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Managing anger

Managing angerAnger management helps you control your anger and minimise its impact on your life.  Read on to find out how…

What is anger?

Anger is an uncomfortable sensation that comes from feeling frustrated, criticised or threatened. Anger can range from mild feelings of annoyance to full-blown rage.

Why must anger be managed?

  • It can damage your relationships

Anger can cloud your judgement and lead to actions that are unreasonable and harmful to others. The way you behave when angry can damage your relationships with your peers, and lead to physical and emotional abuse.

  • It can damage your physical and mental health

When you are angry, your body has to cope with a large amount of stress hormones. If this anger is not resolved or managed, it can lead to health conditions such as headaches, high blood pressure and heart attacks.

Unresolved anger can weaken your immune system so that you are more likely to pick up infections. A weakened immune system also makes it more difficult for you to recover from operations, accidents or major illnesses.

Unresolved anger can also lead to a wide range of mental health conditions, from anxiety to eating disorders. It has been linked to the abuse of drugs and alcohol.

How can you manage anger?

There are loads of different techniques you can use to help you manage your anger. Here are some immediate and long-term self-help techniques:

Immediate self-help techniques

Immediate techniques can be used when you feel yourself beginning to get angry.

  • Identify your warning signs

People’s breathing and heart rate quicken when they get angry. You or other people may also notice other signs, such as clenched fists. If you notice these signs, and have a history of losing control, it’s best to remove yourself from the situation.

  • Count to 10

Focusing on something other than what’s making you angry can help you calm down.

  • Slow your breathing

When you’re angry, your breathing quickens. You automatically breathe in more than you breathe out. By choosing to breathe out for longer than you breathe in, and to try and relax as you breathe out, you’ll help yourself calm down.

Long-term self-help techniques

These techniques can be used in your day-to-day life. These techniques can reduce how frequently you get angry, and help you manage anger when it does arise.

  • Exercise:  Exercising daily is one of the best ways to release built up anger and tension. Doing something physical such as going for a run burns up stress hormones and boosts production of  'good mood' hormones like  endorphins.
  • Diaphragmatic breathing
  1. Sit or lie comfortably and loosen your clothing.
  2. Put one hand on your chest and one on your stomach.
  3. Breathe in through your nose and slowly count to three in your head.
  4. As you breathe in, feel your stomach inflate with your hand. If your chest expands, focus on breathing with your diaphragm.
  5. Slowly breathe out through pursed lips and slowly count to six.
  6. Repeat two more times.
  • Music: regularly listening to calming music, such as classical or 'sounds of nature' music can help you relax.  This will slow your pulse and heart rate, reduce stress hormones and lower your blood pressure. In fact, listening to any music you enjoy is beneficial.
  • Massage: the kneading and stroking movements of massage can relax tense muscles and improve circulation.
  • Warm baths: a warm bath can help your body and mind relax. The water can soothe tense muscles and diffuse angry or stressful thoughts.
  • Relaxation classes: Some people find that attending relaxation classes, such as meditation and yoga, helps reduce stress levels. If you can’t attend a physical class, try watching online demonstrations.
  • Sleep more: Sleep-deprivation increases irritability, so getting a good night’s rest is important. If you have problems sleeping, ask your GP for advice about sleep hygiene (habits that help you sleep well!).
  • Cut down on alcohol and drug usage: Alcohol and drugs reduce our inhibitions. Inhibitions can help stop us from behaving inappropriately in social situations. In other words, when under the influence of drugs or alcohol, we may behave in a way that we would disapprove of if sober. That doesn’t mean we’re not responsible for those actions. It’s important to take steps to reduce this behavior, even if it means cutting down on things we enjoy.

Getting professional help

If you want to manage your anger, you don’t have to do it alone. People often find working with a professional very helpful, especially if their anger is particularly difficult to manage. If you’d like help managing your anger, make an appointment your GP immediately. They may refer you to counselling, cognitive behavioral therapy, or an anger management programme.

If your uncontrolled anger is contributing towards abusive behaviour, contact Respect for advice and information without judgment.

Costs of treatment

Your GP should be able to refer you for free talking therapy. Don’t be afraid to ask your GP about services available in your area if they don’t immediately suggest it. Some areas have long waiting lists for talking therapy, so it’s worth asking at your appointment how long your wait time is likely to be. If it’s longer than you’re able to wait, don’t despair. You can find a therapist privately. Many organisations also offer free or low-cost talking therapies outside of the NHS.

Related links

Related helplines

  • Childline (under 19s): 0800 1111
  • Respect: 0808 802 4040
  • The Mix (under 25s): 0808 808 4994
  • The Samaritans: 116 123

If you feel you are at risk of hurting yourself or others call 999 immediately.

The links and helplines above are no substitute for immediate medical assistance.