14 Anger Management Techniques And How They Work

By Sarah Fader |Updated May 13, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Dr. Sonya Bruner, PsyD

Anger is a natural, healthy emotion and a common response to many situations. However, what you do when you are angry can cause significant problems at work, school, or at home if you don’t have the tools and techniques to cope with and express it healthily. If you find that you have seemingly uncontrollable anger, you may benefit from adopting some simple anger management techniques.

Anger management techniques can truly benefit anyone who tends to get angry easily, or anyone whose anger seems to get disproportionately large in comparison to the situation at hand. If you seem to have a short fuse with a big bang, anger management techniques can help you keep your cool and have more effective interactions and relationships.

Some of these anger management techniques are things you can do on the spot as soon as you feel your anger growing to an unhealthy level, whereas some of them are things you can do to prevent your anger from rising in the first place. Although these techniques do not replace professional help, a professional can help you implement them if needed.

  1. Deep Breathing

Anger Is Natural - But Sometimes It Can Be Hard To Handle

Deep breathing is often useful for managing both anxiety and anger, the latter of which don’t always pair together, but certainly can. Breathing exercises are a great way to engage in deep breathing, and research shows that they truly are an effective way to help relieve things like stress and anger.

For example, box breathing is an often-used and effective deep breathing exercise. It involves breathing in slowly as deeply as you can to the count of four, holding for a count of four, breathing out slowly to the count of four, and holding at the bottom for a count of four. This is repeated several times, or as many times as needed. To further increase the effect, you can try picturing a place that makes you feel calm and happy.

2. Visualization

If you can separate yourself from the source of your anger for a few minutes, visualization can be helpful in calming yourself and releasing your anger. It is important that you do not visualize harming anyone in this process. Instead, visualize other representations of your anger.

For example, you could visualize an angry tornado ripping through a field, tearing up trees and stirring up dust. Your anger is the tornado and visualizing this harmless destruction can help you release that anger. After a couple of minutes of the visualization, imagine that the tornado dissipates, along with your anger.

If you aren’t sure how to engage in visualization in a way that helps you, you may try a guided meditation that includes visualization. Often, if you search online, you can find these for free, and sometimes, they may relate to a specific topic like relief from anger.

3. Journaling

Journaling can be a great way to release anger, but it can also help you notice patterns in your personal thinking, which can be advantageous in the long-term. After a situation makes you angry, sit down and write out your thoughts and feelings. Some people find it therapeutic to journal with paper and pen so that it forces them to slow down to articulate their thoughts, whereas others may use technology.

4. Physical Release Of Anger

Sometimes, you may feel that your anger is so strong that you feel it in your body. You may notice a spike in adrenaline or energy that shows up not just emotionally, but physically. A physical release through running, kickboxing, or another form of physical activity - even a brisk walk - can help. In fact, studies show that physical activity is highly supportive of anger management.

5. Vocal Anger Release

Sometimes, it can be helpful to be really vocal to release your anger. Sometimes, you just feel like you have to yell or scream to get it out. You don't want to yell at anyone, so you'll want to go somewhere you can be alone. Go to an empty parking lot or a wooded area. You could even go sit in your car if you are at work or school. Or go to your room and yell into a pillow - many experts say that this actually does work.

You could also use statements about your anger to release it. Yelling things like "I am angry," "You were wrong" or anything that you are feeling can really help you express your anger in a healthy way. Again, make sure that you are doing this alone so that others are not affected by your yelling and anger release.

6. Vent

Social connections are very helpful for overall health. On the other hand, emotional repression is correlated with negative health impacts and can actually worsen anger. Venting to someone, whether that’s a hotline volunteer, a therapist, or a friend, can help. Depending on what you need as a unique individual, this may be something you do after you get the initial energy out through another practice, like a brisk walk, so that you can think over your feelings and bring your body and mind to a more relaxed state first. Additionally, if you want to vent but do not want advice - or vice versa - you can let the listener know.

7. Take A Time Out

Time outs aren't just for children. When you feel yourself getting angry or irritated and you are worried that you may easily become too angry, take a time out. Go to the bathroom and close the door or go to your car and sit for a few minutes. Even during a workday, there are usually opportunities to take a time out.

