Anger Management Relaxation Techniques

Brindusa Vanta, MD, DHMHS
Medical editor

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The following discussion describes common anger management techniques. Commit to using and practicing these techniques regularly for them to positively affect your life.

What are the Best Relaxation Techniques for Immediate Relief?

If you are feeling stressed, angry, or anxious, you can utilize many relaxation techniques to provide immediate relief, such as:[1,2,3]

  • Deep Breathing: Deep breathing involves taking slow, deep breaths to activate the body's relaxation response. 
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR): This involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups to release tension and promote relaxation. 
  • Mindfulness and Meditation: Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment, while meditation focuses on calming the mind and achieving a state of deep relaxation. 
  • Guided Visualization: Guided visualization involves imagining a peaceful and calming scene or scenario to promote relaxation and reduce stress. 

The Power of Relaxation

Relaxation, particularly in the context of stress and anger management, refers to the intentional practice of calming the body and mind to reduce tension, anxiety, and emotional arousal.


It involves engaging in activities or techniques that promote a sense of calmness, balance, and inner peace amidst challenging or stressful situations.[1]

Relaxation techniques offer both immediate and long-term benefits for managing stress and anger. In the short term, they can help:[2]

  • Reduce muscle tension
  • Lower heart rate
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Promote relaxation
  • Enhance well-being

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Over time, consistent practice of relaxation techniques can:[2]

  • Enhance resilience to stress
  • Improve emotional regulation skills
  • Contribute to overall mental and physical health
  • Improve resilience

Controlled Deep Breathing and Muscle Relaxation

  • Your breathing rate and heart rate both increase when you experience emotional arousal. 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 taking quick, shallow breaths when you are upset. Allowing this shallow,  chest-only breathing to continue will only exacerbate your anger. Instead, take action to focus on your breathing, take deep breaths, and relax your muscles. Set aside at least 15 minutes to do this exercise to calm down effectively.

Slow Breathing

  1. Start your relaxation efforts by taking several slow and deep breaths in a row. Take care to exhale for twice as long as you inhale.
  2. Count to four slowly as you breathe in, and then count to eight slowly as you breathe out.

  • As you do this, notice where the air in your lungs is going. Open your lungs and breathe 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, it is likely that as you control your breath, you will also cause your heart rate to slow down and your muscular tension to abate.

Recognizing the Need for Relaxation

Knowing how to recognize when you are stressed or aroused can help you employ relaxation techniques to bring you back to baseline, improve well-being, and improve impulse control.

Common physical signs of stress and anger include:

  • Increased heart rate and breathing
  • Muscle tension, particularly in the neck and shoulders
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Upset stomach or digestive issues
  • Fatigue or insomnia
  • Sweating or clammy hands

Common emotional signs of anger and stress include:

  • Irritability or moodiness
  • Feelings of overwhelm or anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Racing thoughts or edginess
  • Agitation or restlessness

The body's stress response, also known as the fight-or-flight response, involves the release of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which prepare the body for action in response to perceived threats. Relaxation techniques help counteract the body's stress response by activating the relaxation response, reducing muscle tension, slowing the heart rate and breathing, and promoting a sense of calm. This helps to restore balance to the body and mind and fosters better coping skills.[4]

Muscle Tension and the Need for Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Anger can be associated with physical symptoms, like muscle pain and tension. For example, the muscle tension may be felt in the neck and shoulder. If your neck is tense, continue with this exercise:

Woman having neck cramps

  1. Slowly and gently (and we mean GENTLY) roll your head toward one shoulder and then toward the other.
  2. Coordinate your head roll 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.
  3. Carefully repeat this technique several times until you feel the muscles in your neck relax a little.
  4. Work out more shoulder tension by deliberately and carefully shrugging your shoulders and releasing them several times. Shoulder rolls backward and forward can also help. 

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).

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

If relaxation techniques alone don't work, try the opposite:

  1. Tighten and tense the stressed muscles for a slow count to 10, and then release them. Be sure to release your tightened muscles immediately if you feel any pain!
  2. Move from one muscle group to the next until you have treated each section of your body to a cycle of tension and release.
  3. Work your way down your entire body.

Tensing and then relaxing your muscles can sometimes help you achieve a better quality of relaxation than relaxation alone.

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

Relaxation techniques such as these can help you to relax and 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.

As Dr. Brindusa Vanta, MD, says, "Research studies suggest that Progressive Muscle Relaxation can effectively reduce muscle tension, symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress. This technique may also improve sleep and your overall well-being."

Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment, allowing you to fully engage in experiences and sensations. 

Meditation, a form of mindfulness practice, entails focusing attention on a particular object, thought, or activity to cultivate awareness, clarity, and inner peace.[3]

Meditation Practice

Like any practice, it’s important to approach meditation with intention, self-compassion, and open-mindedness. Here’s a guide to starting a meditation practice:

  • Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit or lie down with your spine straight and relaxed.
  • Close your eyes or softly gaze downward, allowing your eyelids to feel heavy.
  • Take a few deep breaths to center yourself, focusing on the sensation of air entering and leaving your body.
  • Choose a focal point for your meditation, such as your breath, a mantra, or a visual object.
  • Maintain awareness of your chosen focal point, allowing thoughts and distractions to pass without judgment.
  • If your mind wanders, gently notice that it has wandered.
  • Then, bring your attention back to your focal point, returning to the present moment with kindness and patience.

Dr.Brindusa Vanta, MD, says, "While brief, 3-minute sessions of mindfulness meditation can promote a sense of peace and relaxation, aim for longer daily sessions of 15 or 20 minutes for optimal results."


  1. American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Stress relief in the moment.
  2. Mayo Clinic. (2021, September 11). Progressive muscle relaxation: An overview.
  3. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2016, October). Relaxation techniques for health.
  4. Mayo Clinic. (2021, September 11). Stress management: Enhance your well-being by reducing stress and building resilience.

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