What to Do When You Get Angry – 5 Tips From a Therapist

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What to Do When You Get Angry – 5 Tips From a Therapist

By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD


We’ve all had those moments when we are so angry that we can barely contain it. Whether it’s a daily, weekly, or every once in a while problem, it can help to have a plan at that very moment. Given that anger turns off the thinking part of your brain, the plan has to be simple. So, here it is: Do what you can to calm down.

Of course, that’s much easier said than done. So before actually trying to do this, commit to not making the situation worse. That means, at the very least, pause before you speak or act on your anger.

As for actually calming your anger, there are many ways you can do this. Decide your top one or two go-to plans before you have the need to use them.

Some ways you might calm your anger are:

Take slow, deep breaths: Breathe in slowly through your nose until your lungs are at their full capacity. Then exhale through your mouth slowly enough that your exhale is longer than your inhale. Do this five to ten times.

Walk away: Sometimes the situation is so triggering that it’s all you can do not to explode. Then you will likely do best by walking away. Simply remove yourself from the situation. You might also put effort into engaging your mind in something else.

Exercise: This can be extremely helpful in exerting the energy that comes with rage. You might also consider doing this when you are stressed or feel your anger building. Almost any exercise will do, such as going for a walk, a run, or lifting weights. You might even combine this walk away approach with doing something like taking your dog for a walk or going on a hike.

Count to ten: Anger, like all emotions, has a natural life cycle. If you are not feeding your emotions, they will pass. When you focus on counting – preferably slowly, it gives the intensity of your anger a chance to come down.

Use self-talk: It can help to have a mantra to repeat to yourself, such as, “this too shall pass”; “let it go”; or “relax.”

Once you are calm enough to think more clearly, consider whether this is a situation that you would be wise to just let go. While it can be tempting to leave well enough alone, there are some situations that need attention or else they will simply return – and possibly return with a vengeance. If it is important to address, now is the time to:

  • Think before you speak or act.
  • If possible, break the tension with humor.
  • Consider the situation from the other person’s perspective. You don’t need to agree with them, but it can help to understand where they are coming from.
  • When you talk with someone who has angered you, it is important to focus more on how you feel than on your criticism of them. So, rather than saying, “You are an inconsiderate bastard”, you will probably make more progress by saying, “I felt disrespected, hurt, and angry when you decided to go to dinner with your other friends even though we already had plans.”

However you deal with people and situations that anger you, taking these steps can make all the difference. Rather than impulsively acting out your anger and possibly making the situation worse, calming yourself first can help you to respond in a way that is constructive and ultimately be more satisfying.


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