Most of us have “lost it” during a big family argument or while being stuck in bad traffic on the way to work. While anger doesn’t feel good, it can help us feel motivated to change things that aren’t working for us, like relationship issues or uncomfortable work situations.
But anger is a strong emotion. If left unchecked, it can lead to unhappiness or a mental health condition. It can also cause you to act unreasonably or aggressively. This can result in social isolation, health problems, and abuse.
Some people are more likely to experience anger than others. People under extreme stress may have trouble controlling their anger. Researchers have found that children with mental health conditions and adults with traumatic brain injuries are also more likely to have overwhelming anger.
Help and support is out there. Research has found that anger management exercises improved well-being and reduced the number of angry outbursts in each of these at-risk groups. And if you struggle to calm your anger, these exercises may help you, too.
Anger outbursts can cause harm to you and the people around you.
A good way to calm anger and prevent any harm is to use anger management exercises. These techniques work by first calming you down and then helping you move forward in a positive way.
Use the following anger management exercises any time it feels your anger is overwhelming, until you feel calm:
Learn to breathe
When you’re angry, you might notice your breathing gets quicker and shallower. One easy way to calm your body and reduce your anger is to slow and deepen your breathing.
Try breathing slowly into your nose and out your mouth. Breathe deeply from your belly rather than your chest. Repeat breaths as necessary.
Progressive muscle relaxation
Muscle tension is another sign of stress in the body that you may feel when you’re angry.
To help calm down, you may want to try a progressive muscle relaxation technique. This involves slowly tensing and then relaxing each muscle group in the body, one at a time.
Consider starting at the top of your head and move your way to your toes, or vice versa.
Visualize yourself calm
Imagining a relaxing place may help you reduce your anger. Sit in a quiet, comfortable space from your memory and close your eyes for a few moments. Let your imagination flow.
As you think of what that relaxing place is like, think about small details. How does it smell or sound? Think about how calm and good you feel in that place.
Besides being healthy for your bodily functions, regular exercise is very effective at reducing stress in the body and mind. Try to get some exercise every day to keep stress and anger at bay.
For a quick way to manage anger, go for a brisk walk, bike ride, run. Or do some other form of physical activity when you feel anger growing.
Recognize your triggers
Usually, people get angry about specific things over and over again. Spend some time thinking about what makes you angry. Make an effort to avoid or deal with those things, if possible.
For example, this might involve shutting the door to your child’s room when they don’t clean it instead of getting angry about the mess. Or it could mean using public transportation instead of driving to work if you’re easily angered by traffic.
Stop and listen
When you’re in an angry argument, you might find yourself jumping to conclusions and saying things that are unkind. Making an effort to stop and listen to the other person in the conversation before reacting can help your anger drop and allow you to better respond and resolve the situation.
Think carefully before replying. Tell them you need to take a step away if you feel you need to cool down before you continue the conversation.
Change your thinking
Anger can make you feel like things are worse than they really are. Reduce your anger by replacing negative thoughts with more realistic ones. You can do this by avoiding extreme words, such as “never” or “always,” when you think.
Other good strategies include keeping a balanced view of the world and turning your angry demands into requests instead.
Avoid dwelling on the same things
You may rehash the same situation that made you upset over and over again, even if the problem is resolved. This is called dwelling or ruminating. Dwelling allows anger to last and could cause further arguments or other issues.
Try to move past the thing that caused your anger. Instead, try to take a look at the positive parts of the person or situation that made you upset.
Know your body
When you get angry, your body tends to get very excited. Your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing speed, and body temperature may increase. Your body also releases certain stress hormones that put your body on high alert.
Pay attention to your body when you’re angry. Learn your body’s anger warning signs. Next time you feel these warnings, you can step away from the situation or try a relaxation technique.
Learning to healthfully manage your anger is a process that happens more quickly for some than for others. If you feel that your anger gets overwhelming or if it’s causing you to hurt yourself or those around you, it’s time to get expert help.
Talk to your doctor to get a referral to a psychiatrist or psychologist. A trained counselor can help you find a treatment plan that’s right for you.
Some common treatments for anger include a talk therapy technique called cognitive behavioral therapy. It can help you identify your anger triggers and how to best deal with them.
A psychiatrist may also recommend anti-anxiety medication if overwhelming stress levels cause your anger.
Questions for choosing a therapist
- Are you licensed in my state?
- Have you worked with people dealing with anger?
- What types of therapy do you recommend for dealing with anger?
- How long do expect treatment to take?
- How much does therapy with you cost?
- Do you accept my insurance?
Anger is a common and useful emotion everyone experiences. It’s also possible for anger to become overwhelming and cause problems sometimes.
Anger management exercises are useful tools that can help identify and manage anger in a productive way. Getting expert help is a good way to address anger that’s interfering with your quality of life.