It can be frightening when your anger overwhelms you. But there are ways you can learn to stay in control of your anger when you find yourself in difficult situations. You can:
|Remember: if your outbursts can be violent or abusive this can cause serious problems in your life and relationships, and can be very damaging to the people around you. In this case, it's essential to seek professional treatment and support for your anger.
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.
- Going for a short walk – even if it's just around your local area.
- Talking to a trusted friend who's not connected to the situation. 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 call the Samaritans 24 hours a day to talk about anything that's upsetting you.
[What helps me is] getting away from the situation to cool down.
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).
- Use up some of your energy safely – 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
- smashing ice cubes in a sink.
- Do something to distract yourself. 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 some colouring
- taking a cold shower.
- Try mindfulness techniques to help you be aware of when you're getting angry and to help yourself calm down. Be Mindful has more information on mindfulness and guidance on how to practice it.
Breathing techniques have helped me to control my anger. I know that if I take a moment to concentrate on my breathing and not my anger, I'll have something else to focus on.
This information was published in February 2016. We will revise it in 2019.