ask yourself two questions in order to start seeing things from a different perspective (analyzing what you have written).
The instructions are on the worksheet and summarized here:
Step 1 is Steam Journaling. It’s letting off steam while you write continuously in a stream-of-consciousness manner.
On five different occasions over a 3 day period, write out your angry thoughts for 15 minutes without stopping to evaluate or judge your thoughts. Your total minutes of writing should be at least 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Step 2 is reading over what you wrote at the end of 3 days and then answering these two questions:
- IF I FORET ABOUT BLAME, WHAT ACTIONS ARE IN MY POWER TO REDUCE THE TENSION OF THIS SITUATION IN A POSITIVE WAY?
- WHAT ARE MY FEARS ABOUT TAKING ONE OR MORE POSITIVE STEPS TO IMPROVE THE SITUATION?
Examples of Fears That Keep Us Taking Positive Action
- I’m afraid to speak up for what I need or want.
- I’m afraid I will lose face, if I apologize for any of it.
- I’m afraid of his or her reaction.
- I’m afraid he or she will twist my words and use them against me.
- If I take responsibility for any of it, then he/she will think I’m weak.
You may download the printable pdf by RIGHT-clicking on the following link and then clicking “Save as…” or “Save Link as…”
To download the pdf that is FILLABLE electronically without printing, RIGHT-click on the thumbnail below and then click, “Save as…” or “Save Link as…”
Skill 4: Changing the Focus From Thoughts to Feelings
We have been looking at the thoughts that drive angry feelings. Now we turn our focus to the feelings themselves. Both of these anger management worksheets deal with Skill 4. Skill 4 is part of the my series of 12 Skills for Honest Optimism. It involves getting more control over anger by learning to name the anger variations and rate the relative intensity of each type of anger. The anger management worksheets for Skill 4 are tools to support the practicing of the skill and the learning of the skill. These are anger management worksheets for adults, although motivated teens might benefit from them as well.
To put these anger management worksheets in perspective, think of a zoologist or an exterminator who knows all the variations of the species of spiders. She is able to name the various types of spiders and rate the intensity of the danger. Now, this knowledge by itself will do nothing to deal with an infestation of spiders. But if you have a serious infestation of spiders in your house, knowing which species your dealing with is an essential first step in planning a strategy to get rid of them. For example, are they Black Widow spiders that come out at night and are extremely poisonous? Or, are they harmless spiders that are more active during the daylight?
Or, to change the metaphor, if you are trying to train an animal for the circus, it’s probably a good idea to know the relative intensity of a bite if those jaws clamp down on your soft arm. That knowledge will influence your training strategy and what kind of precautions you take.
So these worksheets are about beginning the process of getting control of anger by naming the specific type of anger (Anger Management Worskheet 4-1) and learning to give each variation of anger an intensity rating (Anger Management Worksheet 4-2). I have changed my numbering system to make the related skill more explicit. These two anger management worksheets for adults are tools to support the learning of Skill 4.
Here are the download links. For the 4-1 there are two versions of PDF files. The one is for printing the PDF and using it as a paper worksheet. The other one is also a PDF, but it can be completed by typing into the fillable form fields. At the moment, I only have the print version of 4-2 ready.
Download Links for PDFs of Skill 4 Anger Management Worksheets
4-1 Worksheet Skills and Concepts
Continuing the series of anger management worksheets, we now turn to pinpointing the types of anger you experience and we compare two moments in time. The two steps for completing this worksheet correspond to the twin goals of this exercise. In steps 1 the goal is to think about different types of anger. There is a certain amount of control that we gain just by naming something.
This because identifying something more specifically helps us to know it better. If you have to tame an elephant, you will probably do better if you know the difference between an African Elephant and an Indian Elephant. Like elephants, anger comes in variations. The techniques we use to control one type of anger are not always effective for another variation. For example, if you are annoyed by what someone is saying, it might be best to ask more clarifying questions and try to hold yourself together while you are listening. If, on the other hand, you are ready to explode, controlling your anger may mean excusing yourself from the situation altogether so that you can cool down.
