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Everyone gets angry occasionally. Whatever the reason behind it, there’s nothing wrong with feeling angry. What’s important is how you cope with and express your anger. Knowing how to deal with it when you, or someone close to you, is angry can mean the difference between a bad mood and a huge fight.

This can help if:

  • you get angry often, or know someone who does
  • you want to know how to deal with your anger
  • you want help in dealing with someone else’s anger.
Boy in hoodie sitting on table

Understand anger

Anger is a normal emotion experienced by everyone at different times. It’s usually a reaction to something, such as feeling:

  • embarrassed
  • hurt
  • sad
  • jealous
  • stressed
  • frustrated.

People’s anger levels can change according to whatever is going on in their life.

Some common factors that can contribute to a person’s anger include:

  • feeling under a lot of pressure
  • experiencing bodily or hormonal changes that cause mood swings
  • being treated unfairly, or being discriminated against or bullied
  • feeling dissatisfied or frustrated with how their life is going.

Whatever the reason behind it, there’s nothing wrong with feeling angry. What’s important is how you cope with and express your anger. If it’s not managed well, anger can have an impact on your relationships, as well as on your physical, mental and emotional health.

Know the warning signs

Managing your anger effectively means recognising the warning signs. If you’re able to identify when you’re starting to get angry, you’ll be better prepared to stop yourself from getting really worked up or lashing out, or being around when someone else does. Some warning signs are:

  • pounding heart
  • gritting your teeth
  • sweating
  • tight chest
  • shaking
  • anxiety
  • raising your voice
  • being snappy or defensive
  • temporarily losing your sense of humour
  • pacing
  • getting a ‘flash’ of a bad mood
  • being overly critical of someone
  • feeling argumentative.

If you feel any of these warning signs coming on, try using some of the techniques mentioned below to defuse the situation and help you to calm down.

Anger management

‘Anger management’ doesn’t mean ignoring your feelings or waiting for them to pass. Dealing with anger appropriately ensures that it doesn't get bottled up. Holding on to anger can cause problems, because it can come out in ways you don’t expect and that are hurtful to yourself or others.

Tips for managing anger include:

  • Count to 100. The actual counting doesn't do much, but thinking about something other than what's making you upset for 100 seconds can help you avoid blowing a fuse.
  • Leave and come back. If you’re feeling angry, it will be impossible for you to deal with the situation in a productive or helpful way. When you feel yourself becoming angry, walk away from the situation for a while. You’ll deal with it better when everyone, yourself included, is feeling calmer.
  • Do something physical. Exercise is a great way to let off steam, even if it’s just a walk around the block.
  • Talk to someone. Offload to a friend, family member, counsellor, psychologist or other mental health worker. Counsellors are especially good, because they're trained to deal with this stuff and don't have a stake in the situation. If you want to talk to someone now, call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.
  • Relax. Learn relaxation techniques, go to a quiet, calm, place like a park, and work on reducing your anger and eventually making it disappear. Try the Reachout Breathe app to help you unwind.
  • Deal with the trigger. If you know what’s causing your anger, ask yourself if there is something you can do to deal with it directly. A good question to ask is, ‘Why is this making me so upset?’

What can I do now?

  • Try different forms of exercise, which can really help you to burn off your frustration.
  • Set aside some time every day for some relaxation exercises.
  • Talk to someone you trust, such as a family member, friend, doctor or counsellor.