According to a poll by NPR, 42% of people say they were angrier in the past year than they had been previously. If you’re tired of trying to manage your anger, learn to reduce and rechannel your emotions for a healthier lifestyle.
What is Anger Management?
Anger management is a technique devised to help you control anger rather than letting anger control you. With anger management, one can learn to control their own anger and become less angry or be controlled less by anger.
What is Anger?
Anger is a fight-or-flight survival response that activates in response to having your boundaries violated somehow. This can include betrayal, disrespect, a threat to safety, and neglectful or demeaning behavior.
Anger isn’t always an intensely strong emotion. It turns from anger to rage when it becomes out of control. Anger can be a positive emotion, and it’s a natural and necessary method your body uses to protect you. It’s ok to be angry, but healthy anger should be appropriate to the situation and dissipate rather than burn.
Disclaimer: We are honored to help you get control of anger! Please note that all content found on this website is not to be considered professional medical advice. It is always best to consult a doctor or licensed therapist with questions or concerns about your physical or mental health. If you feel you could harm yourself or others, please get immediate help. In the US, text HOME to 741741, get international support on Whatsapp or visit Crisis Text Line.
What Does Anger Do to Your Body?
Anger sets off a chain reaction in your body where your amygdala (the emotional region of your brain) jumps into overdrive. Once your amygdala takes over it, it instantly activates your adrenal glands, and your body floods with stress hormones—cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.
This is all well and good if you’re preparing to fight off a lion in a snowy pit.
But not so great if your body remains in this state for a prolonged period.
As you can imagine, stress hormones will take a toll on your body over time. Anger creates chemicals that dilate your pupils, speed up your heart rate, focus attention, and increase blood flow. That’s why anger can lead to hypertension, mental health problems, and even heart attack or stroke. Uncontrolled anger is serious business!
Image Source: CAMHS Professionals
Signs You May Need to Try Anger Management
- You are constantly angry
- When you get mad, you stay that way for hours, days, or even longer
- Anger quickly becomes rage
- You suppress anger because you feel like you’ll lose control
- You have trouble controlling your emotions
- Other people show signs of being afraid or unhappy around you
- You lash out easily at people
- Small things make you angry
- You become easily irritated
- You are regularly critical and judgmental
- You never get angry
Top 10 Tips to Get Control of Anger
Use our tips to reduce your anger in the future, plus learn how to quickly calm yourself down when strong emotions overwhelm you.
Find Long-Term Resolution for Anger
Unmet needs fuel persistent out-of-control anger.
A need to be heard. To express loss. To protect the people you love.
Anger isn’t a shameful character flaw; it’s simply the sign of a deeper need. The question is, what do you need?
Use these steps to incrementally build your tolerance for emotions, gain mastery of yourself, and retrain your brain to express emotions without losing control.
1. Identify and name the emotion with as much specificity as possible
Although it sounds simplistic, this technique is challenging! But it has the power to transform the way you experience the world.
Several studies have shown the importance of identifying and naming your emotions. Most importantly, those who can talk and think about experiences with a descriptive vocabulary are more able to regulate their emotions. Anger is a broad term! Can you get more specific about how you feel?
Pro Tip: Embracing nuance in your emotions helps you move from black-and-white thinking to see things more clearly for what they are.
Action Step: Move past adjectives like sad, angry, or afraid and dig into the nuances of what you feel. Next time you explode or repress your anger, pause and internally look for what you are feeling. With time, verbalize or write down those feelings. Here are some words to expand on how you define your anger.
- Let down
- Out of control
2. Look for the needs behind the emotion
Once you’ve started to identify and describe your emotions, you’ll naturally see needs emerging.
For example, if you regularly feel disrespected, you clearly need respect. Is this a need that comes from a lack in the past or a current interpersonal conflict? Get curious and even talk with a close friend to get a fresh insight on how your behavior impacts you not having this need met.
Start by exploring this before or after you lose your temper. When you’re calm (at least relatively so!), you’ll have the clarity to explore what is behind the anger and what you can do about it.
Pro Tip: If you’re in a safe relationship, talk to your partner and ask for their support and patience. You may need to apologize to them for how your anger has hurt them.
