Managing Anger That Can Surface As a Caregiver

By Michael Cerreto

Imagine you are on a sandy beach at sunset. You look into the horizon and see dark clouds, lightning, and thunder quickly rolling your way. You try to estimate its arrival overhead, but can’t. So you immediately seek shelter to protect yourself from the coming storm.

As a caregiver of a TBI survivor, the frustration and anger that occasionally surfaces inside of you is like an impending thunderstorm you can’t control. You can experience a wide range of emotions throughout the day. You can experience happiness as the person with a TBI progresses with a new skill. You can feel anger when you have to answer the same question repeatedly throughout the day.

The feeling of impending anger is a sign that you are experiencing a situation over which you feel limited control to influence, and you want it to end. If you catch the impending feeling of anger early before it rolls over you like a thunderstorm, you can address the cause in constructive ways.

Use the Anger Speedometer

To avoid having anger takeover your day, you need to notice it building up in order to keep it from getting too extreme. To help, psychologist John Riskind developed a method called the Anger Speedometer.

It’s fashioned after a car speedometer to check your speed and slow down when you creep past the speed limit. As you see from the anger speedometer below, the faster your emotional speed, the more angry and explosive your emotions become. That’s when it’s time to slow down.

Anger Speedometer:

20 miles per hour and below: Calm and cool

40 miles per hour: Irritable and frustrated

60 mile per hour: Angry and mad

80 miles per hour: Irate and exasperated

90 miles per hour: Boiling, explosive, and violent

To use this speedometer throughout the day, you should periodically ask “What is my anger speed right now?” If your speed is at 40 miles per hour, irritable and frustrated, slow yourself down before it speeds up to 60 miles per hours, angry and mad.

Slowing Down

You can use a variety of methods to slow down. You can remove yourself from the situation or person, express what you need from someone else, or breathe and relax physical tension. Whatever method you choose, make sure it slows down your thinking, emotions, and physical tension.

Be a safe driver of your own emotions and anger by noticing your anger speeding up and take your foot off the anger accelerator. Only then can you effectively care for yourself while caring for someone else.