11 Anger Management Strategies That Can Help You Calm Down Fast

Anger management strategies will help you keep your cool

Difficulty managing your anger can lead to a variety of problems; saying things you regret, yelling at your kids, threatening your co-worker, sending rash emails, health problems, or physical violence.

Anger management problems aren’t always that serious, however. Instead, you might just find that you waste a lot of time thinking about events that upset you or venting about people you dislike.

Anger management isn’t about never getting angry. Instead, it involves learning how to recognize, cope with, and express your anger in healthy and productive ways.

Anger management is a skill that everyone can learn. And, there’s always room for improvement.

Illustration by Cindy Chung, Verywell

Why Does Anger Need to Be Managed?

Anger is an emotion that can range from mild irritation to intense rage.

While many people refer to anger as a “negative emotion,” anger can be quite positive. Angry feelings may spur you to stand up for someone or it may inspire you to create social change.

When left unchecked, angry feelings can lead to aggressive behavior, like yelling at someone or damaging property. Or, angry feelings may cause you to withdraw from the world and turn your anger inward.

Angry emotions become problematic when they’re felt too often or too intensely or when they’re expressed in unhealthy ways.

Too much anger can take a toll on you, physically, mentally, and socially. Anger management strategies are meant to help you discover healthy ways to reduce and express your feelings.

Cognitive Behavioral Strategies

Research consistently shows that cognitive behavioral interventions are effective strategies for improving anger management.

Cognitive behavioral interventions involve changing the way an individual thinks and behaves. It’s based on the notion that your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all connected.

Your thoughts and behaviors can either fuel your emotions or reduce them. So if you want to shift your emotional state away from anger, you can change what you’re thinking about and what you’re doing.

Cognitive behavioral strategies for anger management involve shifting away from the thoughts and behaviors that fuel your anger. Without fuel to keep the fire burning, the fire inside you will begin to dwindle and you'll calm down.

The best way to manage your anger is to create an anger management control plan. Then, you'll know what to do when you start feeling upset.

1) Identify What Triggers Your Anger

If you’ve gotten into the habit of losing your temper, it can be helpful to take stock of the things that trigger your anger. Long lines, traffic jams, snarky comments from a friend, or being overtired are just a few things that might shorten your fuse.

That’s not to say you should blame people or external circumstances for your inability to keep your cool. But, understanding the things that trigger your anger can help you plan accordingly.

You might decide to structure your day differently to help you manage your stress better. Or, you might practice some anger management techniques before you encounter circumstances that you usually find distressing so you can lengthen your fuse—meaning that a single frustrating episode won’t set you off.

2) Determine if Your Anger Is a Friend or Enemy

Before you spring into action calming yourself down, ask yourself if your anger is a friend or an enemy.

If you’re witnessing someone’s rights being violated or your anger is signaling to you that the circumstances you’re in aren’t healthy, your anger might be helpful. Then, you might proceed by changing the situation—rather than changing your emotional state.

Your anger might give you the courage you need to take a stand or make a change.

If, however, your anger is causing distress or it’s threatening to cause you to lash out, your anger may be an enemy. In that case, it makes sense to work on changing your emotions by calming yourself down.

3) Recognize Your Warning Signs

It may feel like your anger hits you in an instant. But, there are warning signs when your anger is on the rise. Recognizing those warning signs can help you take action so you can calm yourself down and prevent your anger from getting to a boiling point.

Think about the physical warning signs of anger. Perhaps your heart beats fast or your face feels hot. Or, maybe you begin to clench your fists.

You also might notice some cognitive changes. Perhaps your mind races or you begin “seeing red.”

When you recognize your warning signs, you have the opportunity to take immediate action so you can prevent yourself from doing or saying things that create even bigger problems in your life.

4) Step Away From the Situation

Trying to win an argument or sticking it out in an unhealthy situation will fuel your anger. One of the best things you can do when your anger is on the rise is to take a break.

Take a break when a conversation gets heated. Leave a meeting if you think you’re going to explode. A time out can be key to helping you calm your brain and your body down.

If there’s someone that you routinely get into heated disputes with, like a friend or family member, talk about taking a time-out and resume when you're both feeling calm.

Explain that you aren’t trying to dodge difficult subjects, but you’re working on managing your anger better. And you won’t be able to have a productive conversation when you’re feeling really upset.

You can rejoin the discussion or address the issue again when you're feeling calmer.

5) Talk to a Trusted Friend

If there’s someone who has a calming effect on you, talking through an issue or expressing your feelings to that person may be helpful.

It’s important to note, however, that venting can backfire. Complaining about your boss, describing all the reasons you don’t like someone or grumbling about all of your perceived injustices may add fuel to the fire.

