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Managing and expressing our anger in healthy ways



Anger often gets a bad rap because many of us don’t know how to express it in healthy ways.

However, it’s important to pay attention when we feel angry because it tells us that something feels ‘wrong’, and there are ways to manage and express it without hurting or causing distress to yourself or others. 


How much do you agree with the following statements?  

  1. Anger is always bad.
  2. Anger is the same as aggression.
  3. Anger is something we should hide or ignore. 

These beliefs are fairly common and can be because of what we learnt and experienced during childhood or our adolescent years.  

Sometimes we have these beliefs because it can be uncomfortable and upsetting to feel angry, and so many of us try to push angry feelings away or ‘bottle them up’. However, this can end up with us lashing out at others because we don't understand or know how to cope with how we feel. 

While anger is sometimes called a ‘secondary emotion’, because it can cover up other feelings like fear, stress, grief, loneliness, shame, disappointment or exhaustion, it’s also an independent and complete feeling on its own. It’s a valid emotion that we all experience at times.

What’s important is to understand that while we can and have the right to feel angry, we should be in control of how we behave, and no one has the right to behave aggressively. 

Our tips below are designed to help you to manage anger in your body, treat your emotions with understanding, and express your needs in safe and respectful ways. 

We know managing anger isn’t always easy, so if you feel you still need some support to get things in check after reading our tips, we’re here to help. Contact us for more information.  


Please note: This advice is not intended for people in high-conflict situations or where there is a risk of violence. If you feel unsafe and need help now, please call 000. 


Understand how anger affects your body

When you feel strong anger, your adrenaline levels can rise rapidly (known as an adrenaline rush).

This can cause a range of physical reactions that make it hard to think clearly, including a racing heart, tight muscles, a feeling of blood rushing to your face, and/or a clenched jaw or fists. If you’re someone who tends to avoid anger, it can feel similar to anxiety or nervousness.

When we experience sensations such as these, it can be really hard to be calm, stay focused and communicate in respectful and considered ways.

If you can identify when anger is taking over during a conversation, suggest taking a break from the discussion and coming back to the topic at another time. It can take 20 minutes or more for our bodies to calm down, so this will give you the time you need to regroup and approach the conversation again calmly. The following tips can also help you to stay calm during and after difficult conversations.

5 tips for when anger takes over

1. Check in with your body

Try to notice the physical sensations you’re experiencing, without judging them. For example, ‘My chest feels tight’ rather than ‘Why can’t I control myself, what’s wrong with me?’


2. Do a ‘grounding’ exercise

Try taking 5-10 deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth, or counting 5 things in your environment that you can see, smell, hear and feel.


3. Find a healthy outlet for your feelings

Some people find it helpful to do vigorous exercise, while others benefit from letting themselves cry, doing something soothing or creative, talking to a trusted friend or colleague, or writing down (just for yourself) how you’re feeling. Try some different options to find out what works for you.

4. Be gentle with yourself

After an adrenaline rush, your body’s sugar levels sometimes drop, and you might feel vulnerable, tired, shaky, or weak. Sometimes this can last for up to an hour, so it’s important to look after yourself during this time, such as by having a cup of sweet tea or taking time to rest.


5. Reflect on your anger ‘triggers’

What are your ‘red flags’ that lead to getting really angry and struggling to control how you react? Knowing what triggers you is the first step to making a plan for managing your feelings and responses in the future. This might include certain topics, behaviours or people that you often have strong feelings about.



5 tips for expressing your anger in healthy ways


1. Take some time out before responding

If you can, it’s a good idea to take some time out from situations where you feel angry, even if you think you know what you want to say or you want to try and resolve an issue immediately.

Often, when you’ve had some time away from the situation and allowed your body to calm down, you may feel differently or have a clearer perspective about your own feelings.

This is particularly important if you think you’re having a strong reaction to something small, because of different past experiences or other, perhaps unrelated things in your life right now.

Make sure to communicate to the other person that you need some space, and when you think you can revisit the issue. Don’t just ignore the person.

For example, say ‘I need some time to think about this. Can we talk about it in a few days’ time?’ or ‘Let’s take a break from this topic and come back to it this afternoon’ or ‘I’m finding I’m reacting really strongly to this issue. I’d like to take an hour or so to think about this to make sure I’m reacting calmly and in a considered way.

2. Get clear on what you’re feeling

Understanding our own anger and what caused it is sometimes enough to make us feel better. At other times, it can help us decide what we want to happen next.

Behind the anger, are you hurt, sad or feeling something else? Often fatigue or stress can make the smallest of things into much larger issues.

Sometimes our anger gets ‘misplaced’, which is when we transfer our anger from one situation to another. For example, snapping at a partner about housework when, in fact, we’re stressed about our jobs.

