Feeling angry is normal. It's hardwired into us. It's a natural reaction to a perceived threat.
The threat could be to ourselves, someone we love, our property, or our sense of identity.
You definitely know anger when you feel it. It sometimes shows up in more subtle feelings like irritation, indignation, or frustration.
On the high end of the anger intensity scale, you feel rage and furor — the times when you find yourself screaming like a banshee, slamming doors, or even throwing a punch. This is explosive anger generally leads to regret.
There are triggering events that lead to our anger, but it's our perceptions of a situation often provoke angry feelings. Someone cuts us off in traffic. Our spouse says something we find offensive. Our boss gives the promotion to your less-than-capable co-worker.
In our anger (and sometimes even when we're calm), we believe the triggering event “makes” us feel angry. But if that were true, everyone would feel angry over the exact same situations. What makes one person livid with rage doesn't necessarily bother another person. There are mitigating factors.
These factors can include your personality — competitive, narcissistic, Type A personalities, for example, are more prone to anger. Also, your state of mind prior to the triggering event can tip the scales from irritation to red-faced rage.
If you're tired, already irritated about something, or anxious, you'll respond more readily with anger to the triggering event. Of course, your appraisal of the anger-provoking situation has a profound impact on how you react.
Feeling angry isn't bad. Quite often anger is justified and necessary. You can use it to stand up for yourself, right a wrong, and take action for positive change.
However, mismanaged anger — whether you shove it down or let it rip — can be detrimental to your health, your relationships, and your ability to be successful in your career. You need to know skills for managing anger so you don't push away friends, lose your job, or wind up in divorce court. In this post, we'll share calming techniques and exercises you can use next time you need to calm down.
A Meditation Technique for Anxiety to Help with Anger
To manage your anger, you need to start with the physical feelings that can make you snap and say or do something you might later regret.
When anger or irritation boils to the surface or is simmering beneath, just taking a few minutes to go within and find your calm center can change the way you respond in those tense moments and save you from feeling flooded with negative emotions.
If you can take just five minutes to step away for a short mindfulness meditation, you can approach your anger in a more mindful way. Here are steps:
- Sit in a chair or on the floor on a cushion. Close your eyes and take a few deep, cleansing breaths.
- Pay attention to your breathing — every inhalation and exhalation. Mentally follow your breath in and out of your body.
- Your mind will wander, and when it does, gently redirect it back to your breathing.
- Don't judge your intrusive thoughts or chide yourself for having them. Just notice them and return to your breathing.
- End your meditation time with one final deep breath and return to the world a calmer, more peaceful you.
Let's look at some additional ways to calm down when angry so you can handle stressful situations with more emotional intelligence.
15 techniques that work on how to calm yourself down.
1. Acknowledge the feelings.
Next time you are angry choose 1 of these 15 ways to calm yourself down:
Anger is an emotion that doesn't necessarily reflect reality. When we are absorbed in anger, we often have knee-jerk reactions because the emotions feel so real and powerful.
Emotions come and go but behavior has long-lasting consequences. When you're angry, try to remind yourself that it's just a feeling, and it will pass soon enough.
Sit with the feeling for a few minutes without saying or doing anything. If you feel like crying or punching a pillow (but not a wall or a person), then do so if it helps relieve the tension.
Anger causes many physical reactions — a rush of adrenaline, increased heart rate, tightening of muscles, and rapid breathing. When you manage these physicals symptoms, you can begin to calm your mind as well.
If possible, close your eyes and take five minutes to practice abdominal breathing. Count each breath up to ten, saying the number on the out breath. Do this several times until you feel your heart rate slow down and your body relax.
3. Excuse yourself.
If another person triggers your anger, excuse yourself from them before you respond. Say something like, “I need to step away for a moment,” and leave the room so you can manage your feelings and practice breathing privately.
It might feel good in the moment to scream and yell or respond with a snarky comment, but you know this isn't the best way to react, even if the other person is behaving badly.
Give yourself time to respond appropriately without the distorting cloud of anger. Taking a walk outside, going for a run, or exercising in some way can help diffuse the angry feelings.
4. Identify the root.
When you're calmer, ask yourself what really made you so angry. How did you feel threatened? This requires some deeper self-inquiry. You might say initially you were angry with your spouse because “He acts like a jerk.” But what is really behind that feeling?
Use this question template to help you: “When my husband (wife, boss, etc.) says (does) _______, it makes me feel ________.”
Don't use the word “angry” or any related word to describe your feelings. Dig out the threat behind the anger. Maybe it makes you feel diminished, unloved, disrespected, stupid, etc.
This self-inquiry requires honesty and vulnerability, but it will help you better understand yourself so you can make positive change.
5. Examine the feelings.
When you come up with the word or words that describe the threat you feel, examine those feelings more closely.
Sometimes the feelings are legitimate, healthy responses to unjustified or undeserved treatment. If someone continues to put you down or lies about you, for example, then your threatened feelings are valid.
Other times it's not so clear. Perhaps someone makes an offhand remark, but you interpret it negatively because you have low self-esteem, or you're simply feeling tired. Try to step outside of yourself to view the situation with dispassionate eyes.
