Anger management: 10 tips to tame your temper
Keeping your temper in check can be challenging. Use simple anger management tips — from taking a timeout to using “I” statements — to stay in control.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Do you fume when someone cuts you off in traffic? Does your blood pressure rocket when your child refuses to cooperate? Anger is a common and even healthy emotion. But it’s important to deal with it in a positive way. Uncontrolled anger can take a toll on both your health and your relationships.
Ready to get your anger under control? Start by considering these 10 anger management tips.
1. Think before you speak
In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to say something you’ll later regret. Take a few moments to collect your thoughts before saying anything. Also allow others involved in the situation to do the same.
2. Once you’re calm, express your concerns
As soon as you’re thinking clearly, express your frustration in an assertive but nonconfrontational way. State your concerns and needs clearly and directly, without hurting others or trying to control them.
3. Get some exercise
Physical activity can help reduce stress that can cause you to become angry. If you feel your anger escalating, go for a brisk walk or run. Or spend some time doing other enjoyable physical activities.
4. Take a timeout
Timeouts aren’t just for kids. Give yourself short breaks during times of the day that tend to be stressful. A few moments of quiet time might help you feel better prepared to handle what’s ahead without getting irritated or angry.
5. Identify possible solutions
Instead of focusing on what made you mad, work on resolving the issue at hand. Does your child’s messy room make you upset? Close the door. Is your partner late for dinner every night? Schedule meals later in the evening. Or agree to eat on your own a few times a week. Also, understand that some things are simply out of your control. Try to be realistic about what you can and cannot change. Remind yourself that anger won’t fix anything and might only make it worse.
6. Stick with ‘I’ statements
Criticizing or placing blame might only increase tension. Instead, use “I” statements to describe the problem. Be respectful and specific. For example, say, “I’m upset that you left the table without offering to help with the dishes” instead of “You never do any housework.”
7. Don’t hold a grudge
Forgiveness is a powerful tool. If you allow anger and other negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice. Forgiving someone who angered you might help you both learn from the situation and strengthen your relationship.
8. Use humor to release tension
Lightening up can help diffuse tension. Use humor to help you face what’s making you angry and, possibly, any unrealistic expectations you have for how things should go. Avoid sarcasm, though — it can hurt feelings and make things worse.
9. Practice relaxation skills
When your temper flares, put relaxation skills to work. Practice deep-breathing exercises, imagine a relaxing scene, or repeat a calming word or phrase, such as “Take it easy.” You might also listen to music, write in a journal or do a few yoga poses — whatever it takes to encourage relaxation.
10. Know when to seek help
Learning to control anger can be a challenge at times. Seek help for anger issues if your anger seems out of control, causes you to do things you regret or hurts those around you.
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- Kassinove H, et al. Happiness. In: The Practitioner’s Guide to Anger Management: Customizable Interventions, Treatments, and Tools for Clients With Problem Anger. Kindle edition. New Harbinger Publications; 2019. Accessed March 11, 2022.
- Understanding anger: How psychologists help with anger problems. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/topics/anger/understanding. Accessed March 11, 2022.
- Controlling anger before it controls you. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/topics/anger/control. Accessed March 11, 2022.
- Tips for survivors: Coping with anger after a disaster or other traumatic event. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. https://store.samhsa.gov/product/tips-survivors-coping-anger-after-disaster-or-other-traumatic-event/pep19-01-01-002. Accessed March 11, 2022.
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See more In-depth
Sometimes stressful situations can seem to stick with us. Most of us find ourselves ruminating or holding onto negative feelings we have about stressors or conflicts in our lives at one time or another.
Unfortunately, this tendency can prolong the stress that we experience and even magnify it. As the tension and frustration build, it can harden into anger—which can make it all the harder to shake. Here are some proven strategies to stop ruminating and finally let go of your anger.
Write It Out
Writing is a relatively simple way to process and let go of difficult emotions. Studies have shown that expressive writing can be effective in reducing symptoms of depression among those with a tendency toward brooding and rumination.
There’s no right or wrong way of doing this, so try not to self-edit too much or make it hard on yourself. Write down your thoughts and emotions as they come to you. Don’t even worry about punctuation. No one is going to see what you’ve written.
It may also be helpful to get in the habit of writing at the same time every day. For instance, you can spend a few minutes before bed each night reflecting and journaling about whatever it is that’s disturbing your peace. This practice may even help you fall asleep faster.
Physical activity is one of the best ways to release pent-up frustration. Not only will it take your mind off what’s stressing you, but breaking a sweat boosts levels of the feel-good chemical serotonin in the brain.
So take a hike. Get on a bike. Go for a run. Flow through some yoga poses. Experiment and see which physical activities work best for you.
It seems that everyone from Oprah to Sting is touting the benefits of meditation and mindfulness for stress relief, and for good reason. A key ingredient of meditation is a focus on the present. When you actively focus on the present moment and gently prevent your mind from fixating on past events or future fears, it’s much easier to let go of negative emotions surrounding these things.
