Anger

How To Cope

What Is Anger?

We all feel angry at times – it's part of being human.

More About Anger

Anger is a normal, healthy emotion, which we might experience if we feel:

  • attacked
  • deceived
  • frustrated
  • invalidated or unfairly treated

It isn't necessarily a 'bad' emotion; in fact it can sometimes be useful. For example, feeling angry about something can:

  • help us identify problems or things that are hurting us
  • motivate us to create change, achieve our goals and move on
  • help us stay safe and defend ourselves in dangerous situations by giving us a burst of energy as part of our fight or flight system

Most people will experience episodes of anger which feel manageable and don't have a big impact on their lives. Learning healthy ways to recognise, express and deal with anger is important for our mental and physical health. (Our pages on managing outbursts and long-term coping have some tips on how to deal with anger.)

When Is Anger A Problem?

Anger only becomes a problem when it gets out of control and harms you or people around you. This can happen when:

  • you regularly express your anger through unhelpful or destructive behaviour
  • your anger is having a negative impact on your overall mental and physical health
  • anger becomes your go-to emotion, blocking out your ability to feel other emotions
  • you haven't developed healthy ways to express your anger
It feels like there's a ball of fire in the middle of my chest that blurts its way straight out of my mouth and burns the people around me.
What Can I Do To Manage My Anger?

It can be frightening when your anger overwhelms you. But there are ways you can learn to manage your anger when you find yourself in difficult situations. You can:

  • look out for warning signs
  • buy yourself time to think
  • try some calming techniques

Look out for warning signs

Anger can cause a rush of adrenaline through your body, so before you recognise the emotion you're feeling you might notice:

  • your heart is beating faster
  • your breathing is quicker
  • your body is becoming tense
  • your feet are tapping
  • you're clenching your jaw or fists

Recognising these signs gives you the chance to think about how you want to react to a situation before doing anything. This can be difficult in the heat of the moment, but the earlier you notice how you're feeling, the easier it can be to choose how to manage your anger.

Buy yourself time to think

Sometimes when we're feeling angry, we just need to walk away from the situation for a while. This can give you time to work out what you're thinking about the situation, decide how you want to react to it and feel more in control. Some ways you can buy yourself time to think are:

  • Counting to 10 before you react.
  • Taking yourself out of the situation by going for a short walk – even if it's just around your block or local area.
  • Talking to a trusted person who's not connected to the situation, such as a friend, family member, counsellor or peer support group. Expressing your thoughts out loud can help you understand why you're angry and help calm you down. If you don't feel comfortable talking to someone you know, you can confidentially call the Samaritans 24 hours a day to talk about anything that's upsetting you.

Try some techniques to manage your feelings

There are many ways to calm down and let go of angry feelings, depending on what suits you and what’s convenient at the time you are angry.

  • Breathe slowly – try to breathe out for longer than you breathe in and focus on each breath as you take it.
  • Relax your body – if you can feel your body getting tense, try focusing on each part of your body in turn to tense and then relax your muscles. (See our pages on relaxation for more tips on how to relax.)
  • Try mindfulness techniques – mindfulness can help you to be aware of when you're getting angry and can help calm your body and mind down. Be Mindful has more information on mindfulness and guidance on how to practice it.
  • Exercise – try to work off your anger through exercise. Sports like running or boxing can be really helpful for releasing pent up energy.
  • Use up your energy safely in other ways – this can help relieve some of your angry feelings in a way that doesn't hurt yourself or others. For example, you could try tearing up a newspaper, hitting a pillow or smashing ice cubes in a sink.
  • Do something to distract yourself mentally or physically – anything that completely changes your situation, thoughts or patterns can help stop your anger escalating. For example, you could try:
    • putting on upbeat music and dancing
    • doing something with your hands, like fixing something or making something
    • doing something creative like colouring or drawing
    • writing in a journal
    • taking a cold shower


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