Hit a pillow, hug your pet, write your MP: 22 ways to manage your anger | health and wellbeing

Ffrom planes and supermarkets to traffic jams and, of course, online, it feels like everyone is angry. Is it surprising? Politics have become more polarized and moody than at any time in living memory, wars are at the top of the news, and we face a cost of living crisis. It’s no surprise that people are nervous.

Anger itself is not necessarily negative. “Anger is a deeply ingrained emotion that forms our defense against threat,” explains Dr Nadja Heym, associate professor of personality psychology and psychopathology at Nottingham Trent University. “It’s normal, healthy and evolutionarily important.”

This can be a powerful force for good, says David Woolfson, an anger specialist and psychotherapist. “Anger drives us to achieve things – to fight for justice and causes, to win marathons, to right wrongs. »

Anger’s bad reputation is due to the behaviors it can provoke. Rage can cause us to react badly and then regret it, so it helps to know how to manage it healthily. Here are 22 suggestions.

Count to three

“When we are very excited, we have difficulty thinking,” says Heym. “Overcoming this physiological arousal is an important element in reducing the risk of behaving in an inappropriate way that we will regret later. Stop, count to three, think, then act. This engages your cognitive brain, calms you and gives you time to determine whether it is a real threat and whether the response is proportionate.

Throw water on your face

“Anger engages the sympathetic nervous system, which increases energy and prepares us to act,” says Erica Curtis, a US-based marriage and family therapist and author of a forthcoming book, Working with Anger Creatively. “Sometimes this surge of energy is quick and intense, pushing us to do something impulsive, unproductive, and even harmful. Decrease the energy of anger by splashing cold water on your face several times while holding your breath.

Find a physical distraction

Heym points out that on occasion, physical distraction can help reduce the intensity of angry feelings. “Some people may have a rubber band on their wrist for spinning,” she says. “Or you could go up and down the stairs five times, so the angry energy can go somewhere before you start thinking again.”

Doodle angry words

Do you feel the need to yell at someone? Curtis says putting pen to paper is a better way to gain clarity and address your underlying needs. Think about what made your blood boil and “try ‘yelling’ on paper by scribbling down the angry words that come to mind,” says Curtis. Then take it a step further: “Think about more vulnerable feelings like “disappointed,” “hurt,” “embarrassed,” “jealous” — and write them down. Then add your needs and wants. Finally, circle the words that will help you communicate a need clearly and non-aggressively.

Become a fly

When you find yourself in a triggering situation, “try to create distance between yourself and your angry thoughts and feelings,” says Christian Jarrett, cognitive neuroscientist and author of Be Who You Want. “Try to imagine the scene from a third person’s point of view, as if you were a fly on the wall. Or step outside of yourself and describe what’s happening, using your name and third-person pronouns.

Another way to distance yourself from intense emotions, according to Curtis, is to “imagine your anger as a color, shape, or form distinct from yourself.” It doesn’t have to make sense – just notice the space between you and your anger. If necessary, imagine asking him to give you a little more space or moving away from him to see his edges. This can reduce its intensity.

Get ahead and prevent

A certain fury that we almost invite, so it’s helpful to review what might happen – and cause trouble – before you jump into something. A classic example is road rage. “It’s completely predictable,” says Woolfson. “There’s going to be traffic and someone’s going to cut me to pieces, so what am I going to do when they do?” Absolutely nothing. I get angry because I’m making it personal, but will it matter when we get home? » No, it won’t.

Change your focus

Constantly annoyed by the news? “Many people form their identities around what they dislike and what they are opposed to,” says William DeFoore, author of Goodfinding: A User’s Guide to EQ and Your Brilliant Mind. “Such people will always be angry. Instead, he says, focus on “what you like, what you believe in, what you support, and what you want more of.”

Find someone to rant to

“I can declaim has you or has you,” Woolfson said. “It’s a very important distinction; when I declaim has I’m pushing you into a corner, but if I say, “I really need to get rid of something, will you listen to me?” “, we have a communication that brings us together.

