How To Control Anger—The Complete Guide To Anger Management

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated April 18, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Identifying, processing, and managing emotions can be challenging, especially with severe anger. Anger is a powerful, productive emotion when healthily expressed and processed. However, without proper outlets for anger, it may be challenging to cope with, leading to emotional and behavioral challenges. To avoid experiencing frequent severe anger and unhealthy behavioral responses due to this emotion, there are a few steps you can take each day to calm your nervous system and control your emotions.  

Therapy can be a healthy outlet for your anger

How to control anger

Developing a toolbox of anger management strategies can be a productive step toward more significant control over your emotions, improved mental health, and a more positive outlook. Below are a few ways to add more of these skills to your daily life.

Identify the root of your anger

Anger may sometimes appear as a secondary emotion, meaning another primary emotion—like fear or sadness—arises beforehand or prompts it. To understand how to reduce anger, it can help to identify the primary emotion you experienced, which may be referred to as “the root.”

For instance, if you aren’t given a promotion you’ve applied for, you might first feel sad that you weren’t considered, then fearful that you may not have enough money to pay for your food the next month. These emotions can lead to anger and a sense of helplessness. Identifying and working through the initial thoughts and emotions you experience may help you avoid or reduce anger. 

Look at the “bigger picture” 

When you avoid focusing on minor irritations in life, you may be able to better prevent anger from forming or worsening. One way to do so is by looking at the “bigger picture.” You may encounter annoyances throughout the day that can add up over time. Remember how these minor grievances compare to your more significant goals when they happen. For example, if you’re shopping and the store doesn’t have an item you need, it can help to look at your cart and note all the groceries you’ll be coming home with instead of what you don’t have.    

Eat a balanced diet

Certain foods can cause stress levels to rise, potentially making anger management more difficult. Processed foods, alcohol, and caffeine, for example, have been shown to increase cortisol (the stress hormone) in the body. A balanced diet comprising a variety of healthy foods can provide your body with the nutrients it needs and help you avoid additional mental health challenges. Consider implementing foods from the Mediterranean diet, like healthy fats, nuts, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. 


Respiration directly affects the nervous system and balances the stress and relaxation responses. Deep breathing can ease tension, quiet your mind, improve circulation, alleviate pain, and reduce your risk for anger-related diseases like atherosclerosis. Studies have shown that feelings of anger stimulate pro-inflammatory chemical signals, causing chronic inflammation and mental and physical disease. Deep breathing can help decrease this body response while promoting relaxation and calmness. 

Shake it off (literally)

You may have noticed a dog shake their whole body after a particularly irritating encounter. This behavior is a way for them to counter the effects of stress physically, and humans can do it as well. Like the beneficial impacts of exercise, loosening up your muscles by shaking them can give you a physical outlet for anger. Studies show this strategy can help reduce stress and enhance quality of life

Relax your muscles

When expressing anger, you may tense your muscles, which can cause tautness that exacerbates angry feelings. Muscle relaxation techniques can help you physically release that tension in the body while promoting a sense of calm. There is evidence that muscle relaxation exercises can reduce stress and negative emotions. In one study, researchers found that progressive muscle relaxation helped participants control their anger and improve the quality of their sleep. 

Find a quiet place to sit or stand to practice progressive muscle relaxation. Start at the top or bottom of your body and progressively tense and relax each muscle group for a few seconds before moving to the next. 


Holding on to negativity associated with a specific individual may contribute to anger in other parts of your life. Resentment can grow when it isn’t addressed. Letting go of negative feelings and, if possible, forgiving the person can help you process your anger and foster positivity in that relationship.  

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of bringing one’s awareness to the present. By paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings, you can eliminate distractions and let your feelings pass. 

To practice mindfulness, draw your attention to your feelings. Are you happy, exhausted, anxious, or sad? Or are you experiencing another emotion or sensation altogether? Acknowledge your thoughts as they arise. As you do this, try not to judge your thoughts or feelings—identify them and let them pass. 

After identifying your emotions, bring your attention to the environment around you. What do you smell, feel, see? This level of awareness can calm your body and mind and help you accept anger as a normal, temporary emotion. 


Physical activity is a proven method of reducing stress, which is often a cause of anger. Researchers have found that even short periods of exercise can improve mental health. For example, experts suggest that five minutes of moderate exercise daily can enhance mood. Consider joining a gym, taking frequent walks, or developing an at-home exercise routine. 

Carry a stress ball

Stress balls are a convenient outlet for releasing anger throughout the day. Instead of suppressing feelings of anger or lashing out, you can subtly channel your anger by squeezing a stress ball. You can take a stress ball to work, on vacation, or during your commute. Stress balls stimulate nerves in the hand that connect to the limbic part of the brain, where emotions live. 

Download a mood-tracking app

Some phone apps have mood-tracking features that help you track your feelings throughout the day. These apps can be valuable resources because they give you an outlet for your anger and help you maintain awareness of your emotions. A mood-tracking app can provide a record of your emotions that may help you identify common sources of anger in your life. 

Join a support group

Anger support groups can be a productive way of connecting with people who understand your anger and frustration and can support you as you work to control them. Through a mutual exchange of thoughts, information, and feelings, you can vent your feelings and learn ways to quell anger at its source. In addition, the support you provide to others might take your focus off yourself and allow you to help others. 

See a counselor

Working with a licensed mental health professional provides an outlet for your feelings and a source of advice and support. Therapy can help you in identifying anger sources while also providing you with tips for managing it. Through therapeutic modalities like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), your therapist can show you how your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors interact. 

Get support with online therapy

A growing body of research points to online therapy as an effective form of mental healthcare for those struggling with anger. In a study of 75 adults with maladaptive anger, researchers found that even brief online cognitive therapy could produce benefits, with participants reporting “significantly lower anger levels” at a four-week follow-up. Cognitive therapy can help individuals identify and replace negative thought patterns underlying unwanted emotions, such as anger. 

Online therapy is an available, comprehensive care method for those looking to manage anger better. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can be matched with a professional based on your preferences. In addition, you can choose between phone, video, or chat sessions, giving you control over how you receive professional support.  


Anger is a healthy human emotion that is not inherently negative. Having helpful outlets for your feelings and knowing how to express them healthily can be vital to ensuring anger does not become problematic in your life. If you’re looking for help managing anger—in addition to the above techniques—consider contacting a licensed therapist for further guidance and support.
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