Managing Anger With Time Out
Most of us can't do well in the moment. You get into trouble fast if you don't know what to do. Learning what increases your stress is the starting point. The second part is knowing how and when to leave which is what this blog is all about.
It's called taking a time-out. Most of us have used it with our kids but it's also one of the best tools for adults! It's very effective because it removes yourself from the situation so that you can calm down.
Time-outs keep people safe. It's not just leaving the situation, it's how you leave that makes the difference. Here are the steps for an effective time-out.
Steps for time-out
- Recognize your early signs of anger; rapid heart beat, sweating, feeling anxious, irritable, or confused, negative thinking, blaming others, smoking or using other substances to receive stress, etc.
- Pay attention to what triggers you. Write out the situations that upset you. This could be not feeling heard, or respected. It could also be something specific that annoys you. Make a list of people or situations that trigger anger.
- Make a plan for each trigger. List each one and figure out ahead of time what will help. Take a walk, call a friend, listen to music, write in a journal are a few examples. Separating yourself is what makes the time-out most effective. Staying in the same room keeps the argument going.
- Explain the time-out to your partner before using it. "When I start getting upset, I'm going to take a walk. I'll be back in 30 minutes." If trust has been broken, your partner might react negatively. Don't get defensive and instead validate their point of view. Showing that you understand their upset without necessarily agreeing with it is very effective.
- Set up your time-out. Take no more than 20-30 minutes (to avoid it becoming leisure time) and choose a safe place to go. Leave the house if possible to avoid continuing the fight.
- Return at the agreed upon time. This builds trust.
- Offer to resume the discussion if you both are ready to talk calmly.
- When resuming the discussion, focus on your concerns and what you need.
- Get support but don't just fall into blame.
- Avoid criticism. Stick to the facts.
- If you need more time before talking it out, say so.
Here's one thing you don't want to do. Don't tell your partner they need a time-out. They'll get defensive! Use the time-out for yourself. Even if you think they need one, don't go there. If you set the example they may follow.
Note: Over time, if your partner doesn't respect the time-out, this may indicate abusive behavior. Following you during time-outs, preventing you from leaving or any unwanted physical contact are signs of abuse. Please seek professional help if needed.
The benefits of time-out
Using time-outs keeps the argument from escalating. Instead time-out helps control your reactions. This can restore self-esteem and decrease stress.
It's also great role-modeling for kids. Imagine if your parents used time-outs instead of screaming or hitting? How would that have changed your attitudes about anger?
Time-out is a powerful way to normalize anger and express feelings instead of blowing up. Anger doesn't have to get out of control, you need to catch it early and make a plan to remove yourself.
If you want more help in catching your anger read When You Or Someone You Love Gets Angry.
What's your experience using time-out?