Action Step: Find a way to meet or even let go of the need—this will eventually remove (or reduce) the trigger causing constant anger.
For example, if you need respect, start with self-respect. This week, identify one behavior you can practice out of respect for yourself. Here are some examples:
- Say no to a request you’d normally (resentfully) say yes to.
- Get enough sleep
- Show up to a meeting on time
- Reply to emails in a timely fashion
- Wear something that makes you feel attractive
- Respond to another person’s anger with kindness
3. Look for the pain behind the need
As you discover your needs, you’ll likely uncover pain. The pain that comes from unmet needs and violated boundaries is legitimate. It may feel overwhelming to face that, but when you do, it begins to lose its power to undermine and control you.
When you identify the pain, you can recognize you have the power to change your behavior.
When anger hits, instead of giving into harmful and destructive behavior, ask yourself, “what is a better response right now?”.
Pro Tip: Emotions are good. But suppressed emotions are still there, and undealt with, they become toxic.
Action Step: How do you respond when you are angry? Do you withdraw, verbally lash out, or act aggressively? Think about how you can better respond to a recurring situation that makes you angry.
Here are some examples.
- Instead of withdrawing in anger when my brother makes me feel stupid, I will tell him (without being accusatory) how his behavior makes me feel.
- Instead of verbally lashing out at my employee when they make a mistake, I will ask them to share what they feel they could have done differently to avoid this mistake.
- Instead of acting aggressively, I will leave the room to give myself space to calm down.
4. Use the RAIN method
While some may recommend activating anger in a controlled environment (punching a pillow, throwing things, rage rooms, etc.), this is not a healthy or productive way to resolve or deal with anger because it connects “the internal emotion of anger with problematic verbal behaviors or aggressive behaviors.”
Instead, Dr. Gabor Maté advocates using Tara Brach’s RAIN method—Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Nurture.
This method allows you to look at your anger without suppressing or dangerously fueling it. All of this happens with compassion and kindness towards the self.
Ultimately this method takes the first three tips and combines them all with an attitude of compassion and self-discovery.
Action Step: Next time you’re angry, recognize it is anger, allow yourself to feel the emotions, and observe what those emotions are. Investigate why you are feeling this anger, and then with compassion, seek to nurture yourself.
Important Mental Health Note: Start small. We get it—you want to deal with this and be done with it. While there are short-term coping mechanisms to manage anger, it will take time and work to actually reduce the anger. Moving too fast may be counterproductive.
Also, as you work on dealing with anger, it may feel like it’s getting worse. Build up your tolerance for the strength of your emotions, and allow yourself the freedom to pull back if it’s too much. Your safety and the safety of others are paramount. You don’t have to do this alone; reach out to a therapist or coach who has experience working with anger.
Emergency Tips to Get Control Immediately
Use these three emergency techniques when anger broadsides you.
5. Take a break
Sometimes you need to walk away. Go for a walk outside or sit in a quiet space to calm your emotions. Walking is ideal, especially in nature (rather than a city environment), as it can lower your blood pressure and ease anger.
- If you’re able, communicate before leaving. Tell your partner, child, or loved one you need space to process. Try this, “I love you, and I’m not shutting you out, but I need some space right now.”
- If you’re at work, excuse yourself to go to the bathroom or even ask to defer the conversation. Try this, “I need some time to process. I’ll get back to you with my response this afternoon/tomorrow/end of the week.”
- Don’t slam doors or make one last parting shot as you leave the room.
- Come back! When you and the other person are calmer, come back and discuss what happened. While it’s ok to withdraw temporarily, don’t let the incident pass unresolved. In a relationship, unresolved arguments build up over time and undermine your relationship. At work, unresolved anger can lead to burnout and other stress-related health problems.
6. Redirect, don’t suppress
Distracting and suppressing anger is effective for immediate relief. The only problem? The offense is still there. So while it may provide you with relief at the moment, it will only make the anger problem worse over time.
“Healthy anger is in the moment. It protects your boundaries, and then it’s gone. It’s not there anymore.”—Dr. Gabor Maté, Author & Physician
Most techniques for suppressing anger rely on the body—going for a run, boxing, taking a shower, etc. As a result, that suppressed anger may manifest in your body.
