You’re tired of feeling angry all the time.
One minute you’re going about your day to day business and the next minute you’re snapping at your partner and full of rage.
You don’t know where your anger comes from. It seems to come from nowhere - causing you to say nasty words you don’t mean.
Your angry outbursts might cause you to break things, punch walls, or maybe even kick the dog.
As soon as you calm down, you feel guilty and regret your actions. You’re sorry about your outburst.
Yet you can’t seem to control your feelings, and it’s ruining your relationships.
“What can I do about it?” you ask. You’re not sure how to let go of anger.
You’re not alone.
We all get angry sometimes. It’s a healthy and natural response that serves as a useful function in your life.
But when your anger gets out of control, it can become destructive, getting in the way of sensible and constructive ways of dealing with problems.
Anger management is one of the most common reasons clients come to me.
So don’t worry.
It is possible to overcome your anger. You don’t need to feel out of control forever.
There are several proven, effective strategies you can try.
These will reduce your anger, leaving you calmer and more relaxed. They’ll put you back in control. They’ll boost your confidence and allow you to go about your day never worrying if you’ll have a violent outburst that you’ll later regret.
Let’s put those anger-filled days behind you once and for all.
Step 1: Own Your Anger (Anger is Good)
Anger isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes it’s justified.
If others are infringing on your personal space, or being rude, careless or annoying, for example, it’s right that you feel angry.
Anger is good for you. It makes you feel alive! When you’re angry, you’re also full of energy and strength.
Your anger isn’t always wrong. Only when your passion is disproportionate or unjustified is it unhelpful.
Punching a wall when you’ve just heard that your partner has finished off the last box of Cheerios, for example, is silly. Or calling your partner “Hitler” when they ask you what you want to eat. Even if you’ve had a bad day, these are overreactions.
Yet if your friend borrows your favourite cardigan and returns it dog-eaten and unclean, you have a right to get angry.
So remember, anger is good.
If it’s proportionate and justified, then it serves a useful purpose.
If someone’s stealing your car, a surge of righteous anger is understandable. Don’t judge yourself for it.
Step 2: Use a Secret Word
If you feel violent and out of control when you’re angry, consider using a safety word.
A client of mine suggested this to me.
He struggled with angry outbursts. He would dissociate and lose awareness of his behaviour. When he came to, he’d realise that in a fit of rage he’d smashed the furniture or broken the TV.
His girlfriend was often the trigger. She said things that would cause anyone to get angry. But my client’s anger was disproportionate. Despite his best efforts, he couldn’t control his reaction. Yet he didn’t want to leave the situation. If he did so, he thought he would be backing down. He didn’t want to lose face.
The safety word gave them both a way around this problem.
Only he and his girlfriend knew the safety word. When he found himself getting angry, he would say it a few times and then leave the room.
His girlfriend knew this was not because he thought he was wrong, but because he wanted them both to stay safe.
My client maintained his self-esteem without having to pay for broken furniture and a new TV.
If you struggle to control your anger, and it leads to violence, consider using a safety word.
It may save your relationship.
Step 3: Understand the Science
When your amygdala fires, it causes you to feel angry.
The amygdala is an almond-sized part of the brain that triggers many of our emotions. It’s an old part of the brain that all mammals - monkeys, squirrels and marmosets, for example - have. When something provokes your anger, the amygdala floods the brain with chemicals. A tidal wave of these chemicals stop the thinking and planning part of the brain.
It’s not wrong to feel like your anger has hijacked you. Your amygdala imposes its will on the rest of the mind. This change in brain chemistry is why you often feel out of control or as if you’re someone else when angry. You are. Or at least, you’re a completely different part of ‘you’.
An example of this is when you say things you don’t mean.
How many times have you apologised after an argument with words like, “I didn’t mean it, I was angry”?
In Chinese, they even have a word for this: shengqihuaor “angry talk”.
Anger is a natural biological reaction to a threat you face. It’s your amygdala protecting you.
