top of page

Ron Handelman, Psychologist

Institute for Change

973-734-0780, Ext 3

Put on the BRAKES


How to Control Anger and Frustration, and Cope with Stress

By this time, either you or your family member have argued about something insignificant or ridiculous, and have said things that may be regretted later.  Let’s explore a system to help get us out of an unnecessary conflict or downward spiral, trap, or snowball of anger. No one needs a tantrum, meltdown, or petty argument that can be hurtful, and lead to lost privileges.   When you are starting to lose your cool, get boiling mad, become frustrated…

Put on the BRAKES!    It’s just like stopping a car before you hit something ahead.  


BRAKES is an acronym that stands for:


B - BREATHE   Start with taking a deep breath in for 5 seconds...slowly and silently, through the nose.   Hold for 3 seconds silently.  Then exhale for 5 seconds slowly and silently through the mouth.  No one needs to hear you huffing and puffing.  Be mindful of the breaths, the time, the feeling, and the not think about your next argument and controlling the other person.   If you need another 13 seconds of it...and another if necessary. This step is important to avoid the big angry display of rage.   

R - RELAX  Relax your body, beginning with the Shoulders. Take yourself out of a posture of arguing or fighting.  Boxers, UFC fighters, and people who yell at others usually lean forward, stand tall, hover over their opponents, and raise their voices, shoulders, and hands.  Imagine a mean person dictating orders and waving their finger at you. It doesn’t lead to a peaceful interaction. Pull your shoulders back, soften your

voice, and display a posture of calm availability. 

A - AWAY (or STAY)   Now is when you make a decision to stick around or to get some distance from the situation.  If you stay, you need to be calm and mature; and if you decide to go away, you can plan to return when you are calmer. Staying is good because you are facing the discussion and are ready to talk.  The choice to go away is best if the other person is unreasonable, or if the conflict is unfair.  At home, you can say you need to use the bathroom for a few minutes, but assure others that you will be back.  Everyone can calm down. If you are outnumbered by 3-5 others who

want to hurt you, get away fast...don’t stick around.  On the other hand, if your parent asked you to finish an assignment, stop bickering with your sibling, take your dish to the sink, or turn off the X-box, you might want to stay for the discussion.  


K - KNOWLEDGE   It is important to Know the Real Problem. Try to figure out what this conflict and display of anger are all about...Are you hungry, tired, uncomfortable, or cranky?  Is the other person bothered or altered by something else? Is there a control issue? Who is searching for power or control, and why might they need it?  Sometimes, understanding the need for control allows the calmer person to settle the situation.  

Without a loud, hurtful challenge, all parties can maintain some healthy control and things won’t go out of control.  

E - EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS   Try to anticipate what would come next.   Predict the outcome of your own words and actions.  Impulsive yelling and physical displays such as throwing stuff around or hitting people or walls usually turn out poorly.  You know your family members well; you might know how they would react. Explore the potential choices you have to help the situation.  It might be easier to control yourself than to control them; but you might be able to guide the situation through calm behavior, a softer voice, a friendly posture, and intelligent/understanding words.  The goal: keep the peace, not escalate anger.   

S - STAY CALM   Once you have helped the situation to become calm, it is important to keep it peaceful!   Watch the others carefully and pay attention to your own mood and reactions.  Learn from this occasion, and use this success to guide you in the future.  


This system can work for you….It might be hard to do all the steps...Even if you only use “one” of the strategies on the list, it can lead to positive results.  


Taking a “Break” and putting on the “BRAKES” works similarly.  Both help you calm down, re-strategize, plan a better path, and perhaps prevent

disaster.  They can help your family members also.


GOOD LUCK and remain calm!

bottom of page