Emotions & Shame

Anger Management Tools for Adults with ADHD

Could better stress management be as simple as breathing, smiling, and chilling out? 7 ways for adults with ADHD to better deal with stress.

Let anger roll off you like dew on grass
Let anger roll off you like dew on grass

The Relaxed Response Technique

1. Stop and breathe.

We are not always aware that we hold our breath when we encounter stress, so at the very beginning of a stressful situation, be certain that you continue breathing without interruption.

Breathe smoothly, deeply and evenly at the very first trigger. Breathe deep from the diaphragm, if you can, making sure to exhale completely.

2. Smile and throw your shoulders back.

A smile increases blood flow to the brain and transmits nerve impulses from the facial muscles to the limbic system, a key emotional center of the brain.

Smiling changes your emotional state favorably, by stimulating the release of certain neurotransmitters. Sit up, or stand up straight, as you smile, balancing your posture by lifting up your head and chin. Relax your jaw and shoulders. Pretend that your spine has a thread running through it and out the top of your head and that someone is gently tugging on it to pull you up straight. Smile and let yourself you feel happy and light, as your body relaxes.

3. Make a wave of relaxation spread over your body.

Create a “wave of relaxation” through your body as if you’re standing in the ocean. If the image of water is uncomfortable for you, make an image of a warm breeze blowing over you. Have the wave or breeze wash or blow away all unnecessary tension. Keep your mind and body calm. Feel centered and in control.

[Get This Free Download: 15 Ways to Disarm (and Understand) Explosive ADHD Emotions]

4. Take control of the situation.

Take control of the situation by accepting it as it is. Avoid the paralysis of analysis. Don’t start to fret with useless questions like, “Why is this happening to me?”

Ask yourself, “What can I do right now that will make this situation better?” Quickly look for solutions instead of getting locked on the problem. Focus on what you can control, instead of what you can’t.

Choose to learn from the experience. Listen with an open mind, trying to resolve conflict, rather than create it. Apply your own personal golden rule or spiritual philosophy in place of anxiety or anger. Think clear honest thoughts and protect yourself without hurting other people.

Response Techniques To Criticism

Oftentimes, people with ADHD have been criticized so much, they react angrily and aggressively. With practice, you can learn to stand your ground without attacking or provoking anger or a defensive response, and without surrendering to the criticism. You may respond to accurate criticism appropriately by acknowledging the criticism with dignity, protecting your self-esteem. Try the following:


Inaccurate criticism can be responded to by “fogging” — a gentle technique that protects you and doesn’t attack the critic. Vague or over-generalized criticism can be responded to with an appropriate technique of questioning to clarify the issue.

[Click to Read: How to Manage Your Anger When It Rears Its Ugly Head]

The first step is to acknowledge the criticism and any truth there is to the statement. When the criticism is accurate, acknowledge so, by saying you’re right and paraphrasing the criticism, so you both know what you are in agreement about. If a thank you or an explanation seems appropriate, then briefly do so and get on with other things. Don’t dwell on the criticism, yet be determined about ways in which you can learn from it.

When you are given an inaccurate criticism, you can use “fogging” as a technique to respond. This involves a token agreement with the critic by agreeing only in part. Example: If someone says you are undependable you can respond by saying that you sometimes forget appointments. You are not agreeing that you are undependable and you are acknowledging that you do forget on occasion.

You can also agree about the possibility of the critic being right, by responding with,”Yes, I might be undependable at times.” You could also agree just with the principle of the criticism by restating the principle behind the criticism, such as,”You’re right, being late is undependable.”

A lot of criticism is vague and needs to be clarified with questioning before you can decide how to respond. Stay away from why questioning and use how, what, where, and when questioning to clarify the details. Example: If someone says that what you are doing annoys them, ask specifically how it is annoying and when it annoys.

Sensitive Listening

Respond being sensitive to the other persons point of view or plight, being sure to make your situation or point of view clear after you have acknowledged their point of view respectfully. Avoid using the word “but,” replacing it with “and.” Restating the other person’s point of view, followed by the word ‘but’ negates what you have just said. Following it with the word ‘and’ will prevent the other person from becoming defensive or tuning you out.

Anger Assessment and Proactive Problem Solving

Identify your anger “triggers” and common situations in which they occur, so you can be prepared to respond differently. Be ready in these situations to take a deep breath, pause, and respond in a calm and relaxed manner.

Identify negative thoughts and change them to appropriate positive sayings. Self reminders such as “chill out” or “stay calm” are much easier to hear when we say them to ourselves before we hear them coming from someone else.

Think of the consequences that angry behavior will get you.

Think of the consequences that calm relaxed responses will get you!

Resolve to talk the incident over with a friend or coach later who can support and help you continue to respond in a way that will help you grow and become more satisfied with yourself.

If you are in a unbearable situation that you do not like, ask yourself, “What is the worst that could happen right now?” Chances are that the worst possible outcome won’t happen, but you will be prepared for it, if it does.

Brainstorm positive solutions anger provoking situations and choose the best possible one to act upon. Decide a back up plan that is also positive and don’t dwell on why the first one didn’t work. Move on and learn from the experience.

Congratulate yourself each and every time you manage to change or modify a behavior in your quest toward better anger management.

[Read This Next: Why You Lash Out — Sometimes for No Good Reason]