Research has found that suppressing anger can lead to hypertension, emotional numbness, depression, anxiety, disordered eating, and skin disorders.
Instead of suppressing the emotion of anger, redirect it. You can use some of the coping mechanisms customarily used to suppress but in a more intentional, focused way.
Your goal isn’t to avoid or deny the anger. Instead, your goal is to experience physical and emotional release.
When you run, think about the anger and imagine it flowing down your body and pounding into the pavement under your feet.
When you clean, think about different ways to describe your emotions. Imagine wiping away unhelpful emotions and dusting off emotions that serve you well.
When you dance or exercise, add in a boundary-building mental exercise. Push your arms away from your body and firmly say, “no.” This is helpful as an immediate relief for anger or a daily routine.
Pro Tip: If you have a spiritual practice, incorporate prayer into any of these activities. Instead of trying to process the anger silently, give voice to what you feel and then verbally release those emotions.
7. Use humor
Disarm yourself with humor if you’re angry and can’t see the other person’s perspective. It might feel strange and takes intentional focus, but it can immediately deflect and calm the situation. Laughter is so unique because it can change the energy in a room.
Pro Tip: This is especially effective if you’re angry or annoyed and the other person doesn’t realize it. If you’re in the middle of an argument, please don’t randomly tell a Dad joke! And please, please don’t use sarcasm. You’re looking for something to make both of you laugh.
Action Step: Next time you’re silently fuming and don’t know what to do with the anger, tell a joke or a funny story. When you laugh, observe how it feels in your body after being angry.
How to Manage Anger in Interpersonal Relationships
Both you and the person you care about deserve better! Use these tips to start managing anger toward people you love.
8. Communicate instead of jumping to conclusions
A lot of anger comes from miscommunication and misunderstanding. This is especially true in relationships.
You know what we’re talking about!
Whether verbal or nonverbal, what we say and mean are often very different. If you and your partner struggle to communicate openly, it’s only natural there will be a lot of anger between you.
Action Step: Next time you get angry or annoyed with your loved one, pause and take 3 slow, deep breaths. Think about why you are angry and then verbalize it. But please don’t accuse! Try, “When you did/said that, I felt like you were (belittling me, disrespecting me, not listening to me, etc.).” or even, “It seems like you’re upset about something. Do you want to talk about it?”
Pro Tip: If you don’t normally communicate openly, don’t suddenly spring this on the other person! Have a conversation that you’d like to work on strengthening your communication.
Need help learning how to communicate and strengthen your interpersonal connections? Try this goodie out:
Master Your People Skills
- Create a Memorable Presence
- Communicate with Confidence
- Achieve Your Goals
Have a question about the presentation or People School? Email Science of People support.
9. Start an anger diary
One study found that journaling about emotions led to future employment for laid-off workers, while countless studies have documented the positive impact of gratitude journals. The benefits of journaling are immense! While we are advocates of the gratitude journal, we’d also like to recommend writing down some of your darker emotions.
Benefits of an anger journal:
- Identify what you’re angry about
- See what other emotions are involved
- Gain control through self-awareness
- Track triggers
- Process through the anger
- Have a record of where you started and how you’re growing
When it comes to relationships, talking about your anger before you’ve got a handle on it can sometimes be harmful to the other person. Begin processing your anger in a controlled environment (an anger journal) to avoid accusations and blame when you talk to your partner.
- Use this template from Therapist Aid to get started on an anger journal.
- Schedule time each evening to review your day and identify when and why you got angry.
- Don’t miss the review on page 2 of the Therapist Aid template.
10. Set boundaries with your family
If you’re constantly angry with your family, there’s probably a history of boundary violations. Or maybe, just maybe, you’ve been the one who doesn’t respect others’ boundaries.
Either way, boundary violations inherently create anger.
Anger and resentment because you can’t stand up for yourself. Or even anger and resentment because the other person lets you trample on them.
Setting boundaries helps to remove those feelings of helplessness and gives you control. That can go a long way in reducing anger.
