11 Anger Management Strategies to Help You Calm Down

Failing to manage your anger can lead to a variety of problems such as saying things you regret, yelling at your kids, threatening your coworkers, sending rushed emails, developing health problems, or even using physical violence. But not all anger issues are that serious. Instead, your anger may involve wasting time thinking about upsetting events, getting frustrated in traffic, or venting about work.

Managing your anger doesn’t mean never getting angry. Instead, it involves learning how to recognize, deal with, and express your anger in a healthy and productive way. Anger management is a skill that everyone can learn. Even if you feel like your anger is under control, there is always room for improvement.

What is Anger Management?

Because uncontrolled anger can often lead to aggressive behavior, anger management uses a variety of techniques to help a person deal with thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in a healthier and more productive way.

 

Why Manage Anger?

Anger is an emotion that can range from mild irritation to intense anger. While many people categorize anger as a purely “negative emotion,” it can be a positive one. Feelings of anger can spur you to defend someone or may lead you to create social change.

But if left unchecked, angry feelings can lead to aggressive behavior, such as yelling at someone or damaging property. Feelings of anger can also cause you to withdraw from the world and direct your anger inward, which can affect your health and well-being.

Anger becomes problematic when it is felt too frequently or too intensely or when expressed in an unhealthy way, which can be physically, mentally, and socially detrimental. For this reason, anger management strategies can be useful and can help you find healthy ways to express your feelings.

 

Anger Management Strategy

Research has consistently shown that cognitive behavioral interventions are effective for improving anger management. This intervention involves changing the way you think and behave. They are based on the idea that your thoughts, feelings, and behavior are all connected.

Your thoughts and behavior can trigger your emotions or they can reduce them. So if you want to take your emotional state away from anger, you can change what you think and do. Without fuel, the fire inside you will begin to go out and you will feel calmer.

The following are 11 strategies you may want to include in your anger management plan. These tools are designed to help you manage and control your anger.

Trigger Identification

If you’re used to losing your temper, pay attention to the things that trigger your anger. Long lines, traffic jams, scathing comments, or excessive exhaustion are just a few things that can short your fuse.

While you shouldn’t blame external people or circumstances for your inability to stay calm, understanding what triggers your anger can help you make an appropriate plan.

You may decide to structure your day differently to help you manage stress better. Or, you can practice some anger management techniques before dealing with situations that normally stress you out. Doing these things can help you extend the wick—meaning, one frustrating episode won’t make you angry.

Evaluate Your Anger

Before you act to calm yourself, ask yourself if your anger is friend or foe. If you witness someone’s rights being violated or you are in an unhealthy situation, your anger may help.

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In this case, you may proceed with changing the situation rather than changing your emotional state. Sometimes your anger is a warning sign that something else needs to change—like an emotionally abusive relationship or a toxic friendship.

Getting angry may give you the courage you need to take a stand or make a change.

However, if your anger is causing distress or hurting your relationship, your anger may become the enemy. Other signs of this type of anger include feeling out of control and regretting your words or actions later on. In this situation, it makes sense to work on coping with your emotions and calming yourself down.

Recognize the Warning Signs

If you are like some people, you may feel that your anger will overtake you in an instant. Maybe you went from calm to angry in an instant. But there are still possible warning signs when your anger escalates. Recognizing them early can help you take action to prevent your anger from reaching a boiling point.

Think about the physical warning signs of anger you are experiencing. Maybe your heart is beating faster or your face feels hot. Or, maybe you start clenching your fists. You may also notice some cognitive changes. Maybe your mind is racing or you’re starting to “see red”.

By recognizing your warning signs, you have the opportunity to take immediate action and prevent yourself from doing or saying things that create a bigger problem. Learn to pay attention to how you are feeling and you will become better at recognizing the warning signs.

get out of the way

Trying to win an argument or stay in an unhealthy situation will only fuel your anger. One of the best things you can do when your anger escalates is to get away from the situation if you can.

When the conversation heats up, take a break. Leave the meeting if you think you’re going to explode. Go for a walk if your kids piss you off. Time-outs can be key to helping you relax your brain and body.

If there’s someone you regularly engage in heated arguments with, such as a friend or family member, talk to them about the importance of taking a break and moving on when you’re both calm.

When you need to step away, explain that you’re not trying to avoid a difficult topic, but that you’re trying to manage your anger. You can’t have productive conversations or resolve conflicts when you’re very upset. You can rejoin the discussion or tackle the issue again when you feel calmer.

Sometimes it helps to set a specific time and place when you can discuss the matter again. By doing so, your friend, colleague, or family member is at peace that the issue will indeed be discussed—only another time.

Talk to Friends

If someone has a calming effect on you, talking about a problem or sharing your feelings with that person might help. It’s important to note, however, that ventilation can backfire.

Complaining about your boss, explaining all the reasons you don’t like someone, or grumbling about any injustice you feel can add fuel to the fire. A common misconception is that you have to vent your anger to feel better.

But research shows that you don’t have to “let go of your anger.” Breaking things up when you’re upset, for example, can actually make you angrier. So it’s important to use these coping skills with care.

