Anger issues

It is perfectly normal to feel angry from time to time, but in some cases it can be a problem.

Anger is probably the most poorly handled emotion in our society. Few of us can appropriately express anger to the right person, at the right time, in a measured way.

How can I manage my anger?

Learn how to recognise your anger as soon as it starts to arise. Prepare for situations that might make you angry and avoid them where possible.

1. Take time out

When you notice you are becoming angry, say to the other person that you need a few minutes to think. If necessary, leave the room and have a walk while you think things through.

2. Deep breathing

Sit down, sit back in your chair and take a few deep breaths while you think to yourself: "I am going to distance myself emotionally and regain control; get hold of my rational self."

3. Buzzwords

Have a shared buzzword that indicates to you, and the people you are with, that you are feeling angry and need some time to collect your thoughts. The funnier the better.

4. Humour

Generate an alternative form of physical reaction by channelling your energy into humour. It is very difficult to feel angry if you're doing a cartwheel or pulling a silly face.

5. Anger diffusing techniques

Tear a newspaper into shreds, punch pillows, cry, go for a run or a walk, go to the gym, write a letter without sending it.

6. Own your feelings

Use 'I' statements. A really useful formula is "I feel x when you do y", eg "I feel you don't care when you don't return my calls."

7. Listening and reflecting

Reflect back what you understand the other person to have said, eg "So what you're saying is, when I don't call you straight back you think I don't care." Ask the other person what they understand by what you say.

How should I think about anger?

Think about anger as a series of steps:

  • Recognising and intervening on the low level steps is the best chance of managing your anger.
  • When you’re really wound up you may find yourself ascending the anger stairs because it’s very hard to calm down.
  • At the top of the stairs, you may lose control, with all the negative consequences this can bring.

Avoid bottling up anger

The advice on this page is not designed to avoid anger but to enable you to think more clearly about what is making you angry.

'Stewing' in your angry feelings, or 'swallowing' them in order to pretend that it does not matter, can lead to the development of depression and feelings of hopelessness, or 'temper explosions', which in extreme cases can be linked to violent outbursts. In either of these cycles it becomes more and more difficult to maintain a balanced and peaceful lifestyle.

How can we help?

Watch our mindfulness videos on our tips for wellbeing page.

You might also find it helpful to attend one of the following workshops:

Workshops and groups