So when you feel out of control, understand it’s not a personal flaw. It’s simply biology - and you can find strategies that help you cope.
Step 4: Get Some Time to Yourself
Many of the clients who come to see me for anger management find that it helps to engage in relaxing activities.
Swimming, yoga, and walking in nature can all help give you time away from daily pressures. They allow for solitude and time to think. They enable our minds to switch off for a while and to lose ourselves for a time.
So make sure you take some time to relax during the week. Try to do something active, though. Using social media and watching TV are relaxing, but they’re very passive. They’re okay in small doses, but make sure to balance these with more active pursuits.
Activities get you out of the house, possibly mixing with other people. They’re great for your health and well-being.
Join a running club, for example.
You get to burn off energy, meet new people and have time to yourself.
Step 5: Burn off All That Energy
Getting active and shaking off some of your excess energy is another way to overcome your anger.
Most likely, exercise alone will not be enough for you to feel better. Still, it can be a critical addition to the other strategies you try.
Exercise has proven benefits that help with your general health and happiness. Some studies even show that physical activity makes you happier than money does.
Working out drains you of some of your energy. It helps to relax you, and it tires you out.
After you’ve burnt off some of the day’s energy, you’re less inclined to get angry the next time something triggers you.
You’ll be too tired to give a ****!
Step 6: Get Clear on Your Trigger Points
Anger always has a trigger.
There is always something that sparks your outbursts. You need to get clear on what your particular triggers are.
It helps to break your triggers down into three types:
- Irritants - The number of annoyances in life is boundless. They can include people not looking when they cross the road, someone driving carelessly, or your boss’s annoying habit of talking down to you. We all have things in life that we find irritating and annoying. Do you know what most irritates you?
- Costs – Someone else’s behaviour may cause you to lose your money, time, self-esteem or status. For example, you might get upset if someone breaks something of yours (lost money), if they are late for a meeting (lost time), or if they insult you behind your back (lost self-esteem or status). What have you lost recently?
- Transgressions - A transgression occurs when someone breaks a rule. We all have rules that we try to follow and get annoyed when others don’t. Here are some standard rules: people should be honest, car drivers should use signals when turning a corner, and friends shouldn’t betray trust. Do you know what your rules are?
Not everything that makes you angry will fit neatly into one of these boxes. Your son breaking your favourite vase may cross all three, for example. You may feel irritated at having to clean it up and upset at the cost involved in replacing it. Or you may be angry because you’re rule is that people should take care of objects around the home.
Try to pay attention to what triggers your anger. Noticing your triggers is the first step to getting in control of your passion.
Go through the list above again. What irritants, cost and transgressions cause you to get angry?
Step 7: Find Your Inner Pain
There might be deeper-seated causes of your anger that you’re barely aware of.
Perhaps you’re angry at the world in some way. Life doesn’t seem fair.
Try to write down all the things you feel angry about.
There are all sorts of things that could keep anger simmering inside you. You might be angry at the way someone treated you in the past. The fact that you haven’t got satisfying work, or that there is so much injustice in the world, could upset you.
Do you hate yourself? Or hate your life?
I’m angry at commercialisation, the destruction of nature, and the rich-poor divide. Although I come across as a laid back person, there’s quiet anger that seethes inside of me.
My brother died when I was younger; perhaps I feel a little anger about the contingency of life?
What things are you angry about?
The more you can understand the sources of your anger, the more you’ll be able to use it and channel it in positive ways.
If you’re angry at injustice, you could volunteer to help the poor. If you’re mad at the way your partner treats you, you could research how to improve your relationship. If you’re angry at yourself, you could use the energy generated by your anger and take steps to reverse this situation.
Use your anger as the fuel for constructive action.
Step 8: Take A Chill Pill
Anger comes on us quickly. One minute you’re sitting on the sofa eating a KitKat and watching Netflix on TV, the next you’re wrestling with your housemate on the carpet. You’re inches away from pounding his head with the remote control.
