Anger Management Training Helps First Responders On and Off the Job
First responders work under intense, often chaotic conditions that produce high levels of stress on a regular basis. These public servants are often involved in dramatic conditions where death and severe injury are common occurrences. The intense conditions can cause difficulty dealing with emotions such as frustration and anger, which can boil over at unexpected moments.
Anger management provides a variety of tools to help manage angry feelings to increase work effectiveness, as well as preserve the ability to interact with loved ones in their personal lives.
Dealing with Uncontrollable Circumstances
First responders are in the unique position of being the ones who must go quickly into circumstances that are chaotic, dangerous and often unmanageable. These conditions create situations of high tension, when emotions are not always under the best control. They may become angry when the people they are trying to help do not follow their instructions or at co-workers when they seem unable to respond to commands.
Many first responders don’t see the connection between their anger at others for not following rules and protocols and their own engrained training to follow procedures to ensure safety for themselves and others. They may fail to see that control over behavior and conditions is not always possible, and their frustrations often lead to angry outbursts1.
In some cases, first responders have developed post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of a traumatic incident they have experienced. One of the symptoms of PTSD is hypervigilance and a tendency to over-react to stimuli. Frequent angry outbursts are often a sign of PTSD.
Recognizing the symptoms of PTSD and determining the right treatment that can help to improve management of emotions. Anger management training can help these individuals recognize the signs of impending outbursts and apply effective measures to reduce anxiety and stress.
Learning Constructive Ways to Manage Anger
- Changing thought patterns – Changing the way an individual views and interprets a situation can often defuse emotional reactions such as anger. Looking at the situation from different viewpoints can be an effective tool in dealing with everyday anger issues.
- Relaxation techniques – Learning practical ways to induce relaxation in tense moments in order to relieve stress and make better decisions
- Better tools for problem solving – Examining how the individual approaches problems and the types of solutions that can be applied, which includes understanding that not all problems can be solved2.
- Improved communication skills – Learning to both recognize rising emotions and learn the language needed to communicate feelings that can help to change outcomes can be an important tool in dealing with anger.
- Using humor to defuse – Not every situation is a circumstance of life and death. The mistakes and foibles of human beings offer many opportunities to use humor to defuse not only an individual’s own anger, but the anger of other people involved in the situation. A good anger management program can help individuals develop their sense of humor to use its calming effect.
- Changing the environment – Individuals must learn to recognize when their anger is rising and take measures to avoid increasing the feelings that can lead to an outburst. These actions may include leaving the situation momentarily or taking a walk to reduce tension with physical exercise.
Because of the conditions first responders face on a daily basis, they are prone to developing anger problems that hamper effective work outcomes and undermine personal relationships. Training in anger management techniques can provide the additional help these individuals need to cope with their unique, work-related stress.