A common misconception is that you have to vent your anger to feel better. But, studies show you don’t need to “get your anger out.” Smashing things when you’re upset, for example, may actually make you angrier.

So it’s important to use this coping skill with caution. If you’re going to talk to a friend, make sure you’re working on developing a solution or reducing your anger, not just venting.

You might find that the best way to use this strategy is to talk about something other than the situation causing you to feel angry.

6) Get Your Body Moving

Anger gives you a rush of energy and one of the best ways to put that surge to good use is to engage in physical activity. Whether you go for a brisk walk or you decide to hit the gym, working out can burn off the extra tension.

Regular exercise can also help you decompress. Aerobic activity reduces stress, which might help improve your frustration tolerance.

7) Change the Way You Think

Angry thoughts add fuel to your anger. Thinking things like, “I can’t stand it. This traffic jam is going to ruin everything,” will increase your frustration.

When you find yourself thinking about things that fuel your anger, reframe your thoughts. Remind yourself of the facts by saying something like, “There are millions of cars on the road every day. Sometimes, there will be traffic jams.”

Focusing on the facts—without adding in catastrophic predictions or distorted exaggerations—can help you stay calmer.

You also might develop a mantra that you can repeat to drown out the thoughts that fuel your anger. Saying, "I'm OK. Stay calm," or "Not helpful," over and over again can help you keep the thoughts that fuel your anger at bay.

8) Change the Channel

Ruminating about an upsetting situation fuels angry feelings. If, for example, you’ve had a bad day at work, rehashing everything that went wrong all evening will keep you stuck in a state of frustration.

The best way to calm down might be to change the channel in your brain and focus on something else altogether.

But, you’re likely to find that telling yourself “Don’t think about that,” isn’t a good way to get your mind off something. The best way to mentally shift gears is to distract yourself with an activity.

Clean the kitchen, weed the garden, pay some bills, or play with the kids. Find something to do that will keep your mind occupied enough that you won’t ruminate on the things upsetting you. Then, your body and your brain can calm down.

9) Engage in a Relaxation Exercise

There are many different relaxation exercises and it’s important to find the one that works best for you. Breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation are two common strategies for reducing tension.

The best part is, both exercises can be performed quickly and discreetly. So whether you’re frustrated at work or you’re angry at a dinner engagement, you can let go of stress quickly.

It’s important to note, however, that relaxation exercises take practice. At first, you might not feel as though they’re effective or you might question whether they’re going to work for you. But with practice, they can become your go-to strategies for anger management.

10) Explore the Feelings Beneath Your Anger

Sometimes it helps to take a moment and think about what emotions might be lurking beneath your anger. Anger often serves as a protective mask to help you avoid feeling more painful emotions, like embarrassment, sadness, and disappointment.

When someone gives you feedback that’s hard to hear, for example, you might lash out in anger because you’re embarrassed. Convincing yourself the other person is bad for criticizing you might make you feel better by keeping your embarrassment at bay.

But, acknowledging those underlying emotions—and labeling them—can help you get to the root of the problem. Then, you can decide to take appropriate action.

11) Create a Calm Down Kit

If you tend to come home from work stressed out and you take out your anger on your family or you know that workplace meetings cause you a lot of frustration, create a calm down kit that you can use to relax.

Think about objects that might help engage your senses. When you can look, hear, see, smell, and touch calming things, you can change your emotional state.

You might fill a shoe box with scented hand lotion, a photo of you on vacation with your family, a picture of a serene landscape, a spiritual passage about staying calm, and a few pieces of your favorite candy.

You might also create a sort of virtual calm down kit that you can take everywhere. Calming music and images, guided meditation, or instructions for breathing exercises could be stored in a special folder on your smartphone.

A Word From Verywell

For many people, angry outbursts serve a purpose. Yelling at someone may get them to comply with your demands. Or lashing out at a partner may show that individual that you mean business.

While aggressive behavior may get your needs met right now, there are long-term consequences. Other people might not like or respect you if you can’t tame your temper. Or, your words might cause lasting damage to the relationship.

If you’ve been using your anger as a tool to get your needs met, you may benefit from learning healthier and more socially appropriate strategies. Asking for help or speaking up in an assertive manner might help you get what you want without causing more problems in the long-term. If anger has been causing problems in your life and you’re struggling to tame your temper on your own, seek professional help.

Some mental health problems can be linked to anger management issues. For example, PTSD can be linked to aggressive outbursts. Depressive disorders can also cause irritability and may make it more difficult to manage anger. 

Start by talking to your physician about your mood and your behavior. Your physician will want to ensure you don’t have any physical health issues that are contributing to the problem.

If your physician feels treatment is warranted, you may be referred to a mental health professional for further evaluation. Depending on your goals and treatment needs, therapy may involve individual sessions as well as anger management classes.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources