Stay In Control Of Your Emotions: How To Release Anger
By: Stephanie Kirby
Updated August 21, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Avia James
We've all had those weak moments in our lives. Times when our anger got the better of us. We reacted in ways we later regretted or found embarrassing. Maybe it was when someone wronged us or when a situation didn't go our way. Exhaustion or overstimulation prevented us from acting rationally. Whatever the reason, we felt the fire in our bellies, tight jaws, and clenched fists. Our hearts raced, and our focus became solely on what angered us.
Anger is a common emotion and can be healthy when it's handled correctly. But sometimes it can feel so hard to keep it under control. Learning how to release anger appropriately can help you stabilize your moods, have healthy relationships, and improve your health.
According to the Mayo Clinic, anger is a natural response to perceived threats-a survival instinct that activates the body's fight or flight reaction. Muscles tighten, and the face and hands begin to flush. Often anger inspires powerful, and sometimes aggressive, feelings and actions to defend ourselves when we feel attacked.
Anger can be triggered by both internal and external factors. External triggers are a result of outside influences, such as a coworker spreading rumors about you or a person cutting you off in heavy traffic. Internal triggers involve brooding about personal issues or obsessing on negative experiences from the past. Learned behaviors, inherited tendencies, and brain chemistry may also play a role in the severity of anger.
Being easily angered can mean you have a low tolerance for frustration. You may feel like you shouldn't be subjected to frustration, annoyance, or any inconvenience. This can cause you to have a much harder time taking anger triggers in stride. But the good news is that you can absolutely learn how to control your anger. Research shows that therapy is able to help 75% of people that struggle with anger management problems.
Why Are Some People Angrier Than Others?
It could be a number of things. Genetics and physiological factors tend to play a role, even at an early age. Some children are noted for being more irritable and easily angered. Learned social and cultural behaviors may also affect someone's ability to handle anger. If someone is taught expressing anger is bad or rude, they may suppress their anger or lash out when they can't handle the emotion any longer. Finally, the family background can play a role. People who grow up in families that are chaotic, disruptive, or not skilled in expressing emotions often have a harder time managing anger.
Not only do people deal with anger for different reasons, but they also deal with it in different ways. The Mayo Clinic talks about three typical categories in which people deal with anger:
- Expression: This is how you convey the message of being angry. Expressing anger could range from reasonable, rational discussion to lashing out in a violent outburst. The healthiest way to express anger is being assertive rather than aggressive.
- Suppression: This involves holding in angry emotions in hopes of converting it to more constructive behavior. Suppressing anger turns your anger inward which can affect your health and well-being.
- Calming Down: By controlling your outward behavior and managing your internal responses, you could allow the intense emotions to subside. This involves knowing yourself, how anger affects you, and coping strategies that work for you.
The Dangers of Suppressing Your Anger
As discussed above, some people choose to suppress their anger in hope of the situation changing or simply going away. Suppressing anger can have significant impacts on your health, including:
- Increasing the chance of heart disease. Those more prone to angry outbursts were at twice the risk of developing coronary disease compared to calmer peers. If you are more prone to being angry, some changes in how you deal with emotions can help your heart. Constructively dealing with anger, like using assertive communication, wasn't associated with heart disease.
- A greater risk of stroke. One study found angry people had a three times higher risk of having a stroke after an angry outburst.
- Weakening the immune system. The stress hormones released when a person is angry can weaken the immune system making a person more susceptible to colds, the flu, infections, or even cancer
- Increasing anxiety and depression. Suppressing anger and not resolving issues can cause a person to fixate on specific triggers. This could lead to higher incidences of depression (especially in men). Also, the hostility of having internalized, unexpressed anger is a major contributor to more intense generalized anxiety disorder symptoms. As you can see, it’s much healthier to learn how to release anger in a healthy way when you feel angry instead of trying to hold it in. It can help to be mindful; anger can sometimes sneak up with other difficult emotions.
Learning to Control Anger
You know that anger is a problem for your physical health, mental health, and relationships. What can you do about it? There are several techniques people use to release their anger, discussed below. Remember, everyone handles anger differently, so try the following tools to determine which method works best for you when you’re feeling angry.
Physical activity is a great way to release anger and put yourself in a better mood. The chemicals released in the brain while doing physical activity are natural mood stabilizers. Working out also lets you redirect the anger into a healthy activity. Though exercise may not solve the problems that got you angry, it will neutralize the difficult emotions so you could think more clearly about solutions. Some great physical activities to try:
- Running, jogging, or a brisk walk
- Lifting weights
- Hitting a punching bag (or a pillow)
- Playing your favorite sport
Physical activities are great, but you can choose any activity you truly enjoy. Doing things which fully absorbs your attention will put the anger at bay and leave you feeling better.
When you’re feeling angry, your breathing may increase. You may find that you take short and shallow breathes. This can trigger other physical symptoms in your body which can lead to things like high blood pressure. Breathing exercises are an easy way to calm down from the body's fight or heightened state of alertness. Taking a few deep breaths helps activate a calming reflex in the body. Practice the following techniques often so they will be easier to apply when anger strikes.
Practice taking slow, controlled breaths. Imagine the air going in through your nose all the way to your belly. Follow the breath as it leaves your body. Another great deep breathing exercise involves mentally counting. Inhale while counting to four, hold the breath for another count of four, then exhale counting to four again. Count to four as your rest, then repeat as necessary.
While you're deep breathing, it may be helpful to imagine a relaxing experience or a pleasant memory. Try to picture it with all of your senses. For instance, if you imagine yourself on a beach, mentally hear the waves, feel the sun on your cheeks, smell the ocean air, etc.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
When you feel angry, you may notice that the muscles seem to tense up throughout your body. One way to release anger is to address this tension. Slowly tense and relax each muscle group one at a time. This will help your body feel more relaxed from anger's muscle tightening response.
In addition to these techniques, guided meditations can help calm anger or other emotions. Several websites offer guided meditations for calming the nerves. You could even install a meditation app on your smartphone to use whenever you’re angry.
Write It Out
Sometimes writing thoughts and emotions on paper helps get them out of your head and puts them in perspective. Consider journaling, creating poetry, or writing a letter or email to someone who wronged you (that you may or may not send). Writing helps organize your thoughts and may provide insights into the situation. When you write, don't just focus on the negative or adverse aspect of the event or situation, try to brainstorm solutions or how you could handle things differently in the future. You can write until your feelings of anger are released.
You may even want to keep a notepad with you at all times so the next time you feel angry, you can start writing right away.
Let Go of the Person or Situation
Sometimes it's simply best to walk away from your source of anger. It could be permanent or temporary, but either way, it can be helpful to take a break from the triggers consistently causing you anger. If you need to end a relationship or find a different job, do it. Change is not always easy, but it is necessary if the situation is causing you significant anger.
If something or someone in the past keeps triggering angry thoughts and memories, consider using a symbolic ceremony to help let go of the anger. One way to do this is by getting a rock that can fit in your hand. Ideally, you should do this next to a body of water. Go outside and take a few deep breaths. Hold the rock tight and imagine all your anger and resentment being transferred to the rock. When ready, take a deep breath and release while throwing the rock as hard as you can, over the water. Watch the rock disappear into the water.
Will the rock ceremony (or similar ones) solve all your problems? Of course not. It could, however, be the first step to changing the way you think about a troubling situation. It can also help you release anger at that moment. For example, say you're struggling with anger over a bad breakup. Each time you start to fixate on how that person wronged you, instead of thinking more about it, picture that balloon containing your anger disappearing into the sky. It symbolizes your commitment to move on and change your thinking. There are many success stories of people that find relief from feelings of anger through these strategies.
Change the Way You Think
When you're angry, it's easy to fall into "black-and-white thinking" and perceiving things are much worse than they are. Cognitive restructuring can help you replace negative thoughts with more rational ones. Some tips for changing your thinking:
- Avoid words like "always" or "never" when thinking or talking about the person or situation making you angry. These absolute words justify your anger and alienate others trying to help you find a solution.
- Understand anger has a way of quickly making thoughts irrational. By taking a few of the breaths above then trying to determine if your thoughts are irrational, such as "everyone should like me," or "the world is out to get me." Replace the irrational with more logical, constructive thoughts.
- Translate expectations into desires. It's easy to demand fairness, appreciation, etc. when angry. That doesn't always sit well with others. Don't believe you deserve everything. Request your desires to others. It may not always work, but this type of assertive communication will help get your point across in a much more amicable manner.
Develop Your Support Network
If you struggle with anger, finding an appropriate support network could be the difference between lashing out at the world and constructively releasing anger. Turn to a family member, close friend, or partner that has an empathetic, rational approach to helping you vent your emotions.
Of course, not everyone in your social circle will offer proper support. Some people could enable or validate your angry thoughts, making the emotion more intense. Find someone who is not quick to take sides, has a calmer demeanor, and has a proven history of talking you out of irrationality.
