Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

6 Steps to Manage Anger

anger.jpgI don’t really think of myself as having a hot temper. But I do have trouble speaking up when something starts to bother me. Thus, the irritant builds and builds, and instead of becoming a pearl, like a grain of stand does in an oyster, it explodes … usually on the person whose behavior I don’t care for and is responsible for making me look and act like a monster.


I’ve been talking about this with my therapist. Because I can remember nothing more horrifying as a kid as those time my dad totally lost it and threw every four-letter word at my mom, or at me or one of my sisters, or all of us, like the time we were making fun of the people in the booth next to us in Dairy Queen. Still can’t get a Buster Bar today without that memory, spanking and all.


So I went back to my parenting books, of course. Because you can find all of life’s problems in parenting books. Author Elizabeth Pantley offers six steps to staying calm in her insightful book, “The No-Cry Discipline Solution.” And, unlike those I read in most parenting books, they don’t annoy me! In fact, I think she’s got a good case. I’ve excerpted from various paragraphs to give you the following recap, but you really should get her book if you struggle, like I do, with keeping it cool when you’re with the kids:

1. Stop.

As you sense your control slipping–STOP. If you are in the middle of a sentence–STOP–don’t even finish your thought, except perhaps to say, “I’m getting mad!” If you are moving–STOP moving. Practice a STOP gesture that can be used as a way to put a physical brake on your emotions. A good STOP gesture is to hold your hands up in front of your face, fingers straight up, palms out. Push the anger away from you, and at the same time say the word STOP.


What if you are so angry at your child that you are ready to strike him and you cannot find the restraint to use your STOP gesture? In that case, channel your physical reaction into a burst of applause. When you feel yourself about to strike, clap your hands. Clap them hard and fast, while you express your feelings of anger.

This anger management technique of acknowledging anger and stopping yourself can be used for all problems. It can be effective with everything from minor irritations that bring irrational anger to major problems that require a clear head to solve.

2. Give yourself space.


When you are angry, the LAST thing you need to do is stay engaged in the situation that is making you mad–all that does is escalate your anger. It is critically important that at this point you do NOT try to deal with the situation that is making you angry. You cannot solve a problem in a fit of anger; it will likely just escalate the situation or create a new layer of problems to deal with. You are going to step away from your child so that you can calm and collect yourself and, very likely, allow your child to calm down a bit, too.


3. Breathe deeply.

Begin by controlling your internal, physical responses to anger. Likely your heart rate is increased, your breathing is rapid, your face is flushed, or your voice is raised. The first step to inner control is to breathe deeply.


Breathing deeply allows your body to fill with oxygen. This will stop the adrenaline rush that floods your body when you are angry. This extra oxygen flow will relax your body, clam your breathing, slow your heart rate, and allow your brain to resume rational thought.

Take a number of slow, even, deep breaths. Put your hand on your stomach and carry the air down until you feel your stomach rise. Try counting or repeating a calming word or phrase, such as “This too shall pass.”


4. Analyze.

Once you’ve calmed down, try to see what really happened. A good way to analyze what happened is to imagine that it happened to someone else–your sister, your brother, or a friend. Looking at the situation as an outsider might help you see the truth. You might more clearly understand where your anger came from, or you may see that your reaction was way out of proportion.


5. Define the problem.

After you have seen the situation more clearly, it is time to precisely define the problem in exact words. See if you can come up with a description of the problem in one or two sentences. Put it in clear, plain words that exactly state the real issue that sparked your anger.


6. Solve.

Once you’ve stated the problem, you can then consider options for solving it. You may want to jot down several possible options on paper or talk about options with another adult. There’s no reason for you to make decisions in a vacuum. I guarantee that the problem you are dealing with is a common one and there are lots of sources for solutions.

  • Barbara DeShong, Mysteryshrink

    I like this easy to follow approach. One of the things I’ve found useful in working with clients is to redefine anger as an increase in anxiety, an increase pushing for an emotionally driven solution as happens when we are anxious. Also, we can see the other’s angry response as their anxiety going up.

  • Bill White

    Good stuff, as usual, Therese. Anger is an ongoing issue for so many of us. Sure it presents when there’s an actual incident of some kind. But it can also be so stealthy. And we can be operating under its influence, and often not even be aware of it. In that context, the potential for any degree of harm to self or others becomes high. Thanks, again.

