Health Advocate Blog

Curb anger and regain control

Does your temper rise when a coworker in the next cube talks loudly on their cell phone? Or, say, when a team member steals your ideas? How about if a family member leaves dirty dishes in the sink again? Whether at home or work, everyone gets angry now and then. But blowing up habitually can harm your relationships, cloud your thinking, and may put you at higher risk for heart disease and other chronic conditions. Furthermore, people who are frequently angry often cope by adopting unhealthy habits such as overeating or smoking.

It’s best to figure out what’s behind your anger and think through ways to keep those triggers from setting you off. In the meantime, turn to these on-the-spot diffusers to keep your cool:

Take a break, step away, and breathe deeply. Say to yourself, “take it easy.” Deep breathing is the simplest way to slow your heart rate and dissolve the rush of adrenaline that makes you want to lash out.

Count to 10. This age-old strategy gives you time and distraction—the keys to effective anger management.

Use logic on yourself. Remind yourself that getting angry is not going to fix anything. Logic defeats anger, and will help you get a better perspective.

Take a stretch or walk away. Physical activity is an extremely powerful way to release anger and stress. Moving your body helps shift your mind. If you can, go outside. Focus on the air, the scenery, and your feet as they hit the ground.

Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). This technique involves purposely tensing and then releasing each muscle group, one by one, leaving you feeling more relaxed. Start with tensing, then relaxing, your forehead, then jaw, shoulders, and work your way down to your toes.

Practice mindfulness. Whenever angry thoughts about something that happened flood your mind, do a “reset” by being mindful of the present moment. For example, scan your body for tightness in your stomach or jaw, and focus on letting it go. Or focus your mind on slow, deep breathing. If angry thoughts arise, release their grip by imagining them floating by like clouds.

Problem-solve. Turn your energy toward finding a solution instead of lashing out. But keep in mind that you may not be able to fix all problems. Is the situation beyond your control? If so, try to move on instead of dwelling on it.

Finally, remember that when you’re dealing with another person’s anger, stay steady. Remain cool through the outburst and then choose an appropriate time to communicate your own point of view. Avoid responding defensively. Consider the possibility that you may have been wrong, or that you and your opponent may both be right.

If you are struggling with anger issues, consider getting help. Contact an anger specialist or behavioral health professional who can help you deal with anger-related problems. You can also call SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for assistance finding help and resources.