Photography: Tal Silverman. Styling: Ash Thomas

Hit a pillow

According to DeFoore, releasing can be a healthy way to express anger. He suggests “hitting a pillow or mattress or shouting alone, without addressing anyone.” Woolfson agrees: “I teach people to punch pillows or sit in the car with no one around and roar. » He is keen to emphasize that these techniques do not remove the underlying anger, they simply manage it in the moment.

be proactive

Many of us are furious about the state of the world. “Look for constructive ways to channel these legitimate feelings, by writing to a newspaper or your MP; or get involved in a grassroots campaign,” suggests Jarrett.

…or do nothing

The urge may be to lash out, hit something, or burst into tears, but Woolfson says, “If you can’t do anything when you’re angry, you’re doing a lot because otherwise you’d do all these nasty things.” Hold back your anger and say, “I feel really angry right now. I want to do and say really nasty things, but I choose not to. Your behavior is always a choice.

Kiss your pet

“Give your pet, child, or partner a hug,” advises Heym. “Hugs release oxytocin, a hormone that we think of as serving bonding, but it’s also important in dealing with threats, where we have to fight them off or deal with them in other ways.”

Write yourself an email

Want to give someone what’s on your mind? “I write myself an email, explaining everything I never want to say, but want to acknowledge,” Woolfson says. “You’ll look back at it a few days later when you’re an adult and think, ‘Thank God I didn’t say or send that.’

Limit exposure

Do you feel like there is anger everywhere? “It depends on where you look, what you read and watch, and who you listen to,” DeFoore says. “If you consume information that is upsetting, frightening, or infuriating, you will naturally feel more anger.” Curtis says, “Close the app, turn off the laptop, look for something positive or calming. “Read uplifting news to balance out the negative. We are not wired to receive constant streams of upsetting news.”

Walk in nature

Do you feel exhausted? “Take a long walk in nature and think about it,” says Heym. “A lot of research shows that walking in a biophilic environment reduces anxiety and stress levels.”

Look beyond the rage

“It’s difficult to put a lid on a boiling pot: the more you try to push it down, the more pressure you build up and it will eventually explode,” says Woolfson. “This pressure usually involves ignoring all the feelings that are causing the anger, which are often hurt, fear, shame, sadness. When we don’t pay attention to it, we accumulate anger ourselves.


Think you’re about to blow a fuse? Instead, blow. “Try exhaling completely until you are forced to inhale, and repeat several times,” says Curtis.

Take a cold shower

“You’re tense and you’re hot, so cooling down might be a good way to reduce that temperature,” says Heym. “We know, for example, that when temperature increases, aggression tends to increase. This is because we feel irritable in hot or crowded places and being uncomfortable increases the risk of a reaction.

Anger is often triggered when we are ashamed of ourselves. If you’re feeling angry because you made a mistake (for example, accidentally deleting an important file), Curtis advises: “Keep asking yourself what it says about you that something went wrong until that you have the negative conviction that feels true – even if you know it’s not. Be curious about attitudes like “I’ll never succeed” and then compare those attitudes to the facts. These long-held, unquestioned beliefs may have very little to do with your current situation.

Breathe deeply

“When we’re hyper-excited, we breathe shallowly, which stimulates our sympathetic nervous system,” says Heym. The sympathetic nervous system triggers the fight or flight response. “Taking three or four deep breaths, focusing on our breathing, tends to reduce our anger. »


Want to burst into tears? “Why not? It’s better to release our emotions in a proportionate and appropriate way rather than repress them,” says Heym.

Choose calm

Remember that your reaction is a choice. “My kids asked me, ‘Why don’t you lose it?’ I say, ‘This is not the person I want to be, but I’ll let you know I’m angry with you in a calm, polite way,'” Woolfson says. “The stereotype of anger is about shouting and being abusive, but we can choose to express our anger in honest, restrained, dignified and healthy ways. »

Photographic assistant: Georgie Wilding

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