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Calming Down When Upset

Updated: Apr 18

If possible, get away from the thing or person that seems to be the source of your anger.

Force yourself to allow your muscles relax. Release your facial muscles such as your brow, nose, eyes, lips, jaw... You might be squinting your eyes and/or have your brow “furrowed” right now – release those muscles. Release your shoulders, arms, hands, chest, abs, pelvic floor, legs, feet... I said “force yourself”, because it’s likely that you will want to remain tense. Anger sometimes has an alluring, seductive quality to it because we feel more powerful when we are experiencing it. Be aware of this so you can anticipate it. Practice relaxing your muscles like this often, even when you aren’t feeling angry, so you get used to the motion.

Control your breathing. In terms of depth, experiment with exhaling all the way, versus only exhaling until your diaphragm/chest/abs are at rest, and see which one makes you feel calmer. Breathing in all the way, or almost all the way, seems best for most people. In terms of length, most people will feel calmer if they inhale and exhale for around 4 or 5 seconds each. Once you do this a few times stop counting the seconds and just do it by feeling. Experiment with pausing for a second or two after your done exhaling and before you start inhaling. Try making your exhale a little longer than your inhale.

Our muscles form habits, so it’s likely yours have already become tense again without you realizing it. Go through and relax them again.

Speak as little as possible.

Move your body as little as possible.

Experiment with mentally repeating phrases like “Control yourself.”, “Master yourself.”, “Control your anger or it will control you.”, and any other phrases that help you calm down. Use/hear/imagine a slow, deep, powerful voice saying these mental phrases. You can also try letting go of all mental words, though this is often difficult.

Overall, do as little as possible while relaxing your muscles and breathing.

Speaking of which, your muscles are probably tense again – relax them again, now.

Putting your body into a decent posture can help, too. Just don’t over do it, throwing your chest way out, or arching your back too much, shoulders too far back, etc. Try to find a good middle-of-the-line posture that is in between extremes. Holding this posture will use some of your muscles. That is fine. Just release as many muscles as you can while keeping that posture. Get the posture -> relax the muscles.

Fix your breathing again.


Keep working on it.

It becomes easier and more habitual with ongoing practice.

Contrary to moving your body as little as possible, you can try going for a walk, jumping jacks, weight lifting, using a punching bag, bodyweight exercises... For some people these seem to help release steam. Personally they are hit-or-miss for me, sometimes helping me, sometimes making me angrier.

If you're still feeling angry, you likely need to address whatever it is more directly. Sometimes we feel passing anger, like when someone cuts us off in traffic. Other times the anger is attached to something more serious. This kind of anger will stay with us until we've made some kind of change to help decrease the chances of it happening again in the future.

For this, I recommend talking with your anger as though it is a person you care about deeply. Listen to them. Let them vent to you. Don't demonize them, but don't encourage them either. It likely has something valuable for you, but you need to work together to unearth it.

I recommend going somewhere you won't be overheard, and speaking out loud through this conversation. Don't give up on the conversation until a conclusion has been reached that is satisfying. Even if you run out of time before getting to that point, choose a specific day and time when you will continue the conversation. And remember - this is someone you care about deeply, so take this day and time seriously. Don't ignore the plans and do something else. Your anger will get worse if you do this - even if it temporarily goes away, it is likely to come back even worse because it (you) will feel you disrespected. It is disrespectful to yourself to not keep the date you said you would. Reschedule again if need be, but do not ignore.

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