Effective Ways to Manage Anger

5 min
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Anger can bring out the worst in us. It can cause relationship rifts to grow greater, find fits of furiousness fueling violence, and unnecessarily escalate a situation from minimal annoyance to intense rage. But anger is still a normal (and mostly healthy) emotion, and learning to control it can help us to limit loathsome damage. 

Seeing someone temporarily flying off the handle in frustration can be mildly amusing if, for argument’s sake, it’s the result of a harmless prank with short-lived turbulence. However, anger management is no laughing matter – unlike like the Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson movie, and the Charlie Sheen sitcom of the same name, despite their best intentions. 

If your impending anger is the result of an argument, there are simple steps you can take to keep your cool, from being humble and listening actively to the other side, to being compassionate and building resilience. But if it’s not a one-time thing, there’s likely a deeper underlying reason that gridlocked traffic – or dirty dishes; reggae music; the sound of someone chewing loudly; or whatever it may be – is getting on your last nerve.

The first step to tackling any problem is identifying it, and with the adrenaline rush of anger, there are also red flag warning signs that can help you combat the more negative effects of this emotion long before they get out of hand. And knowing these signs may give you the time to counteract the rage, ahead of implosion. Things like a quickening heart rate and breathing, clenching of the fists and jaw, or a tensing of the body with foot-tapping should give you pause to reevaluate your emotions, and consider steps you can take to ensure things don’t get blown out of proportion.

Understandably, not everyone has the composure to recalibrate when the vibration of irritation starts bubbling to the surface, and even the most emotionally-stable among us can find it hard to keep our calm from time to time, or when we face certain triggers. Here are eight tips or techniques to regain self-control in these instances.

Count to 10

If you haven’t managed to cut off your ire from the red flags rising, there’s still time to intervene before it takes hold. Counting to 10 before reacting to something that has lit an emotional fuse is a trick that has worked on children for generations, but it’s also a valid ploy for adults. By focusing on the escalating numbers, we’re removing our mental capacity to add more fuel to the anger fire. This time offers an occasion to reflect, too: ask yourself, “What will be the outcome of my reaction to this situation? Am I being empathetic?” “Is my anger misplaced or being misdirected?”


Don’t use the word “relax” when you’re trying to tell somebody else to cool down. It’s often more likely to fan the flames, and achieving this goal is never entirely easy to do in times of high emotion anyway. But that doesn’t mean it’s not something we can’t try to embody ourselves when we begin to feel angry. Concentrate on breathing – slow it and let that help stem your rising heart rate. And use your senses to calming effect; like smelling a soothing essential oil, or using a song that floods you with fond memories to help the negative emotions escape from you, like steam from a kettle.

Take Care of Yourself

Mindfulness has the power to tackle some of anger’s most potent characteristics. It teaches non-judgement, patience, trust, acceptance, and letting go. By taking care of yourself – being more mindful – your short fuse can be stretched so that you’re not as quick to rise to provocation. Incorporate a meditative routine into your day; stretch; practice yoga; have a massage; repeat a reaffirming mantra; free your mind of the very things that are causing you displeasure. Try to practice stoicism, through which you can train your mind like a muscle, to focus only on the things you can control, rather than wasting energy on the things that are genuinely out of your control. There are endless ways to bring more calm to your life, which will in turn better equip you to deal with unexpected anger.

Change Your Environment

Take yourself out of the situation, if possible. If it’s an argument at an impasse, go for a walk. If it's a work situation, go make a cup of coffee or tea. The time physically removed from an anger-influencing moment affords you time to consider alternative perspectives. When tempers start flaring, it can sometimes be difficult to remain master of our vocabulary, with offensive profanities sometimes prone to slip out in the heat of the moment. Give yourself the chance to better formulate and verbalize your side of the argument before coming back with a response, if a response is even necessary.

Consider Timing, Avoidance, and Finding Alternatives

This thing that’s causing exasperation – is it something that needs to be addressed right now? Perhaps it’s not the thing in question, but rather, your current state of emotions. If there is scope for procrastination, this is one instance where that might be a viable approach for a more productive end-result. Or maybe you can avoid the anger-inducing thing altogether? There’s no point sticking your head in the sand when you’re presented with a wrath-inducing problem not by choice, but if the issue in question is not something you specifically need to deal with, and if doing so would cause you crossness, avoidance is as good as resolution, for you at least. There may also be less anger-inducing alternatives that suit you better or just as well, regardless of what your trigger is, be it traffic, work, or incompetence. Find a new route for your commute; research upskilling and new career opportunities; share your expertise in an easy-to-understand way to tackle the shortcomings of others. Effectively, you should be able to see a path to resolution that’s untarred by anger.

Find Alternative Channels for Focused Anger

Sometimes you feel like you absolutely have to release rage. If you have not managed to talk yourself down completely, a good scream could be just what the doctor ordered. If screaming into a pillow doesn’t hit the mark, your pent up ill-temper can ooze out of you safely and intentionally in the likes of a dedicated rage- or smash-room facility, as has been the case in Japan since 2008, and numerous other countries in the years since. Modern technology can be its own cause of anger, so with protective glasses, a sledgehammer, and an old computer screen or laptop, the focused violence in a safe space is a fine option for temporary rage. Although it’s definitely not a long-term solution, it can be a quick-fix for a temporary or even festering problem. If that’s a little too extreme for you, then you can also consider taking a boxing class: the combination of endorphin-boosting fitness (which can help to release some “happy hormones”) along with the ability to safely physically release those pent-up emotions on a punching bag could do the trick for clearing your mind, bringing you back to a state with a more calm and relaxed perspective. 

Talk to a Friend

Friends are family that we choose ourselves, and there’s a reason we have them in our lives. They understand us, and for the most part – the best ones, at least – will want to help us in a crisis. Because that’s exactly what unmanaged anger can become: a relationship-damaging crisis. We trust the opinions of our friends, and real ones can affirm if our anger in a situation is warranted or not – and will have the courage and tact to tell you so, with as much compassion as possible. This can be of crucial help in quelling the red mist. They might not have all the answers, but a friendly ear is never a bad thing to have access to.

Seek Professional Help

Sometimes, of course, anger isn’t as easy a fix as controlled breathing or talking yourself down, and it can evolve into harmful levels of aggression. This is particularly true if the anger is coming from a place of inner wounding or pain, whether that stems from issues of self-worth and negative projection, a lack of healthy boundaries, or a toxic relationship, for instance. And if it becomes a pattern, it might be time to seek professional help in the form of anger management classes, or therapy with a qualified professional. Before you seek help, be sure to understand what you’re trying to achieve, and use that to decide if counseling, therapy, or coaching is what will bring your rage under control. Whichever one you choose, being proactive about tackling the problem in this way can allow you to live a healthier and more fulfilling life, free of uncontrolled anger.


All of the content on our website is thoroughly researched to ensure that the information shared is evidence-based. For more information, please visit the academic journals and other resources that influenced this article:

The Evolving Science of Anger Management; Anger as a Basic Emotion and Its Role in Personality Building and Pathological Growth: The Neuroscientific, Developmental and Clinical Perspectives; How to Cope With Anger; Control Anger Before it Controls You; How To Manage Your Anger At Work; Rage Rooms: Do They Offer Anger Relief or Reinforce Bad Behavior?

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