Feeling hot under the collar? You’re not the first, and you certainly won’t be the last, to feel anger take over when faced with a distressing situation.
Anger is a natural human emotion that everyone experiences from time to time. It's completely normal to experience these feelings, but it's important to learn how to manage and control them. If left unchecked, anger can lead to negative behaviors and affect your mental health and relationships.
Fortunately, there are some techniques that can help you rapidly calm down when you’re feeling tense and fired up. Check out our top 8 anger management strategies to gain better control over your emotions and respond to challenging situations in healthier ways.
1) Take a (deep) breather
Can something as simple as breathing help with difficult emotions? It might sound surprising, but deep breathing exercises are a powerful tool to deal with anger.
When you're angry, your breathing tends to become shallow and rapid. Practicing deep breathing can help slow down your heart rate and release tension. That’s why it’s such a popular anger management technique.
Imagine you're stuck in traffic, and frustration builds up. Instead of honking and getting agitated, practice the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Inhale deeply through your nose to a count of four, hold for a count of seven, and exhale to a count of eight. Repeat this cycle several times until you feel more composed.
2) Observe your anger
Ever heard of mindfulness? It involves being fully present in the moment without judgment. When anger arises, practice observing your emotions without getting entangled in them. This helps you detach and gain perspective on the situation.
It's important to recognize that overcoming anger doesn't involve denying its existence. Simply snapping out of it isn't feasible. However, acknowledging your anger and identifying your triggers can help you better manage your reactions to it.
For example, if your colleague criticizes your work during a meeting, instead of immediately responding defensively, take a deep breath and notice the anger rising. Acknowledge your emotions without acting on them impulsively.
3) Release physical tension
Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique that involves tensing and then releasing different muscle groups to reduce physical tension. By doing so, you can alleviate the physical symptoms associated with anger and control it better.
Let’s say you're seething with anger after an argument with a loved one. Find a quiet place, close your eyes, and focus on relaxing each muscle group, starting from your toes and working your way up to your head.
You can find more step-by-step instructions for progressive muscle relaxation by exploring our self-directed learning modules in the platform’s Wellness Center.
4) Count down to calm down
Who knew you could overcome anger with numbers? Surprisingly, counting can help divert your attention away from the anger and give you time to cool down. Count slowly and steadily, focusing solely on the numbers.
Imagine your computer crashes while working on an important project. That can be pretty frustrating. Instead of slamming your fist, start counting to 20. This simple act can help you control your anger and prevent impulsive reactions.
5) Visualize serenity
Visualization can go a long way when it comes to anger management. Imagery techniques involve creating mental images that promote relaxation and positive emotions. When angry, visualize a calm and serene place, engaging your senses to immerse yourself in the experience.
You can even try and imagine your happy place while you’re still feeling calm and relaxed so you can summon it anytime you need some peace and quiet.
For example, if a friend cancels plans and lets you down at the last minute, close your eyes and envision a tranquil beach scene with soothing sounds and gentle waves. Feel your anger dissipating as you mentally transport yourself to this peaceful setting.
6) Journal the anger away
Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you process and deal with anger so it doesn’t control you. Describe what triggered your anger, how you felt, and any thoughts you had during the episode. This practice fosters self-awareness and can prevent future anger outbursts.
Say you receive negative feedback on an assignment you worked very hard on. Take out a journal (it can be a digital one!) and write about your emotions, the situation, and potential ways to address your feelings constructively.
Here’s an example of how to log the situation in your journal:
Situation: I got a C on the essay I spent all weekend writing and canceled plans to work on.
Emotions: angry, resentful, frustrated
Thoughts: It’s unfair! The teacher must hate me.
Ways to address the situation: Wait until I feel calm enough to go see the teacher and ask for more detailed feedback on what went wrong. Ask someone with a better grade to show me their work. If it still feels unfair, ask for a second opinion.
7) Get moving
Your body’s reaction to anger is to produce adrenaline. This will make you feel fired up and increase your heart rate. That’s why more people tend to fight when they’re angry!
Engaging in physical activity can help release built-up tension and reduce anger. Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, which are natural mood enhancers.
Next time you're furious after an argument with a family member, put on your running shoes and go for a jog. This will allow your body to control your anger and channel it into positive energy.
8) Be assertive, not aggressive
It’s easy (and actually quite natural) to be tempted to choose aggression when dealing with anger. Instead of reacting aggressively, practice assertive communication to express your feelings and needs without attacking or belittling others.
Assertive communication is expressing your thoughts, feelings, and needs confidently and respectfully, while also respecting the rights and opinions of other people. It helps maintain healthy relationships and resolves conflicts effectively.
Let’s say your partner forgets an important event, and you're boiling with anger. Instead of shouting, calmly express how their actions made you feel and discuss ways to avoid similar situations in the future.
These anger management techniques can help you quickly calm down when anger strikes. Remember that practice makes perfect, so consistently applying these strategies will empower you to navigate challenging situations with grace and self-control.