9-Step Plan to Control Your Anger

Keep your cool with these helpful coping strategies.

Medically reviewed in March 2022

1 / 10
Release Tension in a Healthy Way

Overreacting to anger doesn't help anyone. Not the driver you're swearing at. Not your friends or family who are watching you lose control. Least of all, you. While you may think that lashing out or hitting a pillow or punching bag helps you release tension, it doesn't. It teaches you unhealthy behavior patterns that actually escalate tension. That said, we don't want you to hold on to your anger until it eats away at you. So instead, use this plan to get your hotheadedness under control.

Related: FREE health insights and a way to help others, too. Download the FREE Android app now

2 / 10
Do the Opposite

Remember the Seinfeld episode when George turned his life around by doing the opposite of what he thought he should do? Well, think of this as the Seinfeld approach to anger management: Do the opposite of what you feel like doing when you're mad. Instead of lashing out, develop empathy. The next time you feel like swearing at the guy who cut you off, consider that maybe there's a reason he did so. Maybe he just got a call that his wife's in labor. Remind yourself that few people are jerks on purpose.

3 / 10
Pinpoint the Source

Keep a record -- without censoring -- of all the emotions you feel (and why) during the day. This will help you identify the core beliefs that are associated with your anger. Do you get angry at a lack of respect? Wasted time? Insults? Once you understand what sets you off, you'll be able to work on dealing with it. Try these five strategies to keep your emotions in check.

4 / 10
Blow Off Steam Wisely

Somehow, you have to acknowledge your physiological response to anger. Telling yourself to stay calm is one of the worst things you can do (second only to being told to calm down) because, as a human being, you're programmed to act out when you feel threatened and angry. So act out in a way that doesn't burn bridges, or worse. Do push-ups, go for a walk, throw in your favorite workout DVD (just about any exercise will do) or practice deep breathing to calm your emotions and mind. 

5 / 10
Choose Your Words Carefully

When anger's talking, steer clear of using the words "never" or "always." Statements such as "This machine never works!" or "You're always forgetting things!" not only are inaccurate but also make you feel that your anger is justified because there's no way to solve the problem. These statements also alienate people who might otherwise work with you to find a solution. Once you've cooled off, try expressing your frustrations or concerns in a direct, nonconfrontational way.

6 / 10
Have Realistic Expectations

Do you ever find yourself saying "I wish I coulda, woulda, shoulda"? If the answer is yes, you’re not alone. The trick is to make sure you’re not setting the bar too high. Also, don't blame yourself for things that are out of your control, and don't blame others for things that are out of their control. This won’t happen overnight, but it’s worth working on. Practice these three steps to better cope with stress.

7 / 10
Tune Out and Breathe

Next time you're seething, try this on-the-spot cool down (just not while driving): Close your eyes, relax, and imagine yourself far away from what's making you mad. Breathe deeply, putting your forefinger on your belly button and feeling it move in and out. Then, see what kind of results you can get without yelling. You might be impressed enough to save your breath for good. Get a quick how-to on deep breathing.

8 / 10
Rest Your Body and Mind

Sleep helps you function at your mental and physical best. In fact, good sleep improves your mood, your immune system, and even your metabolism. When you don't get enough shut-eye, your body produces more stress hormones. Getting too little sleep can also add pounds and raise your blood pressure, upping your risk of heart disease -- not to mention your chances of blowing up at someone. 

Get personalized treatment if anxiety is affecting your work, daily activities or personal relationships. Start the assessment.

9 / 10
Drink Responsibly

When you're thinking, "Boy, I need a drink," think again. The trouble is alcohol won't relieve high anxiety or anger issues, and it could actually make them worse. In some people (you?), drinking when super tense can underscore the dark side of whatever stressed them out and leave them in a fouler mood. If you're stressed to the max and know from experience that alcohol bites back when you're tense, grab your iPod and hit the road. Both the walking and the music will help tame your tension and keep you healthy.

10 / 10
Let It Go

Is a nonstop parade of challenges pushing you from annoyed to just plain angry? Take this quiz to find out. If left unchecked, anger clamps down on your blood vessels, causing everything from wrinkles to impotence. Not good. Plus, strong negative emotions mess with your blood pressure and hormone function and provoke inflammation. To make the change for a better mood, figure out what makes you happy, and start doing it now and often. Ever tried yoga?

Related: We can reduce stress together, one person at a time. Download the FREE Android app now


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