Anger can take over in seconds.
If you do manage to catch it, try to take a time out. Remove yourself from the trigger point. Give yourself time to calm down.
Whenever something has stimulated your anger, physically get away from that something, at least temporarily. Doing so might give you a chance to relax.
Of course, remembering this in the heat of the moment is not easy.
Use downtime when you’re not angry to rehearse. Be clear on what you should do when you next flair up.
The more you rehearse, the more instinctual your response will be.
The next time anger overtakes you, this trained automatic response might kick in, and you’ll remember to walk away. You’ll remember to get out of there, to stay safe and cool down.
Whatever it is you were doing, you can return to it later. No harm done.
Your housemate may even be grateful.
Step 9: Catch the Critical Middle
Between every stimulus and reaction, there is a thought.
Let’s take an example:
You’re on holiday abroad, queuing for your dinner in a restaurant. You’ve had a busy day navigating around the local area. You got lost. You’re tired and hungry. Now lots of locals are pushing in.
If you think their pushing is wrong, you’re going to get angry. The thought “it’s wrong to push in” shows you believe the locals are breaking a rule, the “do not push in rule”.
But what if you had a different thought?
What if your thoughts were: “well, this is a different culture and they have different rules.” Or “people shouldn’t push in, but they’re kids, and they don’t know any better.” Even better: “I need time to relax, so I don’t mind waiting.” Would you still get angry?
Changing the way you think about things has the power to affect whether you get angry or not.
Keep a record of the times you’ve got angry. Write down the trigger, what thought you had, and what alternative thought you could have had.
Do this task long enough, and you’re sure to let go of anger.
Recognising the thought in the middle is the key to getting in control.
Interesting concept, isn’t it?
Start to put it into action.
Step 10: Keep an Eye on Your “Piss Me Off Pile”
Anger can build up during the day. When I work with clients, we often refer to the ‘piss me off pile.’
Although I don’t generally like swearing, piss me off is an apt phrase to capture the nuances that can build up as we go about our days.
During your day, there are likely to be all sorts of triggers to your anger - irritants, costs and transgressions that annoy you but don’t cause you to get angry at the time.
That’s a good thing; it shows you can control your anger. Yet if you’re not careful, you could be adding your annoyances to a pile and not letting them go.
By the time you get home, you’ve stacked your pile high. By that time, it only takes a small trigger to set you off.
Your boyfriend mentions that your house looks a little dirty and the next thing you're reminding him of the time he stayed up all night with his friends on the PlayStation. Not to mention the time he forgot your birthday, and let the dog stay in all day, leaving you to clean the mess up.
The same piling process is typical in relationships, where a simple thing can bring forth some past incidents that you’ve been nurturing for some time.
Better to let go of your anger as it rises. Don’t hold onto it. Keep your piss me off pile low.
Step 11: Solve All Your Problems
If there’s a specific cause of your anger, try to solve it.
If it’s your partner’s attitude when you get home after a long day of work, try to talk about it. You might consider marital counselling if that doesn’t work.
If it’s your boss or colleagues at work, try to find ways to avoid them or change their behaviour.
Solving problems on your own can be difficult. Sometimes you need help from another person. Consider coaching for example; you may get some sage advice.
Whatever the means you use, don’t give up.
If you can eliminate the source of anger, then do so.
Step 12: Get Everything You Want
Assertiveness is a healthy balance between being passive and aggressive.
If you’re assertive, you can ask for what you want clearly and firmly, but without doing so in a way that infringes on others.
Aggressive people are too violent in going about obtaining what they think they need.
Passive people never ask for what they want. Because they don’t stand up for themselves, they often feel others treat them with disrespect.
Assertive people, on the other hand, know their rights and can defend their point of view while still respecting other people.
If you communicate confidently, you’ll be able to ask for what you need in a way that means others will hear your request. Communicating assertively may cut down the need for anger.