How Professionals Can Help
Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of a supportive friend or loved one. Many people struggling with intense anger turn to therapists and counseling. Therapists are trained to provide a person with insights into their thought processes, how to release anger, and changes they could make to constructively and assertively deal with anger.
A therapist can work with you to help you determine where your feelings of anger are coming from. It’s not just that you’re an angry person and they can help you discover why you feel that way. They can also help you learn ways to release your anger so you can overcome the mental and physical symptoms that you experience as a result of it. Then, the next time you’re feeling angry, you’ll have an idea of what you can do to release anger and move forward in a healthy way.
If a traditional therapy setting is not right for you, BetterHelp offers affordable, online therapy sessions. They can help with anger and a variety of other mental health concerns from the comfort of your own home. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.
"Josh has been really helpful to me and helping me find ways to control my anger. I am more positive now and it's all thanks to Josh for helping me get strategies."
"Krysten has been an immense help in dealing with and confronting my anger and depression issues. I started to notice immediate changes in my general disposition within a week of working with her. My friends and family have even said I seem less bitter and jaded. And the fact that I can communicate with her frequently has done wonders in keeping me on track and progressing forward. My time working with Krysten and being on BetterHelp has been a positive experience and done much more for me than traditional in-office therapy ever did."
While anger is a normal emotion, it can be one that's difficult to manage. If you're struggling with anger management, the tips in this article can help you make the positive changes that you need in life. A counselor can help you stay on track, while you move at a pace that's comfortable for you. Take the first step to healthy anger and fulfilling relationships today.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are the symptoms of repressed anger?
The symptoms of repressed anger are many. It’s more than just angry feelings. You may have all or some of the symptoms of pent up anger. And when you find a therapist, they can help you make sense of your behavior. If you feel like you need to be busy all the time or you have ADHD, it could also be an indication of repressed anger.
Some people that have issues with repressed anger avoid angry feelings which can lead to eating disorders, addiction, or mild depression.
Some of the symptoms that tend to be less visible for people dealing with repressed anger are having a sarcastic sense of humor, being passive aggressive, engaging in self-sabotage, needing to be in control of their lives, and having trouble saying no. If you hate rejection and little things plague you, you might be repressing your anger. It’s easy for repressed anger to cause physical symptoms like having tense muscles, having high blood pressure, feeling fatigued, having chronic pain, displaying nervous habits, and having an occasional big angry blow-up.
If you can identify with the symptoms listed above, it can be important to learn how to release anger. Anger can negatively impact you physically and mentally. You may benefit from working with a therapist who can help you to express your anger, mindfully releasing anger and even just share your story to help find relief.
Why do I get angry so easily?
Everyone has feelings of anger once in a while and that is certainly normal. Anger is a natural emotion that everyone experiences. However, if your feelings of anger seem to control you or get the best of you, it could be a problem.
You may struggle with anger issues because you’ve been mistreated by someone in the past. This can make you extra sensitive to times when someone else might be wronging you in the future. Or you may get angry easily because you have a difficult time handling other difficult emotions.
Feelings of anger on a regular basis can also be a symptom of depression, especially in men.
If you’re angry every day or you feel angry most of the time, it’s probably something that you need to address. Instead of feeling bad and remorseful about your angry expressions after the fact, it can be helpful to find a therapist that specializes in anger issues. They can help you get to the root cause of your anger and learn healthy ways for releasing anger. It may only take a few sessions with a therapist to help you get your anger under control and start feeling content and happy.
How do you release anger in your body?
When you feel anger in your body, it’s important to release your anger so that it doesn’t fester and build up. There are plenty of healthy ways to express your anger after a bad day. Punching a pillow or shouting out loud are a couple of simple ways to release your anger. Crying is also a healthy way to release your anger in the heat of the moment.
Some people find that practicing a calming activity like yoga, tai chi, mindfulness or meditation helps them to dissipate their anger. There are numerous types of therapy to help your body release anger and you may need to find a therapist to help you navigate your way to the best treatment for you.
What are the effects of hatred?
When you’re feeling angry, if you’re mindful of it, you can usually manage your anger. Hatred can be a byproduct of anger and it’s often caused by situations that led to hurt feelings. Like with anger, having feelings of hatred can cause you to have depression or passive aggression.
Hatred can also lead you to more serious behavioral symptoms from challenges with ADHD, eating disorders, or addiction. Having chronic feelings of hatred can have a major negative impact on your body and mind which will affect every relationship in your life. Among other things, it’s common for people that are harboring hatred over a person or an issue to respond with passive aggression.