When you are in the “time out,” you may focus on your breathing and calming your thoughts. You can use visualization techniques to imagine yourself in a soothing place like a clearing in the woods or your favorite place to go camping. Visualize yourself in nature or some other favorite place. Try to find things in your visualization that engage the senses.

8. Look At Your Needs

Not always, but sometimes, anger is indicative of a greater need. Consequently, trouble with anger management can sometimes pair with difficulty identifying your emotional, psychological, social, or physical needs, which may or may not stem from having unmet needs in the past. If this is the case, or if it could be, it might be helpful to ask yourself, “What do I need right now?” or, “Is there a deeper need that I can pinpoint or acknowledge that relates to how I feel?” Getting in touch with yourself in this way is something that may occur in anger management courses or therapy.

9. Cognitive Restructuring

Cognitive restructuring is something we can all benefit from, and while it can be used in many ways, it also can help with anger as a specific topic. Typically, restructuring involves acknowledging a thought that may be maladaptive and actively working to reframe or challenge it.

How you talk to yourself is every bit as important as how you talk to others, perhaps more so. When you tell yourself negative things like "Everything is ruined," you are perpetuating a negative emotion. When you change your thinking to tell yourself "This is upsetting, and it's understandable to be angry, but now, it's time to find solutions," you turn that negative energy into something that can help you move forward.

Cognitive restructuring is not always easy to establish as a skill on your own. You may need to get help with this important tool. The best way to learn these techniques is often to go through cognitive behavioral therapy with a licensed therapist.

10. Problem Solving

Often, one may become angry because they are frustrated over a situation. This will likely be most applicable if there is a particular thing that makes you angry that you can pinpoint. If you can change your focus to realistic problem-solving, you may be able to diffuse your anger and come up with positive solutions in some cases, even if this doesn’t necessarily take place in the heat of the moment. This can sometimes pair with cognitive restructuring. Look at things that are in your power as opposed to what is not. For example, if you’re angry with a partner because they didn’t support you the way you needed when you were sad or otherwise upset, you may take a breather and ask to have a problem-solving conversation later on where you communicate how to navigate this situation together in the future.

11. Radical Acceptance

We just talked about problem-solving, but what about scenarios in which there’s no solution? Radical acceptance may be valuable. Maybe, you are an adult child who is upset with a parent for things that happened in the distant or recent past, but they refuse to go to family therapy, validate your feelings, acknowledge these things, or talk things out. Unlike the example above with a romantic partner who may be willing to have a problem-solving conversation, you may need to accept that you can’t change your parents. What you can do, perhaps, is set boundaries, feel your feelings, and focus on being the best person you can be. You can’t control other people, so don’t let them hold you back from being someone you are proud to be.

12. Using Humor

Anger Is Natural - But Sometimes It Can Be Hard To Handle

Humor is a great way to diffuse anger in some scenarios. When you can find the humor in a situation and laugh about it, you may find that you feel better. Or you turn to humor as a general coping tool, even if it has nothing to do with the anger itself. Why? Because laughing is actually known to relieve stress, which can correlate with anger at times. When you feel angry, you might notice that your body feels tense, and that emotional stress weighs you down. Sometimes, utilizing laughter can make you feel a lot lighter inside.

13. Changing Your Environment

One of the things you may be able to do immediately when you are feeling yourself getting angry or frustrated is to change your environment. Going outside, in particular, may help you find emotional and physical relief. If it’s possible to change your environment, this can be a great way to take a breather or a time out as we mentioned before.

14. Establish Readiness For Anger Management

One research study that was done suggests that if someone is not ready for anger management, it is less likely that therapy or tools will help them manage their anger. It may be advantageous to work toward a state of readiness to overcome problems related to anger or anger management, which usually entails understanding the problems that your anger is causing in your everyday life and relationships. Anger management concerns are actually quite common, and there are many potential contributing factors that may be relevant to you. You aren’t alone, and it is possible to build a better relationship with anger and anger management.

Getting Help

What if you find it tough to apply these tools? Alternatively, what if anger management or stressors in life that contribute to your feelings of anger are ongoing? If so, it may be time to reach out to someone who can aid you in the process. A therapist like the independent providers at BetterHelp can help you evaluate behaviors related to anger, give you tools to change your thinking or better manage your feelings, and address any other relevant areas of concern.

Helpful mental health resources delivered to your inbox
For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns
Speak with a Licensed Therapist
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.