Often anger can lead us to get caught up repeatedly thinking (or ruminating) about the situation or imagining how conversations or confrontations might play out or have played out differently. This is a way that our brain tries to process what has happened, but it can lead to us feeling stuck.

Talking to a trusted person such as a friend or family member, or a neutral person like a counsellor, can help to gain your perspectives and options for moving forward or taking action about what’s still bothering you.

It’s also good to check in with your body, as sleep, diet and exercise all impact your mood, wellbeing and ability to make decisions.

3. Consider whether talking to someone will help

Who you talk to will often depend on what has caused the anger.

Sometimes we get angry if we have an underlying need, or concern, which needs to be taken care of.

It can help to ask yourself, ‘Is there anything I need to say, ask for, or offer to other people involved?

If you’re angry at someone you have a close relationship with, it’s a good idea to talk to them about how you’re feeling and your concerns, as well as what you might like them to do differently in future. Read our tips below for clear and respectful communication.

If you’re angry about something that happened at work, consider whether there’s an opportunity to have a conversation with those involved, or whether it’s something that you are better off managing your own feelings about, or with the support of your manager, human resources, an employee assistance program or a professional mediator.

If you’re angry at someone on the internet, consider whether responding online will make things better or worse. Online communication is difficult at the best of times, but at times of increased stress or anger, it’s likely to lead to miscommunication and even more conflict. If you feel strongly about sending a response, take a break before you press send and come back to review it when you feel calmer. You’ll have a clearer head to then decide whether to send a response or whether responding won’t be helpful for you.

If you’re angry at yourself, try to be kind. Rather than harshly criticizing yourself, acknowledge your mistake and focus on what you want to do differently next time. You can also practise positive self-talk, such as ‘I can handle this’, or ‘it’s okay for me to make mistakes. I’ll do better next time’. If other people, including your children, have been hurt by your words or actions, apologise and talk about what you’ll do differently to stop it from happening again.

If you’re angry about something that’s happening in the world and is out of your control, focus on what is within your control. This might include looking after your own feelings, sharing information with people you know to raise awareness, taking time out from social media to give yourself a break from the issue, donating time or money to a cause that’s important to you, or sending a letter to people in positions of power, like your local government representative.


4. Be clear but respectful

Being respectful doesn’t mean hiding your feelings, but rather thinking about the words you use, how you speak and how you interact. Being angry is never an excuse to be disrespectful, unkind, controlling, aggressive or violent.

Instead of:

  • Launching into accusation and blame.
  • Saying something like, ‘You never listen to anyone else and you don’t care about what I have to say.’
  • Shouting, snapping or speaking in a passive-aggressive way.
  • Making assumptions or judgements about the other person.
  • Blaming the other person for making you feel a certain way.
  • Making accusations that start with ‘you’.
  • Standing over the person or too close to them in a way that may be intimidating.

Try this:

  • Start with genuine curiosity wherever possible. For example, say ‘When ‘x’ happened, I felt... but I may have misunderstood what was happening. I’m curious to hear what was going on for you when that situation happened.’
  • Say ‘I felt angry when you interrupted me because it’s important to me that we listen to and respect each other.’
  • Speak honestly but calmly.
  • State facts about your experience.
  • Take responsibility for what you’re feeling.
  • Use statements that start with ‘I’.
  • Be aware of your body language and give the person physical space.

5. Remember that you can only control your actions and not how others respond

Sometimes conversations don’t go the way we want, and that can be really frustrating. It can be useful to reflect on the conversation, as no one is perfect and we all make mistakes when communicating, especially if we’re feeling angry or vulnerable.

It’s also important to remember, however, that even if we communicate ‘perfectly’, others might still misunderstand or choose not to listen to what we have to say.

Some people also say things with the aim of dismissing your feelings or make it sound like you are creating a problem where there isn’t one. These might include judgements about your emotions or abilities. For example, ‘It was just a joke, get a sense of humour. You don’t need to make such a big deal out of everything’ or ‘maybe if you learnt how to do it properly, I wouldn’t get annoyed at you’.

If someone isn’t listening, is treating you with disrespect, or if you feel unsafe at any time, you can always choose to end or leave the conversation.

Try to remember that, no matter how others respond, you can still be proud of yourself for speaking up for your needs.

Safety resources

Everyone has the right to feel safe in their relationships. If you or someone you know is in danger, please call 000 now. 

For 24/7 crisis support, phone 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or MensLine Australia on 1300 78 99 78. 

To find out how our counsellors can support you, visit our counselling page or contact your nearest centre. 

This blog post should not be considered professional advice. It is for informational purposes only.    

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