If you struggle with feeling angry and anger issues causing you to feel hatred towards yourself or others, it’s important to find healthy ways to release anger. it could be helpful to find a therapist that has success stories of treating other people for issues related to hatred and anger. They can work with you to help you learn how to manage your anger.
How do you release hatred?
Hurt feelings can run deep. When you’re feeling hate, getting to a point where you can be mindfully releasing anger and hate can feel like the culmination of a giant sneeze. Your best bet for having success with dealing with your feelings and releasing anger is to find a therapist that will help you to explore various types of therapy to help you identify the hurt feelings that led to your feelings of hatred.
Therapy is a process that takes time. Help is available so don’t feel overwhelmed or that you need to get to the point of mindfully releasing anger completely on your own. The therapeutic process is worthwhile because it will help you get to a place of peace and happiness.
If you’re looking for ways to release anger and hatred in the moment, it could help to learn techniques like progressive muscle relaxation.
How can I control my temper?
It’s easy for people that don’t struggle with anger problems to tell others that they just need to control their temper. However, if you struggle with pent up anger because you don’t realize the impact it has or you’re just not sure how to express anger in an appropriate way, learning to control your anger It's not that simple. In fact, you may even fee like those people are making you angry for saying that. However, with the right help and learning what strategies work for you the best, you can learn to manage your anger in a healthy way.
The first place to start is understanding what things that are triggering your temper to get out of control. For example, people with eating disorders may be eating way too much or too little which throws their body’s equilibrium out of balance. We need the right foods in the right amounts to provide us with mental, emotional, and physical energy.
Another common situation where it’s easy to lose control of your temper is when you’re grieving the loss of someone that you deeply loved and cared about. There are predictable steps that you go through when you’re grieving and one of them can cause you to go through a period of anger.
Anger can also be caused by mental health challenges such as depression.
You may feel negative physical symptoms along with the emotion, which can cause you to act out in frustration. Experiencing tension throughout your body, can cause people to feel short tempered. This is one reason that progressive muscle relaxation can help release your anger.
Whether the cause of your anger is due to addiction, an eating disorder, grief, genetics, or something else, it’s important to find a therapist to help you get your anger under control.
What is an anger release ceremony?
This sounds more formal than what it really is. You can have an anger release ceremony on your own by finding ways to channel your anger into something creative and freeing. It helps you with mindfully releasing anger in a healthy way instead of taking it out on the thing or person who angered you.
Some people have success stories from doing activities like art as a way to release anger. They may get into painting a picture when they are struggling with feelings of anger. Or, they may turn on the music and dance. They may grab a notebook and pen and write furiously until they release anger.
If you want to give this a try, you may need to try several different things when feeling angry to find what connects the best for you.
When you’re angry, you can allow your feelings of anger to take control of you. Or, you can choose to put the energy that anger brings to a positive use. Find a way to turn it into something good and when you’re done with your activity, you may find that you’re not feeling angry anymore. However, if you continue to struggle, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.
What is the best anger management technique?
There are many ways to control your anger. Finding the right way to manage your anger can depend on why you’re struggling with anger issues in the first place.
For example, if anger is a result of depression then the best way to manage your feelings of anger is to manage your depression. Or, if you struggle with anger because of past hurt in your life, learning how to forgive the person who angered you could be the best solution.
Therapy can be an effective way to learn how to control anger and express anger in a healthy way. When you find a therapist that you trust, he or she may ask you to complete some therapeutic tests. Using the results from the tests, therapy is the next step toward healing.
The best anger management technique is the one that works for you.
How do you stop a rage attack?
Rage is a severe form of anger. At its peak, it can be difficult to diffuse. Learning relaxation techniques is the key to dissipating feelings of rage. Try to remove yourself from the situation. Spend a few moments practicing relaxation tools like deep breathing, using imagery, or practicing mindfulness to help subdue your angry feelings.
Try to reframe the issue and change how you’re thinking about it. Communicate clearly with others around you about how you’re feeling and ask for their help in problem-solving. Do your best to ease up on yourself. Some people find that humor is a good way to work through a situation and ease the tension.
While these are short-term solutions for dealing with rage at the moment, it’s important to get at the root of what’s causing your rage to come to the surface, which isn’t always easy unless you find a therapist that you feel comfortable working with.
It’s unrealistic to think that you can be in complete control of your emotions at all times. For the sake of your own well-being and the health of the important relationships in your life, it’s important to keep your anger in check as much as possible. If you haven’t been able to do that on your own up to this point, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to do it moving forward without professional help. Asking for help isn’t a weakness and it could change your life for the better.