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Breathing Exercises for Angry Teens

by Ashley Miller, studioD

Teens can have a hard time managing negative emotions like anger. They may feel that it's not okay or safe to express their feelings. Or they might feel their anger is controlling them, instead of the other way around. Practicing breathing exercises can be beneficial for inducing relaxation and can help teens manage anger in a healthy and effective way, according to the National Association of School Psychologists.


Learning to manage anger in healthy and constructive ways promotes improved physical and mental health, according to the Center for Young Women's Health at Boston Children's Hospital. Too much anger can contribute to negative physical and mental health conditions, such as high blood pressure, depression and stomachaches. Teens might become angry for a number of reasons, such as stress, academic concerns, family issues and social pressure. When this pressure escalates, teens might become angry because they feel like they cannot handle it all anymore. Teaching teens breathing exercises to help manage anger is one way that parents can help their teens diffuse some of this built-up tension and stress.


There are a number of breathing exercises that teens can use to help manage feelings of anger and stress. Two of the easiest exercises are diaphragmatic breathing and relaxation breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as abdominal breathing, is a simple yet effective breathing technique for inducing feelings of relaxation and dealing with anger, says the American Psychological Association. Another breathing exercise that can provide benefits is called relaxation breathing. This exercise helps redirect the mind from feelings of anger to feelings of increased calm and peace. Teens may also benefit from practicing yoga or meditation, says FamilyDoctor.org. Yoga and meditation both emphasize specific breathing exercises, which may help angry teens reduce anger and stress and help them cultivate a more relaxed state of mind.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing can help reduce feelings of anger and its associated symptoms. According to the "Harvard Mental Health Letter," diaphragmatic breathing may help lower heart rate and blood pressure and encourages a healthier breathing pattern. To practice this exercise, sit or lie in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and observe your current breathing patterns for a few moments. Then place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Inhale deeply into your lower belly. Your lower hand should rise but the upper hand should stay relatively still. Pause for a moment, then exhale completely. Imagine that you are breathing out all feelings of tension and anger. Practice this breathing pattern for several minutes or until you feel calmer and more relaxed.

Relaxation Breathing

Relaxation breathing is similar to diaphragmatic breathing in that it focuses on slow, deep breaths that stem from the belly. But in this exercise, you inhale very slowly through your nose and exhale just as slowly out of your mouth. Try to make each inhalation and exhalation equally long. Some people find it helpful to use mental self-talk to reduce feelings of anger when performing this exercise. You might tell yourself something like, "I can handle this. I can calm down now." Other people use mental imagery when practicing relaxation breathing. Vividly imagine that you are in your favorite, most relaxing setting. Focus your mind on the mental images that come to mind and notice how you start to feel calmer and more peaceful.

About the Author

Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.

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