We all feel angry sometimes. Most of the time,
we can deal with feelings of anger or irritability
quickly. We may resolve the situation or look
at the problem from a different perspective.
However, anger can cause problems in our lives
and the lives of those around us. Learn more about
recognizing problem anger and taking action.
What is anger?
Anger is an emotion that tells us when something may be wrong.
For example, we may feel angry when something is beyond
our control or feels unfair, when we can’t reach a goal,
or when someone is hurt or threatened. We can also feel
angry when we are under too much stress. Anger can involve
a wide range of feelings. We may be a little annoyed over
a minor incident, like being stuck in traffic or missing
our bus. More serious problems, like getting hurt or
seeing someone else get hurt, may cause strong feelings
like rage. Sometimes, we just feel angry for no reason.
Anger may be a problem for you when it’s:
Much stronger than you’d expect based on the situation
Very frequent, to the point that you can’t enjoy things anymore
Caused by something that happened a long time ago
Making you act violently towards yourself, someone else, or someone’s property
Interfering with your ability to do your job
Hurting your relationships with loved ones
Affecting your physical health
What can I do about it?
Anger is a normal reaction to some situations.
Anger can also be helpful when it matches the
situation and motivates people to take action
or work towards a goal. However, anger that’s
dealt with in unhealthy ways can create problems
and affect your well-being. Fortunately, there
are some things you can do to deal with your anger.
These strategies won’t solve the problem. Instead,
they can help put you back in control so you can
find a productive way to deal with the problem.
They may also be useful if you find yourself saying
or doing things in anger that you regret later.
Leave the situation that’s making you angry, if possible.
Count to 10.
Repeat calming phrases such as, “Take it easy” or,
“Will this matter in six months?”
Breathe deeply. Many people, especially adults,
breathe from their chest, which doesn’t give the
benefits of a deep breath. Try to breathe deep into
your stomach. You’re on the right track if your
stomach goes out first. It may seem simple, but
taking deep breaths can help calm your mind,
slow your heart, and even lower blood pressure.
Try to shift your attention to something more
pleasant or relaxing. This can be very
helpful for minor annoyances that you can’t control.
When you are calmer, these are strategies to help
you look at your feelings around a particular situation.
They don’t take a lot of time, but they can make a big difference.
Acknowledge that you are angry.
Angry feelings don’t go away if you
bottle them up and avoid dealing with them.
Consider whether your reaction matches the situation.
Ask yourself, “What would I think of someone else if
I saw them getting angry in this situation?” or, “Is
this situation really as bad as I am making it
out to be?” You can also ask someone you trust
for their perspective—they may help you look at
the problem in a more balanced way.
Look at your thoughts.
Sometimes the way you think can fuel
anger—for example, assuming that another
person is intentionally trying to hurt
or annoy you, in a situation when
that may not be true.
Identify the source of your anger.
If the actions or words of another
person are hurting you, try to deal
with them directly in a peaceful and
productive way. Assertiveness skills
can be a great way to do this.
Look for humour in the situation—sometimes
it’s easy to take minor problems too seriously.
These strategies take more time and effort, but they
can help you cope with anger as it comes up in
many different situations. The goal is to change
the way you react to anger so it doesn’t
cause problems in the first place.
Learn what triggers your anger. Some people are
triggered by other people, such as a boss,
friend, or family member. Certain emotions,
such as feeling controlled, ashamed or guilty,
can also trigger anger for some people.
Identify your early warning signs so you can take
action before your anger turns into full- blown
rage. Common early warning signs include a
pounding heart, tight chest or jaw, feeling
resentful or irritated, or feeling like lashing out.
Talk to someone you trust who may be able to
see things more clearly than you do. Remember
that anger can tell us we need to solve a
problem. Another person can help you practice
identifying the real problem, brainstorming
solutions, and testing solutions out.
If your anger is caused by something beyond your
control, such as a job loss, learn how others
have dealt with a similar problem
successfully and try their strategies.
Learn and practice skills like healthy thinking,
problem solving and stress management.
All of these can help manage anger.
Many people find physical activity very helpful.
Try going for a walk, playing your
favourite sport, or cleaning the house.
Make sure you eat well and get enough sleep. We
often lose patience and get irritated
more easily when we’re tired or hungry.
Learn mindfulness practices like meditation.
Mindfulness teaches you how to look at your
thoughts in the present moment without judgment.
It may also help teach you to tolerate angry
feelings without pushing them away.
Learn more about assertiveness. Anger can persist
when we avoid talking directly to someone
about something that has made us angry.
Assertiveness is a way of telling others what
you feel or what you need while respecting
their feelings or needs.
If you feel easily frustrated when people don’t
act the way you want them to, remember that you
cannot control how other people behave. You can
only control how you choose to react to those behaviours.
Anger and irritability can sometimes be signs
of depression or anxiety. If anger continues
to cause problems or you notice that anger
occurs with other symptoms, it’s a good idea
to talk with a doctor or mental health professional.
Do you need more help?
Contact a community organization like the Canadian Mental
Health Association to learn more about support and resources in your area.
Founded in 1918, the Canadian Mental Health Association
(CMHA) is the most established, most extensive community
mental health organization in Canada. Through a presence
in hundreds of neighbourhoods across every province, CMHA
provides advocacy and resources that help to prevent mental
health problems and illnesses, support recovery and
resilience, and enable all Canadians to flourish and thrive.