The logic is simple:
If you’re getting what you want, what’s there to be angry about?
For example, you might accept all the projects and deadlines your boss assigns you and then get mad afterwards. If you can learn to constructively communicate your desires and lighten your workload a bit ahead of time, then there is less need for anger.
What relationship problems do you have at the moment? How would assertively engaging with your boss or colleagues, friends or spouse, help you?
Step 13: Become a Spiritual Guru
Meditation or prayer are specific forms of relaxation that many people find useful for helping them with their anger.
Every religion has its form of prayer, and it’s a widely accepted practice. Similarly, many spiritual people find meditation useful.
The important thing about both these activities is that you can do them informally. You don’t need any specialised training. You don’t need to wear specific clothes. You don’t need to visit a particular place, although you can do if you want to.
You can meditate or pray at any time when you have a few spare minutes.
Consider dedicating part of the day, whether 5 minutes or an hour to one or both of these activities.
Meditation or prayer can give you reasons to be grateful and help you put your anger in perspective.
Step 14: Have Sympathy For Yourself
If you’re in the heat of an anger attack, take deep breaths.
Although it can be hard to remember in the moment because anger comes on so quickly, try to get into the habit of breathing deeply.
Deep breaths signal to your body that it is time to be calm. When you’re angry, you’re likely to have short, sharps breaths. Taking deep breaths tricks your body and gives you time to get your anger under control.
Deep, steady breathing activates the parasympathetic system, which keeps you calm.
“Para what?” you ask.
The parasympathetic system is the slow system of the body. It slows the heart rate and relaxes your gut. It’s active when you’re at rest.
It’s simply not possible to be angry and breathe slowly at the same time.
Try it. What did you find?
Step 15: Don’t Bottle It Up
Make sure to talk to friends, family, or a counsellor or coach.
Don’t keep your anger bottled up inside.
There’s no shame in being an angry person, and if you want to learn how to let go of your anger, then this may be an essential step.
It feels good to get things off your chest, and it’ll surprise you how effective talking to someone is. Choose someone you trust though, and make sure they’re aware you’re serious about dealing with your anger.
If it’s a friend or family member, tell them you’re not looking for them to solve your problem. Instead, you’re simply grateful that they’re willing to listen.
If you choose to talk to a professional, then don’t hold back. A professional counsellor should be happy to listen non-judgmentally. They’ll be able to use their years of experience to help you get your anger under control.
Is it worth a try?
Step 16: Squeeze a Soft Plastic Toy
Another option is to consider a stress relief tool.
Not everyone will like this idea, and it may seem to make light of some of the severe anger you feel, but some people do find them useful.
Stress relief toys have two uses. One is as a preventive measure. By using a toy throughout the day, you can stop your anger building up. The other way to use one is at the moment when you’re feeling full of rage.
You can squeeze a stress release ball at any time, for example, to release some tension. Usually, they’re small enough to carry around with you or to place in the car.
Some toys have positive aspirations written on the side designed to encourage you to stay calm. Have a search on Amazon for stress relievers and see if anything interesting comes up.
Step 17: Vanish Like Houdini
If possible, avoid the person or situation that causes you to get angry. If you’re sure it is a particular person that causes you all the trouble, it might be best to avoid them altogether. If it’s your boss, for example, can you change job (easier said than done)?
If it’s road rage, can you give up driving?
You should only consider significant changes like these after you’ve tried other strategies and are sure there are no alternatives.
Don’t forget they are a possibility, though.
If they make your life simpler, then they could be worth it. You want to maximise situations that are stress and anger free. Moreover, you only want positive people who support you in your life.
If you can’t cut negative people out of your life, at least try to minimise their influence.
Remind yourself that they’re not that important in the grand scheme of things. Or consider ways you can reduce your exposure to them.
Can you work at home a few days a week, for example? Or if it’s a family member or friend, do you need to see them every day, like you currently do?
Step 18: Keep a “How to Let Go of Anger and Resentment” Journal
Keeping a journal can have many different benefits for anger management.
Call it the “How to Let go of Anger” journal or “Letting Go of Anger Journal”.
Keep a record of the situations that trigger your anger, your thoughts at the time, and any alternative views you could have had. Make a note of alternative ways to manage your anger.
What could you have done differently?
Don’t forget to use your journal to express yourself and better understand your feelings.
Writing about your anger could help you learn from your experiences.
Some people choose to paint or draw when they’re angry. Both are effective methods, using creativity to move past your anger.
If you tried to draw your anger, what would it look like?
Step 19: Get Your Positivity On
Positive affirmations are short words or mantras that you can repeat again and again.
They could be specifically related to anger, such as “I need to control my anger.”
Or they could relate to the specific situation. For example, your partner might be upsetting you. In this case, you might repeat the words, “I want this relationship to work”.
Repeat your affirmation over and over to yourself, either aloud or in your head.
By repeating the affirmation, you do two things. Firstly, you distract yourself away from your anger. Secondly, you remind yourself of a value that you hold that is more important than the passion you’re experiencing at the time.
It might be enough to get you through the situation.
Positive affirmations are simple ways to distance yourself from your anger and to focus on something else. Next time you get worked up, try one. The effectiveness of affirmations might surprise you.
Step 20: Stop Holding Onto Anger
If you are holding onto anger from your past, it might be time to let it go.
Try not to dwell on the past, even if horrible things have happened.
Could you forgive those who have wronged you? Remember, forgiveness is not about the other person. It is not saying that what they did is right. It means letting go of the anger that is seething inside of you.
Of course, some things are unforgivable, and you shouldn’t forgive anyone you don’t want to. In these cases, try to diffuse your feelings toward the person who has hurt you. Letting go of the anger you hold toward someone or to some past event is a way of lessening its effect on you.
Step 21: Write “Letting Go of Anger” Letters
Writing letters to people who have harmed you in the past is another way to let go of your anger.
It’s also another way of exploring your thoughts and feelings.
Many of my clients find this exercise useful.
You don’t have to post the letters.
The exercise is to give you a chance to express yourself.
Before you write any letters, make sure you prepare yourself. Writing can be a powerful experience. Many people feel down for a few days after the exercise, although most find it beneficial.
In your letter, cover what the person did wrong, how it hurt you, and why it has left you feeling angry.
Let them know that you are now letting go of your anger.
Step 22: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Life is full of minor inconveniences.
Nothing ever goes perfectly.
The universe wasn’t created to serve your needs.
I am often surprised by how much time people spend complaining about small things.
Set against the beauty of the world these nuances seem so trivial.
Your ability to let go of the small stuff impacts your happiness. Don’t allow little things like queue jumping, lousy weather, or traffic jams get in the way of the bigger picture.
Focus on the good things in your life. Focus on the awe-inspiring beauty of the universe.
Don’t let minor frustration ruin your day.
It’s Time to Let Go of Your Anger
You’ve been feeling angry for a while. You’re prone to violent outbursts where you say and do things that you later regret.
You’re trying to overcome these difficulties and get your anger under control, but you’re struggling.
Go through all the strategies in this post and pick one or two you want to try. Experiment - you won’t know what works for you until you give it a go.
Even some tips that seem silly to you or that you assume won’t work for you may turn out to be surprisingly beneficial.
At the same time, don’t overdo it. Try only one or two strategies at a time, but track their effectiveness and switch or add others if you need to.
Reach out if you’re struggling. I’m an effective anger management coach.
Anger doesn’t need to be a lifelong problem. It’s possible to overcome.
There will come a time when you look back on your angry outbursts as part of the past.
Your life will be more calm and serene.
You’ll never have to fear anger again.
You’ll be in control of your anger. Confident you can manage it. Not afraid to live your day precisely as you want to.
This isn’t a dream!
So don’t delay, pick some strategies and start experimenting today.