6. Use the balloon or the box.
There are some situations that trigger anger, but they really aren't worth expending much time or mental energy. Let's say someone cuts you off while driving or an acquaintance makes a passive-aggressive remark about you in front of others.
These situations are fleeting and likely won't happen again with the same person. You feel the anger bubble up, but taking action would cause more harm than good.
I like to use the balloon visualization in these scenarios. You simply visualize your anger as an orb of energy, and you mentally place it in a balloon. Then release the balloon and imagine it floating away and out of sight.
If it's a situation you want to deal with later, but you can't at the moment it happens — for instance, a co-worker undermines you in a meeting — then mentally put the situation and your anger in a box and put it on a shelf. You can proceed calmly until it's time to take the box down and deal with it.
7. Write about it.
Writing is a great way to release your anger and explore your feelings. When an anger-triggering situation happens, first just let it flow on the page and discharge all of your angry thoughts.
Then go back and write the scenario as if you're a bystander observing it. Simply chronicle the events and words as you remember them.
Go through the exercise of examining the emotional threat behind the anger, and write about that as well.
Finally, write a plan for dealing with the situation in a healthy way. What kind of change do you desire? How can you calmly communicate that? How can you maturely share the way the situation made you feel?
8. Flip it.
Take a moment to put yourself in the other person's shoes. What triggered them to say or do the thing that set off your anger?
Perhaps they were completely blind to your feelings. Maybe they were tired, distracted, or in emotional pain. Maybe they have a personality type that is entirely different from yours. Maybe you said or did something that triggered their behavior.
Understanding and empathizing with the other person will help mitigate your angry feelings. Most people are unconscious in the way they react and respond, and they are simply doing the best they know how.
9. Seek honest advice.
When we feel angry, we want other people to corroborate and affirm our feelings. We want someone to say, “You are right, and they are wrong. You are good, and they are bad.”
However, looking to others to categorically support our position doesn't serve us. It only provides temporary relief.
Once you have calmed down from your initial outrage, find a trusted friend or counselor, and review the situation and your feelings about it. Seek honest, unbiased feedback so that you can respond in a healthy, productive way when the time comes.
It may be uncomfortable to look at your own contribution to the angry situation, but this is part of personal growth and self-honesty.
10. Avoid passive-aggressiveness.
Some people don't have angry outbursts, even when they feel extremely angry. They use passive-aggressive behaviors to reveal their anger, perhaps thinking it's a more acceptable, calm response.
Making comments under your breath, giving the silent treatment, disguising criticism with compliments, or making intentional mistakes are examples of passively demonstrating your anger.
Passive-aggressive behavior never really addresses the issue directly, and it can lead to more anger and frustration when the other person doesn't respond or is confused by your behavior.
It's better to say or do nothing until you have the ability to communicate your feelings forthrightly and calmly.
11. Expend some energy.
One of the best ways to release the negative energy of anger is by physical exertion. Go outside and take a long run or brisk walk.
Do jumping jacks, sprints, or anything that gets your heart pumping. Physical activities like these will release serotonin in your brain which is a natural calming chemical.
But don't try to release anger by punching a pillow or beating the wall. These angry physical outbursts only increase your anger.
12. Try visualization.
Use all of that emotional energy to focus your mind and visualize yourself as the calm, centered, and the relaxed person you want to be.
Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and imagine yourself as completely unruffled, speaking to others in a calm way, and managing the situation without anger or agitation.
Envision the person you want to be in the situation, and do your best to emulate this person you want to be.
13. Listen to calming music.
Certain music is known to reduce anxiety and agitation. In fact, specific types of music have been scientifically proven to calm the autonomic nervous system, the endocrine, and psychological stress response. Classical music and nature sounds are especially effective.
Check out these ten tracks:
14. Practice a full body scan.
This is a great way to take your mind off your angry feelings, put the focus on your body, and relax every part of your body — which will also calm your mind.
Here's how to perform a full body scan:
- Lie down on your bed or on the floor (on a mat or carpet).
- Take a deep cleansing breath and allow your body to relax into the breath.
- Begin at your toes, and focus your attention on them, mentally instructing them to relax.
- Continue up your body, from your toes to your feet and heels, up your legs, hips, torso, arms, back, neck, face, and head.
- When you reach your head, instruct your mind to relax as well.
- You may want to tense and release each body part as you instruct it to relax.
- Finish with another deep breath and notice how much calmer you feel.
15. Get a relaxing massage.
If you find anger lingering and making your body tense, go to your favorite massage therapist and get a massage.
Studies show that massage therapy can be beneficial not only in reducing physical pain but also for improving mood and reducing stress.
If you can't afford a professional massage or don't have the time, give yourself a massage using a soothing aromatherapy oil like lavender oil.
Did these tips to calm down help you? Share the love.
By taking the time to calm down when you feel angry, you're not just saving yourself from future regret and difficulties. You're also training yourself to be the emotionally mature and balanced person you want to be.
You allow yourself the time and space to understand your feelings and to rationally decide the best course of action going forward.
Anger is a normal emotion, but how you respond to it can make a huge difference in your relationships and quality of life.
I hope you'll use these techniques to calm down next time your emotions get the best of you.
Would you be willing to send out some love to your friends and family and others who might have difficulty with anger? Please share these ideas on your preferred social media platform.