- Think about one family member that makes you angry.
- Write down what they do that infuriates you—you’re looking for the trigger. If you don’t know, get curious and look for patterns in how you interact with each other.
- Write down one boundary you’d like to implement with them.
- If you identify a boundary you violate, apologize to the other person and tell them you’d like to work on respecting their boundaries.
Pro Tip: Start small, and don’t drag up all your grievances with this person. Sometimes communicating verbally is helpful. In other situations, it’s more effective to casually implement the boundary without making a big fuss. Do what resonates with you and your history with the other person.
If phone calls with this person always end up with you fuming after the call, don’t answer their call before bed or before a fun activity you have planned. You don’t need to cut them off completely! But, set parameters around when you have the emotional capacity to handle a call. Then you don’t have to get angry with them for ruining your day off or keeping you from sleeping at night.
Quick Tips for Handling Anger in Specific Scenarios
Don’t Get Buried by Anger at Work
Handling stress at work can feel like an uphill battle. We’re all feeling the impact of global stress, and the workplace is showing us just how hard it is to manage accumulated stress. If you find yourself losing it over the smallest things, so is much of the workforce.
11. Wait to send that email
Whether it’s an email or the person is in front of you, don’t respond quickly. Give yourself time to pause, reflect, and get command of yourself. If you default to angry and passive-aggressive responses, you’ll not only contribute to a toxic work environment, but you could damage your career success.
12. Reduce triggers on the way to work
If you show up to work already disgruntled and annoyed, it won’t take much to tip you into the rage territory. Whether skipping the morning news, taking a different route to work, or developing a morning grounding practice, do what you need to to start the day feeling more emotionally centered.
13. Speak up
This one comes with a big caveat. Don’t speak up with anger. But do speak up. Much of workplace stress builds anger because you suppress feelings of frustration and injustice. If a coworker drives you crazy by constantly interrupting you—ask them to respect your working time. If a boss constantly gives you tasks that should belong to another (full-time!) role, let them know you’re working overtime and discuss hiring another person for those tasks.
Handling Anger With Kids
Raising children can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re struggling with anger. It is a big responsibility, but it’s a beautiful gift.
15. Think about what works in other situations
If you’ve learned to manage triggers at work, apply that to interacting with your child. Just as it’s not acceptable to yell at your coworker, it’s not good to yell at your child. Adults often treat children in ways they would never treat other people. Pulling back and shifting your perspective can help you change how you handle anger with your child or other children.
14. Find out why
This may sound like an obnoxious tip. But the truth is, there’s a reason you’re constantly angry with your children, and it probably falls under 1 of 3 categories:
- You have too much stress in other areas of your life
- Unresolved wounds from your childhood are being triggered
- You haven’t taught your child boundaries and self-regulation
If you’re living on earth, it’s more likely you have too much stress! Start there and identify one thing in your life causing you stress and find a way to limit or remove it. Can a friend or family member pick up the kids after school? Can you work from home 1 day a week? Can you limit phone calls with your critical in-laws?
Once you lighten the load a little, it’s time to dig deeper.
Observe what makes you angry, and then identify why it’s making you angry. And remember, this isn’t about your child. It’s about you. We know you want to give your child a safe and secure environment to grow up in. To do that, you may need to do some serious self-work.
What to Do With Anger Towards Students
Do you find yourself getting angry with your students? Try implementing these tips, but if you continue to struggle with anger, you may need a break!
16. Check your confidence
Some students want you to think you’re in a power struggle because they believe it is. You’ve lost the battle as soon as you meet them on that level to fight for the higher ground. Instead, work on building a core of confidence so that you don’t even need to fight. When they push your buttons, take a breath and envision your authority as a strong tower. Then picture the student as a small bunny trying to storm the tower. You don’t need to fight; there’s no battle here.
17. Listen more
If a student is pushing your buttons, they probably are asking to be heard and seen. This can help you realize that even if they get nasty, this isn’t about you. They need you to stay calm. If you can replace anger with curiosity, it will help you see what is behind the behavior.
But, Are You Really Angry?
