Top Twelve Approaches to Manage Anger
The goal of anger management is to reduce both your
emotional and the physiological arousal associated with
too much or too intense anger. You can't get rid of, or
avoid, the things or the people that annoy or even enrage
you, nor in most cases can you control or even change them,
but you can learn to better influence them, and you
certainly can learn to control your reactions.
There are a number of common approaches to managing
these circumstances in general, and anger, specifically.
You will find them in most of the pop-psychology literature
on anger management. Here’s the top twelve:
1) Create a short psychological detour. Although it may seem
cliché, counting to 10 before reacting really can defuse at
least some of your temper. It does not cure all, but it is
a good place to start.
2) Practice relaxation skills. Learning skills to relax and
de-stress can also help control your temper when it may flare
up. Practice deep-breathing exercises, visualize a relaxing
scene, or repeat a calming word or phrase to yourself, such as
"Take it easy." Other proven ways to ease anger include
listening to music, writing in a journal and doing yoga.
Learn to meditate and practice every day. This will gradually
train you to de-automatize, which is the precursor to becoming
3) Get some space. Take a break from the person you're angry
with until your frustrations subside a bit. Go for a walk.
The underlying principle that psychologists use is to change
your environment. Just leave and come back later. It is very
hard to maintain the same internal mind set and mood, if you
4) Get some exercise. Physical activity can provide an outlet
for your emotions, especially if you're about to erupt. Go for
a brisk walk in this case, or a run. Better outlets are
swimming, lifting weights or shooting baskets. It helps if
there is a gym on site with a shower, so you can clean up
afterwards, feel fresh and then later again approach the problem.
If sports is your “thing,” pick one that will allow the
creative use of imagery while playing. I play volleyball, so
when I spike a ball, which is hitting it very hard, preferably
straight down, I just think of the many insurance companies that
sent me denial letters that week. I play a very vigorous game
(thank you very much Blue Cross, Cigna, Aetna…).
5) Avoidance: If your child's chaotic room makes you furious
every time you walk by it, shut the door. Don't make yourself
look at what infuriates you. Don't say, "Well, my child should
clean up the room so I won't have to be angry!" That's not the
point. The point is to keep you calm. This is not the same as
suppressing your anger. This is about choosing your battles,
after you have your wits about you.
6) Think carefully before you say anything. Otherwise, you're
likely to say something you'll regret. It can be helpful to
write down what you want to say so that you can stick to the
issues. When you're angry, it's easy to get sidetracked.
7) Once you're calm, express your anger. It's healthy to express
your frustration in a non-confrontational way. Stewing about it
can make the situation worse.
8) Use 'I' statements when describing the problem. This will
help you to avoid criticizing or placing blame, which can make the
other person angry or resentful and may increase tension. For
instance, say, "I'm upset you didn't help with the housework this
evening," instead of, "You should have helped with the housework."
If the boss promised you a raise but later reneged,
you might have said, “Gee, boss, I’m disappointed. First you said….
and then you said….” This is assertiveness.
9) Identify solutions to the situation. Instead of focusing on
what made you mad, work with the person who angered you to resolve
the issue at hand.
10) Give yourself a break. Make sure you have some "personal time"
scheduled for times of the day that you know are particularly
stressful. One example is the hard working mother who has a
standing rule when she comes home from work. For the first 15
minutes "nobody talks to Mom unless the house is on fire." After
this brief quiet time, she feels better prepared to handle demands
from her kids without blowing up.
11) Don’t hold a grudge. If you can forgive the other person, it
will help you both. It's unrealistic to expect everyone to behave
exactly as you want. However, we are not wired to forgive others
until our strong negative feelings are resolved. In other words,
without the release of negative feelings, likely there will be no
forgiveness. The two biggest negative feelings that muck up
forgiveness are anger, followed by hurt.
12) Make anger work for you. Do something productive. When
angry, try cleaning your house. Manually sweep your driveway.
Wash the car. Obliterate weeds. When you’re finished, you’ll
have something to show for it and you’ll be less angry.