Instructions for Using Anger Management Worksheet 4-1 (PDF for Printing)
Step 1: What I Felt Then
Take 60 seconds to remember the situation in detail. In your mind, step through the sequence of what happened. What feelings of anger did you feel during the situation? This may or may not be similar to how you feel right now. For example, you might feel calm while you are completing the worksheet, but you remember how you felt at the time the situation was unfolding. Step 1 is about looking at your anger in history, not the present.
Step 2: What I Feel Now (While Thinking About the Past)
Now, we switch gears. Take 30 seconds to remember the situation again in detail. For a second time, use your imagination to step through the sequence of what happened. Now, as you think about the situation, observe what feelings you are experiencing NOW, while you are remembering. Now you put a star by the words that best describe the anger that comes up while you are thinking about it.
Are you feeling any feelings of anger similar to the words you checked? If so, this is called re-experiencing because you are reliving an angry situation on an emotional level.
Aim for These Emotional Intelligence Skills While Using Anger Management Worksheet 4-1
In this worksheet, aim for developing these emotional intelligence skills. To actually begin to develop these skills, the worksheet must be used several times following numerous, different situations in which you became angry.
- Selecting a situation of anger. Admitting to yourself that you were, in fact, angry at the time.
- Learn to be more specific about your emotions by pinpointing a specific type of anger. A car is not a truck and rage is not irritation. Learn to be honest with yourself. Don’t exaggerate, but don’t minimize.
- Distinguish between feelings THEN vs. NOW.
- Learn to recognize RE-EXPERIENCING as a real part of your experience of anger.
Thumbnails of Two Anger Management Worksheets for Adults
Here is the third in the series of anger management worksheets. The focus is on teasing out the main thought that drives your anger. It can be downloaded by clicking on this link (Right-Click and Save As…):
The Driving Thought for Your Anger: The Leader of the Pack
Angry thoughts usually come in groups. But there is usually one angry thought that is the bully and the leader. We call this your driving thought. This is the one thought that is most likely to derail productive communication or to push you into explosive anger. You may be saying, “But my angry thought is actually true!” Perhaps. Most likely, it has a grain of truth that makes you feel very self-righteous. On top of the truth of it are layers of distortions and barnacles that your mind has added.
Either way, this worksheet is a tool designed to help you think more clearly about your angry thoughts. It is not about defending or judging the truth of your angry thought. It’s about strategy to control your anger, to stop that fuse from burning down to an explosion in your brain and in your behavior. The main skill for you to learn here is the ability to pinpoint which thoughts are fueling your angry emotions and which one in particular is energizing your anger more than the others.
Instructions for Using Anger Management Worksheet #3
Steps 1: Count your angry thoughts and put the total number in the box. There’s nothing particularly important about this number. Rather it is the act of counting your automatic, angry thoughts that helps you be more clear and specific: Is this a feeling or this a thought? Is it a thought that is related to my anger? Step 2: Look at the list of angry thoughts you made in the last worksheet (Skill 2 Distinguishing Thoughts from Feelings). Add to this list if necessary. Step 3: In the box write a sentence representing your best guess at your driving thought.
Remember Skill 2: Thoughts are Different From Feelings
Notice the list of sample angry thoughts above. Picking the one thought from a lineup is the goal. Remember that feelings are usually named with one word, but thoughts are best identified by a sentence. The concern in all the anger management worksheets is mainly with thoughts, because we can choose to change our thoughts. We can rarely, if ever, change our feelings just by making a decision. (Choosing the stuff the feelings of anger is not the same as reducing anger).
You can also keep in mind the intensity of your angry feelings as you ask yourself the questions on this worksheet. In short, the directions for using this worksheet are fairly simple: ask yourself the questions and answer them. Let the worksheet guide you step-by-step through a thought process that is new to you. The last step is to pick the one thought that you think is driving your anger more than the other thoughts.
In a few days I will be posting another anger management worksheet for your use. It will be a free download in the form of a 5 page PDF document. The first two pages comprise the anger management worksheet. The last three pages include most of the worksheet descriptions that you will find in this article.
