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Anger Management De-Escalation Strategies

by Dave Decker M.A.

Below are some specific examples of ideas that people have come up with to address their punishing and disrespectful anger. Look through the list and see if there are some ideas that you can incorporate into your own day-to-day life.
  • Take a time out (leave the situation/room/house)
  • Call a supportive friend/class member/relative (emotionally connect with others)
  • Call a crisis line
  • Notice your cues and where you are in your escalation process (and continue to add cues and de-escalation ideas to your plan)
  • Carry around a notebook to help you notice and write down your cues
  • Carry your Escalation Prevention Plan (a written plan to identify your anger triggers and cues and your specific de-escalation strategies) with you and/or keep it in a place you will see it daily
    ...e.g. on your night stand, on your dresser, on your desk at home or work
  • Make small signs/visual signals and post them at various places (e.g. in your car, on the bathroom mirror or your chest of drawers at home, at your desk at work) to remind you of what you are trying to do with your anger
    ...a stop sign that says "Slow down," "Think," "Calm," or "Relax"
    ...make up your own acronym that gets you to think about your program person came up with"RAKM" which meant "Remember Anger Kills Me" to him after he had read the book Anger Kills in the reading list
  • Be aware of your self-talk and change the negative and vengeful thoughts to more positive self- talk
    ...come up with some specific examples of positive self-talk to use whenever you are escalating or escalated (e.g. "I can handle this," "I will be okay in this situation," "I can't control this person/situation. I need to let this go."
  • Begin to engage in positive rather than negative rehearsals
    ...i.e. recognize that an upcoming situation may be difficult and learn to come up with a positive plan to actually handle it
  • Work consciously at slowing yourself down as you go through your day
    ...e.g. focus on your breathing and take deep slow breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth when you are starting to escalate
  • Go for a walk
  • Go to a favorite relaxing spot
    ...e.g. your backyard, a walk in the woods, sitting by a lake
  • Do non-violent, non-competitive, aerobic exercise regularly (at least three times per week)
    ...jogging, biking, swimming, calesthenics, weightlifting, skating, rollerblading, stairmaster, cross country skiing
  • Work at really listening to the other person when you are angry
    ... i.e. stop talking and simply reacting to what others say and do and try to understand their perspective
  • Identify and be assertive with your thoughts and feelings with others when you experience them and set appropriate and respectful limits whenever necessary
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat in a healthy way
  • Count slowly to 10 (or 100) and focus on each number as you say it
  • Have a cool drink
  • Splash cold water on your face
  • Sit down or stay seated
    ...don't "get in another person's face" or stand over others in an intimidating or threatening way
  • Take a bath, hot shower, whirlpool, or sauna
  • Listen to relaxing music in the car or at home
    ...e.g. jazz, classical (e.g. baroque), new age
  • Use relaxation techniques
    ...e.g. practice progressive muscle relaxation/yoga/t'ai chi chih; listen to relaxation tapes like nature sounds (ocean waves, thunderstorm)
  • Use meditation or visualization to calm yourself
    ...e.g. imagine yourself at a favorite spot where you can feel peaceful, calm, relaxed, and centered
  • Distract yourself (i.e. do something else to change your focus from the escalation situation)
    ...e.g. pick up or clean your closet, kitchen, shop, or the garage
  • Spend time outside in nature (in the woods or near a lake)
  • Begin to look at and take clear responsibility for your "part" in the arguments and problems you have with others
  • Try to see your partner's or the other person's perspective in your conflicts
    ...learn to empathize and "put yourself in the other person's shoes"
  • Use community support groups
    ...e.g. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Al-Anon, Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA), Emotions Anonymous, and other self-help programs
  • Use God or a Higher Power and prayer in your life
  • "Let go" of what you can't control in your day-to-day life
    ...e.g. think about and say the "Serenity Prayer" (from Alcholics Anonymous) to yourself to remind yourself of what you can control and what you can't
    ...Ask yourself: "Is there anything constructive and useful that I can actually do in this situation?"
  • Find and participate in hobbies and recreational activities that you enjoy
    ...e.g. gardening, reading, refinishing furniture, coin collecting, playing music, fishing
  • Carry a small notebook to jot down trigger situations and how you handled (or didn't handle) them
  • Keep an Escalation Diary or Anger Journal and write about how you are feeling, what you are thinking, cues and triggers that are part of your escalation, and ways you can respond differently to those cues and triggers
  • Stroke, walk, or play with your pets
  • Think about past consequences you have experienced or potential consequences that may occur in the future if you continue to be hurtful, disrespectful, and abusive
    ...e.g. loss of the relationship with your partner, scaring your children or teaching them to be explosive and disrespectful themselves
  • Whistle/sing/laugh regularly
  • Take some time for yourself
    ...i.e. don't over-schedule yourself with things that you have to get done
  • Work on feeling gratitude for who you are and what you have
    ...think more about positive moments in your life and recall them at difficult times
  • Ask yourself: "In reality, how important is this situation where I'm feeling angry right now?" and "Is this issue or this problem really more important than the relationship I have with my partner (my child, my friend, my co-worker)"

Behaviors and Activities to Avoid Which Could Escalate You More

  • Avoid retaliating remarks, trying to "get the last word in," or "parting shots" during a discussion or conflict
  • Avoid the person you are trying to take your time out from
  • Avoid coming back too soon after you have taken a time-out
  • Avoid blaming, judgments, and other forms of negative self-talk which can keep you "pumped up" and agitated continually
  • Avoid alcohol or other drugs (including caffeine) which can increase your physical arousal and contribute to more anger
  • Avoid driving, especially on busy streets or during rush hour if at all possible (which can further escalate you)
  • Avoid doing "detective work" with your partner
    ...e.g. following them around when they leave the house, checking the odometer on the car, tapping the phone or listening in on their phone conversations with others
  • Avoid stress-producing activities
    ...e.g. difficult projects, work that absolutely has to be done, competitive sports
  • Avoid music that only escalates you more
    ...e.g. rap, heavy metal, music that is demeaning to women or other groups of people
  • Avoid provocative "talk radio" (in the car or at home) designed to get and keep you angry about all the "idiots" everywhere around you and the disturbing events in the world-at-large

© 1985 David J. Decker, MA, LP
Phone: 612-725-8402 or 651-646-4325 -




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