If your definition of anger only includes punching in walls and red-faced fury, think again. Overt aggression isn’t the only indication you are angry. Anger is often expressed in some covert (but no-less harmful) ways.
- Withdrawing. Withdrawing is a way some people protect themselves from further hurt, but often it’s accompanied by feelings of anger. If your withdrawal is also passive-aggressive, with a desire to punish the other person, you can be certain anger is present. This can include going silent, physically leaving, or emotionally withdrawing. *Important note: Sometimes withdrawing is necessary for your safety or the safety of others. This could include feeling like you could hurt someone or need space to breathe and calm down. In that case, withdrawal is a method to manage and control anger rather than avoiding dealing with a situation.
- Criticizing and belittling. Verbally cutting others down is undeniably anger. And that includes sarcasm. While your verbal barbs may be clever and give you a sense of control, they are a sign anger is controlling you.
- Punishing behavior. This isn’t easy to identify in yourself, so start by asking what you do when someone hurts you. Do you let them know? Or do you bide your time bringing up all past grievances later during an argument? Or, maybe you punish the other person with passive-aggressive attacks. Whatever it looks like, this punishing behavior comes from the hurt that solidified into anger.
- Self-sabotage. When you repress anger, it can turn into anger at yourself. As a result, this can create an environment where you default to self-sabotage.
- Passivity. If people have regularly taken away your right to make choices, you may withdraw in anger and avoid making decisions. This type of anger quickly grows into bitterness and is a coping mechanism you may use to feel in control of your life.
While all of these behaviors may make you feel in control, the sad reality is it’s only harming you and those around you—especially the people you love.
Anger can feel frightening, and you may have developed these coping mechanisms to protect yourself and others from the depth of your emotions. It’s doing the opposite. As you work to handle your anger, realize the old coping methods aren’t helpful to you anymore.
Mental Health Resources for Managing Anger
Check out these resources to help you get extra support for your mental health.
- 3-Minute Breathe in a Box Visual
- Behavioral Treatment Services Locator – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
- CDC – Coping With Anger
- Mental Health Resources for African Americans
- Mental Health Resources for AAPI Community
- COVID-19 Parenting Tips for Anger
- Therapist Aid Anger Coping Skills Fact Sheet
Root Causes of Anger
Anger is a good emotion, but like any emotion, it can cause harm when it is out of control.
Because anger is often a masking emotion, it’s a sign that other emotions have been repressed or are too big to handle. While this isn’t an extensive list, it will help you begin to see anger in a new light by identifying some of the root causes.
- Fear of loss
- Not feeling heard
- Feeling helpless
- Feeling stupid or humiliated
- Inability to accomplish your goals
- Loss of a dream
- Feelings of rejection or exclusion
- Being nervous
- Feeling overwhelmed or worried
- Repressed sadness or grief
- Having boundaries violated
- Not being able to say no
- Not having your “no” respected
- Fear of intimacy and connection
- Injustice (personal experiences of injustice or witnessing others experience injustice)
Explore what is behind the anger.
Do you really feel anger, or do you feel disrespected?
Is your core emotion fear and helplessness?
Or, maybe, you feel anger because you don’t know how to process feeling vulnerable.
Emotions are complex. Finding what causes the anger will give you insight into what you need to deal with that anger.
8 Key Takeaways To Control Anger
- Identify and name the emotions you’re experiencing. Challenge yourself to use different words to describe those emotions.
- Identify what your unmet needs are and what pain is behind those needs.
- Use the RAIN method. Reflect on the emotion of anger, Allow yourself to feel the emotion, Investigate why you feel this way, and Nurture yourself with compassion and understanding.
- Physically withdraw from the environment you’re in to manage anger. Use this as an emergency technique when you can’t get a handle on the rage.
- Don’t repress or ignore anger. Studies show this causes physical harm, such as hypertension and digestion problems, and harms your mental health.
- Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Communicate openly so you can avoid anger that comes from miscommunication.
- Write about it! Start an anger diary to keep a record of and process your emotions.
- Give yourself time. Managing anger is a growth process; learning new ways of responding and coping with situations takes time.
If you struggle with anger, you also probably have a mean inner critic. Learn how to take control of your life by silencing your inner critic.