Skill 3: Identifying Your Driving Thought as the Main Thought Intensifying Anger
In my series of anger management worksheets I am introducing my 12 Skills for Honest Optimism as I go. The purpose of this worksheet is similar to the previous worksheet is this series, but with a twist. In the last worksheet goal was to provide a tool for learning Skill 2: distinguishing thoughts from feelings. If we know how to do this then we will know where to concentrate our efforts. Working with thoughts is nearly always more productive for anger management than trying to change feelings directly. This is one of the cardinal principles of cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT.
But in the order of anger management worksheets this one adds Skill 3: identifying your driving thought. This worksheet walks you step-by-step through a thought process to identify your angry thoughts and to compare them. How are you comparing them? You are thinking about each angry thought in order to determine which one is the driving thought. That is, which of your angry thoughts is the most responsible for that rush of intense anger? Developing the skill to answer this question accurately is what this worksheet is about. You may complete the worksheet in one of two ways: (1) remembering how you thought and felt in a recent situation; or (2) looking at how you think and feel right now as you remember the recent situation. The worksheet uses a series of questions to guide the user through a thought process in which each of his or her angry thoughts is evaluated for it’s relative power in driving up his or her anger in a given situation. The questions include some of the following:
- Which of my angry thoughts do I catch myself arguing in my mind?
- Which of my angry thoughts do I think about most often?
In this soon-to-be-released worksheet the main metaphor is an angry brain with a fuse. When you are angry your brain is full of emotion. Your body is feeling the tension and rush of being tightly wound and ready to pounce. This is the classic fight-or-flight stress response.
The fuse represents the woven strands of angry thoughts that control your swirling emotions. The burning flame on that fuse represents the main, driving thought.
Once the driving thought is identified, one can pinch the flame, stop the fuse from burning and diffuse the anger bomb in the brain.
Let’s Get Personal: Is That Me in the Mirror?
Of all the anger management worksheets, this one may be the most important. It is designed to be a mirror that shows you which parasite is corroding your brain with unnecessary, stressful anger. The driving thought is the one that you must get a handle on if you are going to control your anger effectively. But you can’t get a handle on it if you don’t know which thought is the primary one driving your angry feelings. Once you grab that handle, you may pull on it and your anger will decrease. Instead of futile efforts to “stop being angry,” you concentrate your effort on something that is within your control: your thoughts.
Trying to change your thoughts is much less frustrating than trying to change your feelings directly. Furthermore, you don’t even need to get rid of your anger. All you need to do is to reduce the intensity enough to ride the bucking bull to safety. This next worksheet will be a tool to help people think through this process in a step by step fashion.
Purpose of This Anger Management Worksheet
Learning to control one’s anger is not a trivial matter. I believe it is easier to acquire anger management skills by breaking them down into small micro skills. Baby steps. Anger management worksheets are tools designed to learn these “micro” skills that make up anger control. Several anger management worksheets are needed because the skills they teach add up to the larger skill of anger management.
Today I’m introducing the second of my anger management worksheets involving basic skills changing the feelings of anger to be less intense. Actually, the worksheet focuses on one prerequisite skill: learning how to distinguish angry thoughts from the feelings of anger. The worksheet can be downloaded by clicking this link: Anger Management Worksheet #2: Distinguishing Angry Thoughts from Feelings
Learning how to manage anger involves increasing your emotional intelligence. From a practical point of view it involves learning a set of skills for self-regulation and self-control. It’s very difficult to learn advanced mathematics if you can’t add and subtract. The worksheet discussed here is about the addition and subtraction of emotional intelligence. You have to walk before you can run. You have to lay the foundation before you can build the house.
Skill 2: Distinguishing Angry Thoughts from Angry Feelings
Skill 2 in general terms involves learning to recognize the difference between your emotions and the specific thoughts that feed those emotions. Like logs in a fire, our thoughts can fuel mild emotions into overwhelming feelings. Anxious thoughts can turn worry into panic attacks. Hopeless thoughts can turn discouragement into despair. Humorous thoughts can turn feelings of contentment into full on belly laughter.
Anger Management Worksheets and Skill 2
You are just beginning to learn to ride the bucking bull of your own anger. The purpose of this worksheet is to learn how to (1) recognize your own, specific angry thoughts, and (2) to recognize those thoughts as being different from the pounding feelings of anger. Ideally, you would learn how to do this while you are feeling angry. But it’s easier to start by analyzing a recent situation that made you very angry.