  • Joe

    How about also being able to choke the people who add to it!

  • Jennifer

    Thank you! Thank you so much for these easy steps. I have anxiety issues and sometimes I confuse them with anger.

  • kelly

    I think this is great advice not just for dealing with the children in our lives but anyone that might trigger an angry moment. We need to be in control of ourselves and normally once we are, whatever got us upset soon passes. I use the theory ” this too shall pass”. Doesnt work every time but if it works 8 out of 10 times thats good enough odds for me.

  • Summer Fey

    1. Stop yelling.
    2. Lay your hand on something.
    3. Pick up that something.
    4. Throw it at the person making you angry.
    5. Leave the room.
    6. Slam the door.
    No…just kidding. It’s a very good article with very good suggestions.

  • Sue

    “But I do have trouble speaking up when something starts to bother me. Thus, the irritant builds and builds, and instead of becoming a pearl, like a grain of stand does in an oyster, it explodes …”
    OMG!!! You just described me. Except instead of exploding, I get passive aggressive and resentful. Or I dive into food.
    WOW. Great suggestions–and maybe I’ll be able to lose that last five pounds if I don’t eat away that anger….

  • shali

    I am always smiling no matter the situation , but when the i really gets upset I get in rage and say things out of context, I understand my past was not fearful as others but to say the lease i have God in my heart and the peace of God in my heart, that i will fear no evil nor not allow no evil to befall me.

  • Chris

    As usual, always great subjects and articles. This one really hit home! I will certainly try to instill these suggestions towards my communication and anger issues. Thank you for all that you do! Your help in putting things in perspective and giving solutions to deal with the issues, certainly make life a lot more fun and fulfilling. GOD bless you!

  • Doug

    In regards to 6 steps to manage anger the first step is:
    1. Acknowledge the existence of God, as in the case of an assent to acceptance of God you are accepting a standard of what is right and wrong which is then termed righteousness. If you stay in that zone of what is right and wrong you can control your own as well as help others to achieve the same.
    2. Continually research Creation Science with a study of Teleology and
    the Epistemological answers to firm up your belief in the existence of God.
    3. In the above study concentrate on the differences between monotheism vs. pantheism and include a study of Christianity vs. Islam vs. Judaism as being the only three monotheistic belief systems.
    Do this by including a study of Christian Apologetics and the science of SURGE as explained in the book: “I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist.
    4. Focus on prayer with God through developing a relationship with Him wherein you talk with Him in prayer through His Son Jesus Christ and listen to Him as He speaks to you via His written word in the Bible.
    5. Memorize Key verses regarding anger from the Bible and repeat them at points you find yourself becoming angry as well as to others. For example: “Be not angry in anything, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your requests to God and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
    6. Become an Evangelist noting that in your helping of others you are also helping yourself. The role of an Evangelist is remembered by RCA as in Electronics and IC as in whatever. R=Repentance=Change of direction from the way you were going with your anger to the way Christ wants you to go. C=Conviction which only comes from the Holy Spirit convicting the sinner of their sin not you or someone else. A=Awareness I=Information C=Communication You are the communicator as an Evangelist. So that Repentance only follows Conviction which follows an Awareness of the Sin which only comes from Information via the Communication given to the sinner via the Evangelist.

  • Doug

    Be not anxious not be not angry so keep in mind if your paying attention that it is your anxiety that most often causes you to become angry in that you are not patient enough when you “lose your temper” and you flip back to some childhood remembrance wherein you have not forgiven nor forgotten someone else in regards to there sinful behaviour.

  • Steve

    Sorry to say this folks but for those of us that suffer from server bi-polar, anger can explode at any given time and for any reason, at least with me. Normally high stress likes to bring it on more than anything else but when I get to that point putting my hands up and saying stop I’m mad isn’t going to do anything but get me more upset. Taking a step back and putting myself in my own little corner of the world (ok an adult time-out) is probably best. That way I can have time to cool down or sit and stir about whatever it is and deal with it on a “resonable” level, as my wife would tell me.
    If these suggestions above work for you great but please remember sometimes we all know what’s best for us and it’s just under the surface if we look.

  • Paul Koppel

    An insightful article. I like the explanation on deep breathing. Now i came to know why it works efficiently when we are in anger. This post was helped very much to learn anger management techniques.

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