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Anger Management Relaxation Techniques

Harry Mills, Ph.D. Updated: Mar 8th 2016

The following discussion describes common anger management techniques. These techniques will not produce results if you use them only ocassionally - you must be committed to actually using and regularly practicing these techniques before they can have any chance of positively affecting your life.

Controlled Deep Breathing and Muscle Relaxation

woman breathing deeplyYour breathing rate and heart rate both increase when you become emotionally aroused. You can learn to reverse these increases by deliberately slowing your breathing and/or systematically relaxing your tense muscles. Relaxing in this manner will help you to maintain control.

You may find yourself breathing quick, shallow breaths when you are upset. Allowing this shallow chest-only breathing to continue will only increase your anger. Instead, take action to redirect your breathing and relax your muscles so that you will calm down. Set aside at least 15 minutes in which to do this exercise. Less time than this will not likely be beneficial!

Start your relaxation efforts by taking several slow and deep breaths in a row, each time taking care to exhale for twice as long as you inhale. Count slowly to four as you breathe in, and then breathe out slowly as you count to eight. As you do this, notice where the air in your lungs is going. Open your lungs and breath deeply across the lung's full range. Your breath should enter your belly first, then your chest, and finally your upper chest just below your shoulders. Feel your ribs expand as your lungs expand. Pay attention to how your ribs return to their original location as you exhale completely. Continue this breathing pattern for several minutes, returning immediately to normal breathing if at any time you feel odd or out of breath.

Slow, deliberate and controlled deep breathing in this manner will help return your breath to a more normal, relaxed pattern. Because all things in the body are connected to each other, it is very likely that as you control your breath, you will also cause your heart rate to slow down, and some of your muscular tension to abate too.

Anger frequently manifests in the form of muscle tension. This tension can collect in your neck and shoulders which may remain tense long after your anger is gone. If your neck is tense, continue with the exercise by slowly and gently (and we mean GENTLY) roll your head toward one shoulder and then towards the other. Coordinate your head role with your breathing. Roll your head gently to one side as you exhale, back to the center as you inhale and to the other side as you exhale again. Carefully repeat this technique several times until you feel the muscles in your neck relax a little.

You can work out some of your shoulder tension by deliberately and carefully shrugging your shoulders and releasing them several times. Shoulder rolls backward and forward can also help. Using these techniques together will help you to relax.

As your face, neck, and shoulders become more relaxed, see if you can identify tension in other parts of your body (Your anger diary can help you to identify areas to focus on). If relaxation techniques alone don’t work, try the opposite – tighten and tense the stressed muscles for a slow count of ten and then release them. Be sure to release your tightened muscles immediately if you feel any pain! Move from one muscle group to the next until you have treated each section of your body to a cycle of tension and release. With a little practice, you can work your way down your entire body in a few minutes. Tensing and then relaxing your muscles can sometimes help you to achieve a better quality relaxation than relaxation alone.

In all you should give yourself 20 to 30 minutes to calm down. Keep your breathing very deep and very regular during this time. Tell yourself that you are calming yourself down and soon you will be feeling much calmer.

Relaxation techniques such as described just above can help you to relax, and have the positive side effect of helping you to stop focusing on being angry. They also give you time to think about the situation that has upset you; time that will help you generate fresh solutions to the problems you are facing.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

lisa is trapped... - lisa - Aug 16th 2013

im a single, never married 37 year old massage therapist. in 2006 i met an older divorced man who really liked me.  unbeknownst to me my younger sister was secretly lusting after him as she did all my boyfriends.   6 months previous to this, her fiancee was caught cheating.  she also found out that she could not have children.  she started drinking heavily and sleeping around with my best male friend and business partner and her male friends. 

   the man said he was a born-again christian as was I but kept pressuring me into sex. I finally refused after one night of drinking he made it clear that he was moving on. that weekend he slept with my sister, eventally getting her pregnant.  my family knew about all of it from beginning to end and completely abaondoned me.  they rejoiced.  I was manipulated into paying for her shower, baby shower and wedding while I was on disability for severe depression from this and the total public humiliation that ensued.  i ended up losing my faith completey and attempting to commit suicide 5 times.  i tried self defense and that empowered me and i started not taking crap from anyone but suffered a concussion and couldnt go for 6 months.  it was my only outlet.   im having black-out rage t work and am back on all my medication.  my blood pressure is high and i cant stop thinking about work and the constant understaffing and overworking, i walked off the job today because i was terrified of what i might do.

Similar boat as many who have posted - - Dec 16th 2012

I have been married for 18 years, and while everything was ideal the first few years, we hit a rough patch and I never recovered from it.  Over the last 12 years I have lost the control and even the conscious recognition of my anger, both to mask physicl and emotion pain.  Primarily directed at myself to the extent of hatred, it has affected my marriage as well as social interactions with co-workers, family and the few friends I have.  I have never gotten physical with the anger, but as per the first page describing anger, I have become unbearably condescending, self-righteous, and "Never wrong".  My marriage may be at it's end, still not 100% on that, but for my own sake and the possibility of salvaging the marriage to the woman who means more than anything to me, I want and need to change and get to a better place.  I found this site and am going to bury myself in it and have also decided to seek personal help via a psychologist who specializes in anger management and self-esteem issues.  Thank you for makign this information available to an idiot who should have realized a long time ago how bad things were getting.

Help - - Dec 9th 2012


Ive been in this relationship with this girl for over a year now and ive always had anger issues ever since i was young i went to counseling and everything. But now its getting harder to control. I find myself getting mad at her often and saying things i cant control and later i regret them. How can I prevent myself from doing and saying things that are mean and will hurt her? and how can I get myself to calm down?

Some hope... - Janiv - Nov 16th 2008


 I think that the communication between your wife and yourself has become greatly affected and you have been having some anger and impulse management problems.Sometimes we need to work with ourselves before we work with the relationship. If you truly wish to continue with your relationship and you think it is worth the try, I recommend you seek professional help, be it individual therapy, couples therapy or both. It will help you inmensely I guarantee it.

divorce - daniel rojas - Nov 8th 2008


I just got married 9 months ago. I am having a lot of problems with my wife lately to a point that last night I asked her for the divorce....

I get irritated easily and I am not able to let things go.... She usually leaves the home for the whole weekend and then comes back... This is happening on ongoing basis but I truly don't know how to prevent my anger and ignore when she does something that I dislike 

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