Personal Assistance Service (PAS) | 2200 West Main Street | Erwin Square Tower | 4th Floor, Suite 400A | Durham, NC 27705 | 919-416-1PAS (919-416-1727)

Anger Management Tools

The following tools can be part of your plan to manage your anger so it does not reach aggression and impact your life negatively. Some tools to help control and diffuse your anger include time-outs, the conflict resolution model, and relaxation techniques.


Take a time-out as soon as your anger level begins to rise. Time-outs allow you to cool down as you leave a situation or stop a discussion triggering your anger. Time-outs give you time to consider all your options before responding. You can choose just about anyone to be a helpful coach - a supportive friend, family, member, supervisor, teacher, or counselor.


1. George is riding on a crowded bus. He is constantly bumped and jostled by other passengers. George realizes he's getting angry and decides to use a time-out. He exits the bus at the next stop and walks the rest of the way home.

2. Susan and Denise have a heated discussion at dinner. Susan recommends a time out, and then walks to the kitchen for a glass of water. After Susan calms down, she returns to her conversation with Denise.

Time-outs are ideal in the heat of the moment. Time-outs also work well when combined with other anger management tools. George combined his time-out with exercise by exiting the bus and walking home.

Should I tell others about my time-out?
Yes. Time-outs work best when you set some ground rules with others before you get angry. Discuss your time-out ground rules when everyone is calm and there's time to discuss the details. Once everyone knows the ground rules, anyone involved in a situation may use a time-out. The person calling the time-out may leave the situation, if they agree to finish the discussion or resolve the argument later.

Can I ever use a time-out without setting the ground rules first?
Yes. For example, you may need to use a time-out in a public place, such as a store, bank, bar, or restaurant. If you get angry with a stranger, you can use a time-out without talking through the ground rules first.

How do I take a time-out?
Follow these steps to take a time-out:

  1. When you realize you're getting angry during an argument, say out loud, "I'm beginning to feel really angry, and I need to take a time-out."
  2. Tell the other person your time-out may last about an hour. If possible, leave the situation. During your time-out:
    • Do not use alcohol or drugs.
    • Do not drive.
    • Do something healthy to reduce anger (go for a walk or talk with a support person).
    • Use your relaxation skills.
    • Take a "mental time-out" -- block any thoughts that might fuel your anger.
    • Do something with your hands, like cleaning or gardening.
  3. When the time-out ends, see if the other person is ready to continue the discussion. Don't force them. Some topics may require you to postpone things until you find a referee. Your first priority is to avoid violence and other aggressive behavior. When you start the conversation up again, check your anger level.

Time-outs can be tough when people believe their self-respect is on the line. You may want to stay, resolve the situation, or have the last word in the argument. You may think things will never be resolved if you walk away. Unlearning destructive behavior patterns gets easier with time and practice.

Conflict Resolution Model

The Conflict Resolution Model is a way to act assertively when asking for what you need.

Example: Betty carpools with Joe. Lately, Joe hasn't been ready on time, making Betty late for work. After getting in trouble for being late, Betty is angry at Joe.

Conflict Resolution involves five steps:

  1. Identify the problem triggering the conflict. Be specific. In our example, Joe's lateness creates conflict for Betty.
  2. Identify the feelings associated with the conflict. When Joe causes her to be late, Betty feels annoyed and frustrated.
  3. Identify the impact(s) of the problem. Joe's lateness causes Betty to be late for work.
  4. Choose whether to "let it go." Ask yourself, "Is this conflict important enough to bring up?" Betty should ask herself, "If I don't resolve this issue with Joe, will I continue to get angry?"
  5. If not, address and resolve the conflict. Agree on a time and place to discuss the conflict and find a solution. Betty could say to Joe, "You've been late the last few times I've come to pick you up. I'm starting to get frustrated and feel like I'm being taken for granted. When you run late, it makes me run late, too. Please be on time in the future."

Relaxation Techniques

Anger's physical cues include increased heart rate, feeling hot or flushed, and muscle tension. These physical cues are known as stress response. With stress response, the nervous system is aroused or "pumped up." When a person feels "pumped up," their anger level can rise quickly.

But the nervous system also has a relaxation response to help deal with stress. To activate that response, try the following:

Deep Breathing

  • Slowly breathe in for a count of three, while expanding your belly.
  • Slowly breathe out for a count of three.
  • Repeat steps 1 and 2 for one minute. If you don't feel relaxed, repeat until you do.

For videos to guide you through additional breathing exercises, visit our Breathing and Relaxation page.

Muscle Relaxation
Muscle relaxation reduces muscle tension. The technique teaches you to feel the difference between a tensed muscle and a relaxed muscle. Over time, relaxing specific muscle groups gets easier, so you can relax your muscles anytime, anywhere.

  • Sit or lie in a comfortable position with your feet, hands, arms, and neck supported.
  • Take a few deep breaths and think the word -- relax.
  • Focus on your legs and feet. Tense your legs by flexing your feet and pointing your toes toward your upper body. You'll feel tension spread through your feet and legs.
  • Hold for a few seconds and then release. Relax your feet and legs completely, while thinking the word "relax."
  • Now focus on your belly. Tense your belly by pulling it in toward your spine.
  • Hold for a few seconds then release. Tense your hands and arms by making a tight fist and tensing your forearms, biceps, and triceps.
  • Hold for a few seconds and then release. Relax your hands and arms completely, while thinking the word "relax."
  • Continue by tensing the following muscle groups:
    • Your shoulders
    • Your jaw
    • The muscles around your eyes
    • Your forehead
  • Hold the tension in each muscle group for a few seconds and then release the tension and think the word "relax."

Once you complete this exercise, you should feel more relaxed and your stress level should decrease.