As many of us know, the transition to civilian life for Veterans and Servicemembers – as well as their families and friends - can be challenging. One difficult area is dealing with anger. Although everyone gets angry from time to time, Veterans and Servicemembers can at times be prone to react more quickly, passionately, and even aggressively to triggers, largely due to their military experience and training. Quick aggressive responses to potential threats may have kept them alive in combat, but in civilian life these responses to everyday situations can create damaged relationships, difficulty at work, health-related problems, and even legal issues.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently created a free and confidential online course, Anger & Irritability Management (AIMS), to help Veterans and Servicemembers manage their tempers. This course was developed by behavioral experts and is based on extensive input from male and female Veterans who have served in the military across different time periods. It features videos and scenarios from real Veterans who had anger problems and have benefited from the tools in the course. AIMS is designed specifically to help Veterans and Servicemembers understand their personal anger “triggers” and learn skills for effective conflict resolution and communication. It allows them to develop their own personalized anger management plan to help them apply what they've learned in their everyday lives.
One major take away is the importance of each person learning not only what things trigger their anger, but also the warning signs to let them know when they’re starting to get angry. In general, most people are more easily irritated if they are already Hungry, Annoyed, Lonely, or Tired (HALT). When someone is feeling that way, it doesn't take much to trigger an angry response. But never being hungry, annoyed, tired, or in a stressful/difficult situation ever again is totally unrealistic, so people also need tools to help calm down so that they don’t do or say something they'll regret. Tools need to be individualized to each person, and they should target not just behaviors, but also thoughts and feelings. Examples of some tools in the AIMS course include:
Deep Breathing Simple, but surprisingly effective. One of the quickest ways to calm down and reduce anger. It can be done discreetly anywhere, at any time.
Time Out Not the same as the time-out given to a child. This adult Time-Out gives a person time to step away from a stressful situation and cool off so that they can approach the issue in a more calm and collected manner
Muscle Relaxation When people get angry, their muscles tense. Decreasing that muscle tension can also decrease emotional tension. Even a few minutes of a relaxation exercise can be very helpful.
The AIMS course encourages each person to take the time to think about what tools will work for them, and to develop their own personalized anger management plan. AIMS is not your typical online training course – it is interactive, multidimensional and created with the explicit goal of equipping Veterans and Servicemembers with practical skills and tools they can use on a daily basis.
Let's face it - asking for help is hard. The AIMS course allows people to seek help in the comfort of their own homes and at the time/pace of their choosing. No login information is required, and all activity and use is confidential. Thousands of Veterans and Servicemembers around the world have improved their lives – and the lives of their families – by learning to better manage their anger using the material in this course. If you or your military spouse is having difficulty managing anger, AIMS can help. To get started, just go to www.VeteranTraining.va.gov/AIMS and select “Start the Course”.
Anger & Irritability Management (AIMS) is the newest course in the Veterans Resource Center and compliments two other courses: Moving Forward and Parenting for Service Members & Veterans. Visit veterantraining.va.gov for more information.