Research confirms that meditation-based stress management practices reduce stress and rumination. These techniques also enhance one’s tendency toward forgiveness, which brings its own rewards.
Change Your Perspective
If you perceive a situation to be a “threat,” you will have a different emotional (and therefore physical) response than if you viewed the same situation as a “challenge.”
In fact, research shows you can stop angry feelings simply by viewing a situation through a different lens.
So rather than dwelling on the negative, take a different approach and try a bit of cognitive restructuring. Challenge your negative thoughts: “This is frustrating, but it’s not the end of the world. Getting angry won’t change anything anyway.”
If you’d like to take a more structured approach, you might give psychotherapy a try. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most popular form of therapy used to treat anger.
CBT combines cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy. It helps you understand negative thoughts and change them. It can also teach you how to react in a healthier way when provoked.
Metacognitive behavior therapy is another mainstay of treatment for anger. This form of therapy is especially useful if you have the tendency to dwell on frustrating experiences and recall past anger. It’s been found to be up 80% effective in treating ruminative tendencies.
Both interventions, alone or combined with SSRI medication, can also be helpful for those struggling with depression.
A Word From Verywell
Remember, everyone handles anger differently. If you are feeling continuously angry, you may need to take further steps to deal with your feelings. It’s tough to break patterns and practice new strategies when you’re not feeling your best. Talking to a mental health professional can help.
As a health care worker during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ve probably dealt with some anger over the last few months, as the virus continues to take lives across the United States. With infection rates climbing once again, that anger may increase in intensity – what was once frustration may become full-blown rage. The circumstances causing this rage might be beyond your control (you can’t easily change how your government officials are handling COVID-19 in your community or force everyone to obey regulations), but you can control your own reactions. Relaxation techniques or mindfulness often work for lower intensity anger like frustration or annoyance, but with a feeling as high energy as rage, try to let that energy out in a safe way.
- Throw or break something (safely).
Physically throwing something can relieve stress and be helpful in the immediate moment. Have a yard? Get out there with a ball or find some rocks to throw if you have enough space. Or smash something, like a mug or old piece of junk that you’ve been meaning to get rid of. If that’s not a realistic option, get creative – throw something soft (like balled up socks or a roll of toilet paper) against a blank wall or an apple into the woods (the birds will get it).
- Scream – in private.
When you can feel anger boiling inside you, yelling is often incredibly cathartic and can pull you out of that blind rage you may be experiencing. Take care to not startle or worry anyone (including nearby neighbors) by screaming into a pillow. If you’re at work and can take a break for a few minutes, your car is good option too.
- Sing it out.
Put on some music that has anger in it – even if the artist’s anger is different from yours. Channeling your own feelings into the song and expressing that fury can help release some of your own anger.
- Dance it out.
Dancing can be a great way to express your emotions, especially when they are so powerful that you can physically feel them in your body. Dance to angry music, happy pump-up music, or no music – just get that excess energy out.
- Do a tough workout.
If dancing isn’t your thing, try another form of high energy exercise, like boxing or sprinting. You can search for free workout videos online or do your own thing, but make sure to push yourself and give it your all if you’re looking for that anger release. It might feel silly but yelling or grunting while working out might even help you exert more energy.
Putting your feelings into words isn’t always easy and writing may not be your go-to technique, but if your mind is spiraling with angry thoughts, dumping them all out onto paper can bring some peace. It doesn’t have to be a big ordeal – even just typing a stream-of-consciousness note on your phone during a quick bathroom break can help calm your mind.
- Draw or paint.
Art is often a powerful way to confront your big feelings and turn them into something beautiful. Let go of your work being “good” – allow yourself to create solely to express yourself. Do what feels good rather than focusing on what will look good.
- Change your surroundings.
When you can’t quiet your thoughts, a change of scenery – even just going into the next room or stepping outside for five minutes – can disrupt the track that your mind is on.
- Destroy a physical representation of your anger.
Print out that email that set you off or write down the things that are upsetting you. Then scribble all over it, tear it up, or put it through the shredder.
- Verbalize your anger.
You can always vent to a trusted friend, but sometimes it feels better to pretend you’re talking directly to the person you’re angry at. Pick an empty chair, imagine they’re sitting in it, and yell, scream, or tell them exactly why you’re so mad – whatever feels best to you.
If you’re working to manage your feelings in a healthy way but it just seems impossible, take a mental health screen – you may be dealing with symptoms of a mental health condition. For immediate support, you can reach out to Magellan Health’s COVID-19 first responder crisis line at (800) 327-7451, the Disaster Distress Helpline at (800) 985-5990, or the Crisis Text Line by texting MHA to 741-741 – all of these options will connect you to a trained crisis counselor 24/7/365.