How to be the boss of your brain when you’re angry

Anger can be a great thing when it motivates you to make a difference in ways that don’t hurt anyone. The truth is that when you hurt someone else, it will always end up hurting you eventually. You don’t want to be that person who just goes around letting the angry, impulsive, reckless part of your brain make you do dumb things.

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Anger can be the reason you protect your friend or the new kid when the bullies are giving him a hard time. It can be the reason you put wrong things right – but only if you have control of your brain while you do it. Otherwise it’s a mess. A dreadful mess.

Be the boss of your brain and you’ll be the boss of your anger. You can use it to do awesome things – to motivate you, inspire you and to make wrong things right, but seriously, you’ve got to be the boss for that to happen.

How to be the boss of your brain


It sounds simple – and it is – but there’s a reason for that. There’s a reason we practise breathing every single moment of every single day. The first is that if we don’t, we die. The second is that when you breathe, your brain releases chemicals that calm down the angry feelings. Anger goes down, smarts go up.

Take a break

Walk away and go somewhere else until your brain is back under control. You want to be as smart as you can if you’re having to deal with someone who has ticked you off, and the only way you can do this is to get your brain sorted. It will happen on its own, and it doesn’t take long, but sometimes you have to find some space so that can happen.

If you want to be heard, be calm. Say what you need to say in a calm, clear voice. When you yell, people won’t hear your message. All they’ll hear is that you’ve lost your mind, which, if you’re angry, you kind of have. Get it back and you’ll say things that make a lot more sense because you’ll have your full brain with all of your smarts, not 30 percent less.

Get active

Go for a fast walk, a run, a ride, or turn your music up and dance really hard – anything that gets you moving. Getting active will help your body to get rid of the ‘angry’ chemicals that your brain has fuelled you with to help you fight or run away.

If you don’t fight or run away, these chemicals can build up and make you feel even worse. It’s easy to mistake them for feeling angrier and angrier, when actually what you’re feeling is your brain saying, “Come on, I’ve given you what you need to be fast and strong – use it!” Being active will burn the chemicals and help to settle your brain again.

Get the energy out

Scream into a pillow or kick a ball – go for it – anything that will get the angry energy that’s in you, safely out of you.

Decide on the type of person you’re going to be

Using your body or voice to hurt others is never a good thing. Decide that you’re always going to be better than someone who loses it.

Give permission to all of your feelings to be there

Anger is the feeling we grab on to to keep more difficult, intense feelings under control (like fear or anxiety). Anger never exists on its own and it can be really helpful to understand what feeling is beneath it. Breathe deeply and be open to any other feelings that might be there. Just let it happen. They’ll show themselves to you when you’re calm, still and open to seeing them. When you can find the feeling beneath your anger, your anger will start to ease.

Get to know your triggers (we all have them)

Know the things that tend to make you steam. Are you someone who gets angry more easily when you’re tired? Stressed? Hungry? Once you start to recognise your triggers, you can work towards making sure you limit those triggers when you can.

Anger is a really normal thing to feel

As with anything, it can be a great thing or a not-so-great thing. To make it something that’s helpful, it’s important to make sure that your higher brain doesn’t disconnect and leave your lower brain in control of things. Your lower brain loves doing what it wants, and will get you into all sorts of trouble if it’s left in charge. Learning to bring your higher brain back is something that takes practise, but the person who is the boss of his or her brain will always be someone pretty awesome.

hey-warriorHey Warrior by Karen Young

Kids can do amazing things with the right information! Understanding why anxiety feels the way it does and where the physical symptoms come from is a powerful step in turning anxiety around. Anxiety explained, kids empowered. Purchase Karen’s book here.

Attend a Toolbox parenting course

Toolbox courses inspire and equip whānau. They are bursting with great advice, humour and encouragement, offering practical strategies and insights into developmental stages. Parents leave reassured that challenges are common to all families and that they’re not alone on their parenting journey. The courses are run over a number of weeks in a relaxed and conversational small group setting with a trained facilitator. The five courses – Building Awesome Whānau, Baby and Toddler Years, Primary Years, Intermediate Years, and Teenage Years. Find out more and register here.