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Health

KeepCool: Anger

Who has never felt angry? We all have at some point! We often get angry when there is a mismatch between what we expect and what we experience. For example, when we expect something to be fair, but it isn’t.

 

Anger is a fuel and can be helpful when well-managed: it can give us the energy to change something we don’t like. Iconic figures like Malala or Mandela acted against major social problems because they felt angry about injustices. However, when anger is out of control, it can be dangerous. It can make us think and act in unhelpful ways. Here are some tips that many young people have found helpful in coping with their anger.


You can also watch the film on YouTube.
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“The key is recognising the early warning signs”

Recognise anger triggers and signs. It is likely that your anger is triggered by specific types of situations, which you may be able to avoid or prepare for. You can keep a diary to find out what your triggers are. You can also write down any warning signs indicating that your anger is escalating — for example how your body is feeling in the moment (Shaky? Tense?). Once you become more aware of triggers and signs, you will be in a better position to take steps to avoid getting too angry. Beware that anger can also be triggered by memories about the past or worries about the future. Mindfulness exercises can be useful to avoid those triggers by living more in the present moment.

 

“I usually take myself away from the situation”

Plan for it. When we are angry, it can be difficult to think logically and find alternatives to acting out. Therefore, it is helpful to make a simple, clear plan on what to do when a ‘crisis’ hits in advance of it happening. Good anger management strategies may involve removing yourself from the situation and doing something else, such as physical exercise, self-soothing activities, or relaxation (e.g., count to ten, breathe slowly). To avoid crises, you can try the tips below.

 

“Boxing has really helped me to control my anger”

Improve your physical and emotional wellbeing. The amount of anger we experience when we meet any triggers varies depending on how we were feeling just before. For example, we tend to get much angrier when we are hungry, tired, stressed, or feel rushed. The good news is that we can do something about it by eating enough and regularly throughout the day, sleeping enough, doing regular physical activity, and being careful about managing our time well. Anxiety and sadness can also make us more likely to get angry. Therefore, it is helpful to learn how to cope with those emotions to reduce anger.

 

 

“I let all of my anger out by writing down exactly how I feel”

Write it all down. Holding angry thoughts inside your head can make you dwell more on them and then feel even more angry. Try writing them down to gain some distance and perspective and see if it makes you feel any calmer. It can also be helpful to write down how and why you are choosing to move on from what made you angry. Come back to look at what you have written if you feel anger bubbling up again.

 

“When you get really angry, it can be hard to see the situation from the correct perspective”

Be aware of your own views and how they affect you. Like all emotions, anger is not just a feeling but also affects how we think (and behave). In particular, anger tends to make us very judgemental, which only increases the anger we feel. For example, we may talk through shorthand labels that don’t communicate much (‘He’s stupid’ or ‘I’m stupid’) and only add fuel to the fire. It can be hard to notice these thoughts when we are angry. So, ask yourself: might there be another way of seeing things? What might you tell a friend in the same situation? Try to be non-judgemental and instead focus on the facts and the emotions. You can say that you feel hurt because a friend ignored you. You can say that you feel guilty when you lash out at people you love. In this way, you can learn more about the triggers and yourself — and find effective ways to reduce your anger. When we’re focussing too much on blame or judgement of people or situations, we’re less likely to come up with a solution to the thing we’re angry about.

 

“I had to find within myself to actually let people know how I’m feeling”

Be assertive. We can get angry when we struggle to communicate with others or don’t feel listened to. For example, we may find it difficult to speak up and express our views, perhaps for fear of upsetting others, only to see that we are not taken seriously. Or we may be quick to express negative thoughts — revealing our views without regard for others, yelling, swearing, or being sarcastic — only to see that other people don’t like this and react badly. Both of these types of communication styles can increase our anger. Instead, try to be assertive. Being assertive means expressing your views with clarity, confidence, and consideration of others. How can you become more assertive? Be clear about what you want or think, so that you can explain it, ask for it, or say no to someone else’s request when necessary. Be clear about what others want or think, so that you can try to find ways to accommodate their needs and views and find ‘win-win’ solutions. Try not to blame others for your own emotions. But equally don’t hold yourself responsible for how others feel about your own views. Sometimes you’ll have to agree to disagree.

 

Read more about the KeepCool project and find out more about coping strategies for anxiety and sadness.

If you are in crisis, please contact your GP or one of the following organisations that can offer advice:
  • Call Samaritans at 116 123 (lines open 24/7) or visit their website at www.samaritans.org.
  • Call Childline at 0800 1111 (lines open 7.30am to 3.30am Monday to Friday, and 9am to 3.30am Saturday to Sunday) or visit their website at www.childline.org.uk.
  • Call Mind at 0300 123 3393 (9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday, except for bank holidays) or visit their website at www.mind.org.uk.
Project status: Ongoing

Principal investigators

Andrea Danese

Andrea Danese

Professor of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry