While everyone experiences anger to varying degrees throughout their lifetime, it’s normal for different people to express anger in different ways. Certain situations also trigger different types of anger. It’s common to see anger expressed as an argument, shouting, or even cursing. On the more extreme side, some people may even express anger physically, by throwing or breaking things.
If you have an angry feeling or angry thoughts from time to time, it is important to address it. Although it’s a normal emotion that everyone has, we can all benefit by learning how to release anger in a healthy way. If someone has persistent anger, it can affect their body physically, like increasing the risk of cardiovascular, digestive, and immune issues. Chronic anger without proper coping mechanisms can also lead to increased risk of ulcers, bowel disease, high blood pressure, and stroke, not to mention the damage that can be done to relationships with friends and loved ones, especially when caused by displaced anger.
Suppressed anger is not an ideal anger management solution. However, avoiding stress-induced illnesses and events is possible if you can exercise healthy ways to release anger. Learn how here, with our top 11 ways to manage and navigate anger in positive, productive ways.
1. Step Away from the Situation
If you feel your heart racing and your rage rising, learn to walk away before you release your anger in an unhealthy and unproductive way, such as anger outbursts. Walking away from a situation gives your mind and body time to refocus and think about healthy ways to release anger.
For example, if you walk into the kitchen and see that the dog has gotten into the trash yet again, it might be tempting to yell and scream at your furry friend. Instead, step away from the environment for a moment to let your body (and mind) cool down before you deal with the situation.
2. Stop and Think
This will take practice, but try to stop and think before acting upon your feelings. Your initial reaction may be anger, but if you give yourself a moment to reflect and allow the feelings to settle, you may find you can see something in a clearer, calmer light.
“It’s essential that we have effective outlets for anger. For many of us, the release needs to be physical. Hitting a punching bag, intensive exercise, lifting weights, or screaming into a pillow could be examples here. Other people need more mindfulness to get present and connect their mind and body in a more effective way.”
Talkspace therapist Meaghan Rice, PsyD, LPC
3. Take Deep Breaths
Many people who practice deep breathing find it to be highly soothing and relaxing. These people have also learned how to release anger in a healthy way. Deep breathing, also known as mindful breathing, helps stimulate relaxation and returns your parasympathetic nervous system to normal.
While deep breathing is calming, shallow breaths are not. To effectively breathe deeply, try to inhale slowly through your nose while counting to 3. Then exhale through your mouth while counting again. Try repeating this process several times. Your body will naturally relax even if you’re feeling angry.
4. Scream Into a Pillow
Instead of screaming at a friend or coworker, consider yelling into a pillow so you still feel the release of raising your voice. While it may seem silly, it can be a great way to release anger in the moment without letting it out on others.
Exercise is an especially productive way to let your anger out. It’s physically good for the body and fantastic for your mental health. Any exercise, even a short walk, can increase the body’s endorphins. Endorphins are a type of neurotransmitter that, when released, are proven to relieve pain and offer a sense of well-being.
6. Use Relaxing Imagery
If you feel anger building inside you, try to think of a person or place that brings you peace. Maybe you can find pictures on your phone of a recent relaxing vacation, or a photo of your kids laughing. Looking at images like these can be a productive and effective way to release anger appropriately.
7. Recognize and Avoid Triggers
Learning how to release anger can be easier if you focus on recognizing your anger triggers. Is there a pattern to your anger? Does it always happen at a particular time or in a specific place? Is it usually the same person who brings out the emotion? Does a messy kitchen or playroom frustrate you? What about being stuck in traffic?
Once you start recognizing your triggers, you can learn to cope with them (or avoid them when possible). For example, you can’t always avoid a messy kitchen, but maybe you can work out a cleaning schedule with your partner and set proper expectations of cleanliness. If one of your triggers is traffic, perhaps you can leave earlier or later, or find an alternative route, to avoid the rush hour.
8. Reframe Thoughts
When we’re angry, our thoughts can be exaggerated and dramatic. We tend to use absolutes like, “Everything’s awful because the cake is ruined!” or “Nothing ever works in this house!” Learning how to let your anger out is important, but try not to use this kind of extreme language.
Replacing these absolutes with more rational phrases can change how you see things. For example, “Yes, I accidentally ruined the cake, but maybe we can go out for dessert. No one will care!” or “Yes, the faucet may have a leak, but I’ll get it fixed. It’s not the end of the world.”
9. Start Journaling
Journaling for mental health has many benefits:
- Prioritize your concerns, problems, and fears
- Monitor day-to-day symptoms so you can learn to recognize triggers
- Provide an opportunity to identify negative thoughts and replace them with positive self-talk
Once you’ve identified and recorded your stressors, it’s easier to figure out solutions.
10. Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique that’s helpful for anxiety, anger, and stress. Learning how to release anger with progressive muscle relaxation is actually very easy.
To practice the technique, slowly tense and then relax each muscle group, starting with your toes and working your way up to your head and neck. As you tense and relax, you’ll find that you feel more calm and peaceful overall.
11. Connect With a Therapist
If you’ve tried these coping mechanisms, but you just don’t feel any better, don’t worry. These tips are just a starting point for positively redirecting your anger.
It’s OK if you feel like you need to go beyond self-moderated strategies. You can seek out a mental health provider. There are plenty of professionals who are trained to help people manage anger by developing real-life workable solutions, so don’t be afraid or embarrassed if you need professional help.
Seeking Support to Manage Anger
Suppressing anger is never the answer. The risk with suppressing anger is that at some point it might become uncontrolled anger. While you can’t eliminate angry feelings completely 100% of the time, you can change how events affect you and how you respond to intense emotion. By keeping your anger in check, you — and the people closest to you — will be happier and healthier in the long run.
Learning how to release anger appropriately can be challenging. If you continue to feel angry and overwhelmed, seek anger therapy and consult with a therapist, counselor, psychologist, or other licensed mental health professional. Before anything, they can help you figure out why you are so angry and determine what causes anger. They can help you learn how to let your anger out in a productive way and identify other problem areas to develop an action plan for changing them.
Talkspace is an online therapy platform that makes it convenient to get the help you need. With a Talkspace therapist, you can have your questions answered, learn effective coping techniques, and overcome your anger.
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