Anger is a natural, primitive emotion, one that serves a number of distinct purposes, from helping us set boundaries when we need space to pumping us full of additional adrenaline when we encounter an altercation. In other words, it’s extremely useful. It’s also extremely not, as it can crop up in the wrong situations and lashing out is an easy way to isolate yourself from family and friends. When trying to manager anger, the purpose is not to never ignore the emotion, but to understand what anger management tools can help you control it. What anger management tools are the most useful? That’s what we asked a variety of therapists, all of whom offered tricks to help recognize, understand, and extinguish the emotion so that it doesn’t shoot off like a solar flare and singe those around you who don’t deserve it. Here, then, are 25 anger management tools to use when you’re feeling pissed off.
Count Backwards From 10
“A quick way to calm down is to practice mindful breathing while counting backward from ten. When we’re angry, we get hijacked by our fight or flight response in our amygdala, which turns off the problem-solving parts of our brains. Focusing on our breath helps calm the amygdala while counting helps activate the frontal lobe of the brain, which helps us with problem-solving.” — Elizabeth Eiten, LMSW, CCTP, psychotherapist
Write Your Thoughts Down
“If you can, write it down. If you’re angry with someone or something and they’re not there, go and start writing. Writing down our feelings and thoughts can not only dissipate the anger but it can also provide us insight into why we even got angry.” — Dr. Rudi Rahbar, Psy.D
Yell In Your Car
“If you have time or space, you can yell in your car or shake your arms or even run in place. If you are in the situation, you can walk or shift positions or create a large exhale to discharge energy.” — Nicole Siegfried, Ph.D, CEDS
“Sometimes, we lean in too much to unhelpful emotions that are sustaining our emotions. Whether we want to admit it or not, we sometimes get caught up in the fantasy of these emotions and will feed into the anger. We might replay it over and over again in our minds or seek validation from friends, loved ones or coworkers to ‘prove’ that our emotions are justified. But if we take time away from the emotion of anger for even a few minutes and ‘productively distract’ ourselves by focusing on other things, we could actually see a shift in our emotions for the better.” — Annie M. Varvaryan, Psy. D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Preemptively Focus On You
“One of the best approaches for calming down when you’re feeling anxious is to increase your overall level of self-care during the daytime hours. Working out, seeing a therapist regularly, and having a strong support system can all help take you from a level 10 to a level 6.
The stronger your ability to care for yourself the calmer you will be in the evening. Additionally, evening self-care routines like drinking green decaf tea, taking a warm bath, yoga, or reading a book before bed can help you wind down.” — Louis Laves-Webb, LCSW, LPC-S
Take Responsibility For Your Own Feelings
“Change the conversation you are having with yourself. Negative self-talk is not helpful. Take personal responsibility for your feelings rather than blaming others, and challenge your automatic thinking. Also, practice thinking like an optimist. Always view the glass as half-full. And adjust your expectations. Do you expect too much of others? Do you expect too much of yourself? This only fuels anger.” — Cathryn Leff, LMFT, CCTP, PhD Candidate
Put Your Anger in Context
“Learn how to scale your own anger. The better you get at using your own ability to register your anger, the better you will get at calming down. First try to figure out what happens when you get angry. What do you do? What do you feel — hot, cold, head throbbing, etc? Then ask yourself how angry you feel on a scale of 1 to 10. If it’s a 9 out of 10, then ask yourself what you can do to move to an 8 or 7 out of 10. Bonus points for asking a partner for accountability to help you do this in the heat of the moment.” — Carla Buck, MA, LMHCA
March In Place
“Anger is a natural emotion and it’s often a mask for fear. To calm down, visualize yourself in a safe calm space or march in place. You can even go for a walk. Marching and walking can open your brain which typically closes down when you are angry.” — Brittany A Johnson, LMHC
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