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Anger and you

National Anger Awareness Week (NAAW) falls between 1st – 7th of December, just a few weeks before Christmas.

The festive period can be a stressful time for many. Increased financial and social pressures can cause many people to experience a more heightened level of emotions than usual. These can quickly escalate into anger with lasting consequences.

NAAW draws attention to anger and related techniques to manage it whilst considering the effects it can have on individuals, groups, and society. Our ambassador Lucy has collated some relevant information and top tips for managing this emotion, to mark NAAW. 

When is anger a problem?

It must be recognised that anger in itself is not problematic. It is a natural emotion that should not prompt shame or guilt. However, when feelings become overwhelming or affect your behaviour, the actions that follow can quickly escalate into a problem.  

The ‘Cycle of anger’

First, an event or situation will trigger an anger response, such as unfair treatment at work or frustrations of a traffic jam. This results in negative, unhelpful thoughts, such as “my boss is a terrible person,” or “my day is completely ruined.”  

Negative thoughts lead to uncomfortable emotions such as anger, but also related feelings like shame, guilt, sadness, or frustration. Coupled with physical symptoms these emotions can make anger a very uncomfortable experience. It might look like physically shaking, a pounding heartbeat, ‘seeing red,’ or sweating.  

These thoughts, feelings, and physical symptoms can detrimentally influence someone’s behaviour. They may experience and give in to urges to shout, be spiteful, or physical aggressive. Every individual moves through the cycle in different ways with differing thought patterns, feelings, physical symptoms, and behaviours. 

Managing techniques

The first stage to managing anger is building awareness of your anger cycle. What situations do you find anger-inducing? When thoughts run through your mind when you are angry? What emotions and physical symptoms do you experience?  

Knowing your anger cycle is important, because once you can recognise the early warning signs, you can implement management techniques before the feeling spirals out of your control. The early warning signs can act as an alarm system, indicating that you should pause and take some heat off the emotion, before it leads to negative consequences.  

Anger is an automatic process, so it may take some practice to slow it down in order to control it.  

The second stage of management is practicing and using relaxation tools once you start to feel angry. These skills require practice, both when feeling calm and following anger warning signs.  

Try a range of techniques and be persistent; everyone benefits from a range of solutions, and it can take a while for them to begin working in the moment. Additionally, not every skill is suitable for every situation or everyone, so it’s worth having a range of techniques to choose from.  

Here are some useful strategies for you to try: 

  • Take 5-minutes out from the situation 
  • Distract yourself  
  • Try relaxation techniques (search online for breathing, grounding, and mindfulness techniques)  
  • Talk to yourself kindly and with compassion 
  • Consider the consequences of anger related behaviours 
  • Visualisations  
  • Write a letter to express your feelings and thought-pattern
  • Get active and get outside if you can

Get help

If you are struggling to cope with your anger, or mental health in general, please talk to your GP.  

Dorset Mind offer 1-2-1 and group support for a range of mental health challenges. To help with anger, we suggest one of our activity-based groups or ecotherapy at The GAP, working outside in a calm environment.  

If you’re in a crisis, treat it as an emergency – call 999 or The Samaritans, free on 116 123. 

Our guest blogger:

Huge thanks to our Ambassador and Assistant psychologist Lucy for creating this informative blog.

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