When we think of time-outs, it is easy to imagine a small child sitting down for an allotted amount of time. Maybe the child wasn’t playing nicely or threw a tantrum because things didn’t go their way. But how often do we consider taking a time-out as an adult? It may be surprising to read that the use of time-outs can be a valuable tool to help with anger management.
Anger management is one of the most common therapy needs for individuals. Anger can emerge in all sorts of situations. No place is exempt – the workplace, at home, or even in a store. Triggering situations can leave you feeling out of control. It is important to note that whether or not we express anger, anger always goes somewhere. Taking a time-out can help put the anger somewhere healthy. Regardless of why the time-out is needed, recognizing the need for one is most important and can help prevent permanent damage in your relationships.
Taking a time-out can seem like a childish task, but it can be useful in most high-emotion situations to help calm down and productively re-address the issue. When anger starts to rise, it’s important to have a plan in place to help manage and calm yourself down.
What Are The 5 Steps To Taking A Time-Out?
Step 1: Recognize where you are – both the physical location and emotional state.
Think about what emotional or physical symptoms you have that indicate a need for a time-out. Is your heart beating fast? Is your voice escalating? Are your feelings getting more intense? There will come a point in a conflict where your inner emotions build up and turn outward. A conflict can easily become heated and nasty, using criticism, sarcasm, name-calling, and more. Taking a time-out at the right time protects you from losing control. It also helps protect the other person from being the target of an emotional eruption.
Step 2: Communicate the need for a time-out.
The need for a time-out comes before the “flight or fight” response is triggered. It is easier to hold yourself accountable when the other person is aware of your needs. It is important to have this conversation before an argument occurs, if possible. If not, try to express, in a respectful way, something like this: “Sometimes when we disagree, I get emotionally overwhelmed. I may need to give myself a time-out to calm down so we can continue the talk productively.” Having this conversation before a fight happens, will help protect the other person from feeling neglected or “walked out on” in the conflict.
Discuss what the time-out will look like and hold yourself to it. Part of the conversation of expressing the need for a time-out is explaining and agreeing on what that time-out will look like ahead of time.
Set a time limit on the time-out. It will help the other person feel committed to and respected. It will also help you stay accountable and prevent using the “sweep it under the rug” tactic. The time limit should be the amount of time it takes to de-escalate your intense emotions.
Discuss what you will be doing during the time-out. Maybe taking a walk or a jog will help calm you. Perhaps you need to get lost in a book for 30 minutes. Whether you walk, read, pray, or even do some yoga, it is important to do something that helps you calm down and recover from intense emotions.
Step 3: Commit to processing the emotions.
Time-outs allow time to process your own emotions while reflecting on what triggered the need for the time-out. At this moment you may identify what triggered you and how you were feeling. Think about how you can use “I” messages instead of “you” messages. The ability to avoid blaming language is an important part of having a healthy conversation after the time-out. Try to spend a moment reflecting on the other person’s point of view. Consider asking yourself, “Did I say some hurtful things that provoked them?”
Step 4: Request the need for a time-out during the fight.
Now that your partner knows you may ask for a time-out when things escalate, it is important to recognize and request one as needed. Calling a time-out for yourself is not as easy at the moment as it may seem, but it is very important to call it for yourself. Think about it this way – how often does it work when you tell someone, “You need to calm down” or “You need a time-out.” It is much more helpful to be aware of your triggers and emotions.
Step 5: Continue the conversation.
It can seem scary or make you feel vulnerable to revisit the conversation knowing there’s a risk that things will escalate again. However, resuming the conversation after the time-out is a huge step toward conflict resolution. With your emotions in a more manageable state, returning to the conversation will show your commitment to working things out. In this time, remember to be assertive, speak for yourself (without using blaming language), listen intently, and be respectful of the other person’s emotions.
Taking a time-out can be useful in calming the emotional intensity of an argument. Completing the conversation is equally important since unresolved problems can easily lead to resentment. It also helps you feel good about yourself knowing you successfully returned to an issue that previously would have caused you to shut down or explode.
If you are struggling with anger, our team of highly trained therapists specializes in helping clients understand the impact of anger personally and within their relationships while providing practical ways to manage that anger – we can help you too. Click here to schedule your appointment today.