The feeling of anger cannot be changed just by deciding to change it. However, the angry thoughts can be changed by making a decision to replace the angry thoughts with more balanced ones, providing that you have the skill to do so. In subsequent anger management worksheets you can learn how to change your thoughts. In this worksheet you are laying the groundwork for this by learning how to recognize angry thoughts and not confuse them with the emotion of anger. That’s what Skill 2 is all about. You can’t control what you can’t recognize.
Therefore, it is very important to be able to know the difference between the feeling of anger and your angry thoughts (Skill 2). When you acquire this skill, you will be more able to focus your efforts on what you CAN change (your angry thoughts), rather than what you cannot change (your angry feeling).
Changing your angry thoughts to more balanced thoughts is one of the most important ways to manage anger because it works indirectly to change the intensity of feelings. If you experience rage and anger, then you already use this principle without knowing it. For example, if you let your mind to create numerous angry thoughts, then your anger (the feeling) intensifies. This is because your thoughts are like control switches for your feelings. Although we cannot just “stop being angry,” we can work with the feeling switches (our thoughts).
In this worksheet, you are learning to distinguish thoughts from feelings so that you can later learn to use the “switch” of balanced thoughts to tame your anger. Another advantage of distinguishing angry thoughts from the feelings of anger is that you will be less frustrated and less discouraged. When we try hard to change something that cannot be changed directly, we are more likely to become discouraged and frustrated. This frustration can even make us even angrier!
Instructions for the Skill 2 Anger Management Worksheet
Download the PDF worksheet (right-click the worksheet thumbnail below). Note that PDF is can be filled digitally. Or, you can send it to your printer.
Fill out the worksheet in the order of the numbered boxes. After you identify the feelings, you are asked to list angry thoughts. Here are some examples. Notice that feelings are usually named with one word, but thoughts are best identified by a sentence.
Examples of Angry Thoughts (and Words)
- She always turns the blame back on me!
- He never listens!
- She said that just to hurt me!
- He never considers anyone else!
- I can’t stand this anymore!
- This is SO frustrating.
- She can never mind her own business!
- Here he goes again.
- All she does is criticize me.
- I’ll make you pay for this!
- This is your fault!
- You do it too!
- I can never count on you.
Download this PDF worksheet by -right-clicking on worksheet thumbnail above and then clicking on “Save Target as…” or “Save Link as…”
Here is a brief definition of anger management. In the big picture of things, depression and anger each cause the other as well as result from each other. Breaking this vicious cycle often means that depression has to be treated before out-of-control anger can be tamed. However, anger often creates social disappointments and frustrations that contribute to depression. Therefore, sometimes anger has to be tamed in order to tame the depression. I’m posting this video now in order to lay some groundwork for later discussing anger management worksheets and how to use them.
In this video I focus on anger management as regulating our physical states (think: adrenalin rush). But anger management has a lot to do with what we nudge ourselves to think about. This process of working with our thoughts in order to manage our emotions is what cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is all about. Anger management worksheets are tools to help us to think clearly about what we are thinking about so that we change our thoughts. Anger management worksheets also assume a basic understanding of anger management as presented in this video:
I have just created a new worksheet that begins a series of anger management worksheets based on the 12 Skills of Honest Optimism. The main concept is that any episode of anger usually has a driving thought. If the anger is out of proportion to the situation, the driving thought is usually dysfunctional. In other words, when we are angry we often have one intense thought that sustains the intense emotion of anger. To decrease the intensity we need skills for changing the distorted thoughts. And the skills need tools to practice them in real, angry situations. This is the reason for creating tools in the form of anger management worksheets. This particular one is called, “Correcting Your Anger Lens” and can be downloaded in PDF format by clicking on this link:
(Right Click and Select “SAVE AS” or “SAVE LINK AS”)
Such an approach is the essence of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and is more effective than simply, “trying to calm down.”