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Likewise, if you’re going to talk to a friend, make sure you’re working to develop a solution or reduce your anger, not just vent. It wouldn’t be fair to use it as your soundboard of choice. On the other hand, you may find that the best way to use this strategy is to talk about something other than the situation that caused you to feel angry.

Move

Anger gives you a flow of energy. One of the best ways to take advantage of those spikes is to engage in physical activity. Whether you’re taking a brisk walk or hitting the gym, exercising can burn off extra tension.

Regular exercise also helps you decompress. Aerobic activity reduces stress, which can help increase your frustration tolerance. Plus, exercise allows you to clear your head. You may find that after a long run or vigorous exercise, you have a clearer perspective on what is bothering you.

Manage Your Mind

Angry thoughts add fuel to your anger. Thinking things like, “I can’t stand it. This traffic jam will ruin everything,” will add to your frustration. When you find yourself thinking about the things that trigger your anger, rearrange your thoughts.

Instead, think about the facts by saying something like, “There are millions of cars on the road every day. Sometimes, there will be traffic jams.” Focusing on the facts—without adding catastrophic predictions or exaggerating distorted ones—can help you stay calm.

You can also develop a mantra that you can repeat to suppress the thoughts that trigger your anger. Saying, “I’m fine. Stay calm,” or “Not helping,” over and over again can help you minimize or reduce angry thoughts.

Change Channel

Pondering about upsetting situations triggers feelings of anger. If, for example, you’re having a bad day at work, repeating everything that went wrong all night will keep you stuck in a frustrated state.

The best way to calm yourself is to change the channels in your brain and focus on something else entirely.

Telling yourself “Don’t think about it,” doesn’t always work. The best way to mentally shift gears is to distract yourself with an activity. Do something that takes your focus and makes it more challenging for angry or negative thoughts to enter.

Some examples might include cleaning the kitchen, weeding the garden, paying some bills, or playing with the kids. Find something to do that will keep your mind busy enough that you don’t dwell on the things that are bothering you. Then, your body and brain can calm down.

Focus on Relaxation

There are many different relaxation exercises you can use to reduce anger. The key is to find the one that works best for you. Breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation are two common strategies for reducing tension.

The best part is, both exercises can be done quickly and carefully. So whether you’re frustrated at work or angry at a dinner engagement, you can release stress quickly and immediately.

It is important to note, however, that relaxation exercises require practice. At first, you may find them ineffective, or you may wonder if they will work for you. But with practice, it can become your strategy for managing anger.

Explore Your Feelings

Sometimes it helps to take a moment and think about what emotions might be hiding beneath your anger. Anger often serves as a protective mask to help you avoid feeling more painful emotions, such as shame, sadness, and disappointment.

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When someone gives you hard-to-heard feedback, for example, you might get angry with embarrassment. Convincing yourself that the other person is bad for criticizing you might make you feel better in the moment because it keeps you from being embarrassed. But acknowledging the underlying emotion can help you find the root of the problem. Then, you can decide to take the appropriate action.

For example, if someone cancels plans for you and your underlying emotion is disappointment, you might try explaining how you feel about the cancellation rather than getting angry. If you’re honest about how you feel, you’re more likely to work things out. Responding in anger usually does nothing but push the person away.

Create a “Quiet” Kit

If you tend to come home from work stressed and venting anger on your family, or you know that meetings at work are causing you great frustration, create a calming device that you can use to relax.

Think about objects that help engage all of your senses. When you can see, hear, see, smell, and touch soothing things, you can change your emotional state. So a calming kit might include a scented hand lotion, a picture of a calming landscape, a spiritual passage you can read aloud to, and a few pieces of your favorite candy. Include things that you know will help you stay calm.

You can also create a virtual sobriety kit that you can take with you everywhere. These are things you can call on when you need them and are more portable. For example, soothing music and pictures, guided meditations, or instructions for breathing exercises can be saved in a special folder on your smartphone.

Get Advice From the VigorTip Mind Podcast

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The VigorTip Mind Podcast shares some techniques that can help you relax.

 

Get help

If anger has been causing problems in your life and you are struggling to control your own emotions, you may want to seek professional help. Several mental health issues can be linked to anger management issues.

For example, PTSD has been linked to aggressive outbursts. Depressive disorders can also cause irritability and may make it harder to manage anger. It’s important to uncover mental health issues that may be hindering your ability to manage anger.

Start by talking to your doctor about your mood and behavior. Your doctor will make sure you don’t have any physical health problems that are contributing to the problem.

Your doctor may refer you to a mental health professional for further evaluation. Depending on your goals and treatment needs, therapy may involve individual sessions as well as anger management classes.

 

A Word From The vigorTip

For many people, angry outbursts have a purpose. Yelling at someone might make them comply with your request. But while aggressive behavior may meet your needs in the short term, there are long-term consequences. Your words can cause permanent damage to a relationship or even lead to its destruction.

If you have used your anger as a tool, you may benefit from learning healthier strategies, such as asking for help or speaking in a firm, but non-aggressive manner. Talk to your doctor about your anger management issues if you need more help.