for better mental health

How to cope with anger

Explains anger, giving practical suggestions for what you can do and where you can go for support. Also includes advice for friends and family.

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.

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.

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.

"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."

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. (For other organisations that can help please see our useful contacts page.)

"What helps me is getting away from the situation to cool down."

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. See our pages on mindfulness to learn more.
  • 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

Remember: Learning new techniques to help manage your feelings can take time and practice – so try to be patient and gentle with yourself as you learn these new skills.

This information was published in July 2018. We will revise it in 2021.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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