Communication Skills Examples in Parenting
If you are a parent of a teen who has suffered from depression, then it’s important to know what to do after the worst is behind you. So much has been written about what to do for your depressed teen, how to help someone with depression, and tips to keep in mind while helping someone with depression. But when a teenage boy or girl has wrestled with clinical depression symptoms for several months, and then begins to feel better during treatment, it’s easy for a parent to create unnecessary setbacks during a very delicate time. Consider these these two communication skills examples of parents talking with their teens who are in treatment for depression but are now starting to recover well.
Communication Skills Examples: The Key Elements to Notice
Teenage depression can be a formidable foe. Helping someone with depression with suicidal tendencies is exhausting for most family members who take it seriously. When that person is your own child, it is doubly stressful. As a result, a parent can become quite exhausted and worn down by the ordeal of guidling their teenage son or daughter through darkest part of the tunnel. This fatique makes it easy for a parent to become pushy when the teen begins to show signs of returning to normal. Of course, it’s not spoken, but the attitude of the mom or dad can go something like this, “Finally you are getting better! I’m so burnt out that I want you to get back in the saddle ASAP and be of more help around here!”
But coming out of depression is often a very delicate time. So what does a tired parent do? First, you muster a little more patience. Consider this: you have put enough of yourself to get your child through this dark depression that you don’t want the progress to unravel now. Second, notice specific symptoms of depression that are changing. Then, use what you observe to make encouraging remarks to your teen. When you are able to pinpoint positive reversals of depression symptoms, you can make comments to your teen that help them see the progress for themselves.
More Communication Skills Examples of Parents
Let’s look at some communication skills examples of how to do this. Each example pertains to parents who have been in the trenches battling teenage depression.
The first of our communication skills examples illustrates how a parent can encourage a teen by pointing out real evidence that things are getting better. It also shows how to not push or move too quickly by suddenly increasing expectations. Marie has a 15 year old daughter, Haley, who is a good student, loves sports, and makes friends easily. During Haley’s first year of high school her grades suddenly began to drop. She withdrew from friends and family so much that Marie wondered if Haley was getting into drugs. She wasn’t. She was sliding into a deep depression and exhibiting clinical depression symptoms such as sadness most of the day, hoplessness about the present and future, isolation from friends, and great difficulty getting started doing any activity such as homework.
Marie took her to therapy, got her medication treatment, and after 5 months, and several sleepless nights, Marie began to see her daughter coming back to life. Haley was starting to get better at finishing assignments at school and was starting to talk postively about her goals for the future. She had a long way to go, but there were enough changes that Marie could see that the ice was beginning to melt. The depression was lifting.
Each of these two changes are directly related to two common symptoms of depression: difficulty getting started with work and hopelessness. Because Marie knew this she could say to Haley, “Looks like things might be getting better for you, you have plans…you didn’t used to have any plans or anything to look forward to.” Or, ”I’ve noticed you have been doing your homework lately and getting it done. You just might be getting better.”
The second of our communication skills examples illustrates how a parent can mistakenly pile expectations to “get back to normal” too quickly. Janice is concerned about her 13 year old son Jon who has been depressed ever since the divorce several months ago. Janice is not only stressed out by her recent divorce, but she is overwhelmed by the additional challenges of parenting her boy through teenage depression with full-blown clinical depression symptoms. He shows some of the same clinical depression symptoms that we saw in the first of our communication skills examples. But in addition, he cannot concentrate very well, which affects his listening. He resorts to acting like he listens and subsequently gets into trouble at school or at home. After treatment and a few difficult months, Jon begins to show signs that he is feeling better.
Loss of the ability to concentrate is one of the “standard” clinical depression symptoms. But Janice never had time or took the time to learn about depression. When she saw a little improvement in his listening, she jumped to the conclusion that it was “high time” for Jon to resume all of his family responsibilities and “stop using the depression as an excuse.” Janice never really grasped the fact that depression in a 13 year old boy is not simply a choice he made. She tended to be hard on him and a result she triggered an unnecessary setback in Jon’s recovery.
These brief communication skills examples serve as reminders that teenage depression requires parenting that will go the who distance with a child. For single parents, this is especially taxing. As a result, it is important that parents of depressed teens monitor their own needs for social support, friendship, and encouragement. This not only makes us stronger and more patient as parents, but also helps prevent resentment for just how much effort teenage depression can require from us.