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How to Control Your Temper

Everyone gets angry at times. Whether it’s a fight with a friend, an annoyance at work, or something else altogether, anger is never a pleasant experience. But it’s comforting to know that—however unpleasant—anger is part of being human. 

At least some anger is needed for survival. When we feel threatened, we develop aggressive feelings and behaviors. This allows us to fight and defend ourselves. 

But frequent or intense episodes of anger aren’t good for you or the people around you. If you find yourself boiling mad more often than not, try some of these tips to keep your temper in check:

Check for other illnesses

If you feel angry often, there may be an underlying cause. Examples are post-traumatic stress disorder, Alzheimer disease, or another illness. See your healthcare provider if you suspect that your temper problems may be caused by another condition.

Be assertive, not aggressive

If you feel angry over a disagreement with someone, the best way to express it is by sharing your feelings in a respectful way. Expressing anger in this way can be healthier than holding it in. Those who hold back their feelings are more likely to develop passive-aggressive behavior and depression. They are also more likely to get physical ailments such as high blood pressure. When you assert your feelings, stay calm. Refrain from behaviors such as yelling. It may feel good to “let it rip.” But this behavior has been shown to increase anger, not relieve it.  In short, don’t be afraid to speak up, but be courteous at the same time

Know and stay away from your triggers

One good way to keep your temper in check is to not get angry in the first place. If you know that bumper-to-bumper traffic stresses you out, try to drive before or after rush hour. If you’re cranky first thing in the morning, don’t start stressful conversations with your spouse until you’ve had your morning coffee. You can't prevent every trigger, but recognizing and steering clear of the controllable ones can go a long way toward decreasing your anger and stress levels.

Learn to relax

A few tricks to cool your temper can come in handy the next time you feel yourself close to boiling over. For example, deep breathing is a simple method that can work well to ease anger. To do it, breathe in slowly through your nose, hold your breath for a few seconds, and then breathe out through your mouth. This helps counteract the rapid, shallow breathing that angry people often have. Picture a calm place, real or imaginary. This can also help. Practice these techniques every day. They’ll feel more natural as time goes on.

Seek help

If calming yourself down isn’t working and no other cause can be found for your anger, see a healthcare provider to learn better ways of coping. This kind of therapy can be done one-on-one or in a group. Most anger-management counseling focuses on controlling anger and learning conflict resolution to help you keep your aggression from getting the better of you. Ask your primary healthcare provider for a referral to a therapist or group program.

If you think you are going to become physically or emotionally violent, get away from the situation. Take this loss-of-control feeling as a sign that you may need professional help.

Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Paul Ballas MD
Date Last Reviewed: 11/1/2018
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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