We all feel upset sometimes – it’s normal to feel anger or frustration at things. In fact, anger is built into our biology to help us protect and defend ourselves.
Anger may sometimes feel like the wrong response to have, but it has a purpose – to highlight that something is wrong. This is why it's sometimes called a 'secondary emotion'.
When we feel upset, sad or hurt, sometimes we bottle our feelings up or we take it out on our friends or family. But there are more useful ways to deal with your emotions. It’s about how you cope with and express your anger that makes all the difference.
Here are five ways to stop your thoughts and feelings taking control when you’re feeling upset and frustrated.
1. Recognise your feelings
We’re always going to feel upset at different things. It could be feeling frustrated at being misunderstood by a teacher or getting upset with a friend over their flakiness. But you can actually have more control of your emotions than you think.
It’s important to first recognise these emotions, so you know what’s going on in your body.
Sometimes our heart races, or we feel our muscles tighten. When we notice these physical sensations we can learn to spot the signs early. This stops us from getting ourselves worked up. In other words, we don’t have to let our anger take control of us.
2. Find a different way to express yourself
When you deal with your body’s reactions to feeling upset, it’s possible to calm your emotions and find a different way of expressing them.
Some people find it helpful to count to 10 in their heads before reacting to a situation. This technique can help you to choose your words more carefully in the heat of the moment. If you’re online, don’t type a response until you’ve thought about it.
It’s always a good idea to stop and think about what might happen if you lash out at someone. Are you going to regret what you do? Even though it may seem tough, removing yourself from the situation might help to de-escalate things.
While it can be hard to control your emotions, take the time to notice how your body feels when you're angry. This can help you be stay calm when these feelings happen and you’ll be better prepared to express yourself.
3. Get to the bottom of why you’re feeling this way
It’s OK to feel upset at someone or something, but it’s important to think about why you’re feeling this way. When you realise the reason for your emotions, it’s much easier to work out solutions to them.
Without overthinking things, you can ask yourself questions like:
- What made me angry in this situation?
- Was there another emotional I felt before I felt angry? (e.g. sadness, fear or hurt)
- Could I have done something different if I dealt with the situation again?
It’ll be hard to think about what’s making you upset. But addressing it can help you get better at dealing with your emotions. It can be helpful to talk to someone to about why you’re feeling this way, like a family member, friend or trusted adult.
4. Draw on a strategy that works for you
As you begin to recognise and understand your emotions, you can draw on long-term strategies to deal with it, like:
Find more tips for a healthy headspace to view great strategies on how to control your emotions when you’re feeling upset.
5. Practise dealing with your difficult emotions
Sometimes it can helpful to imagine yourself in a situation where you’re upset. How would you deal with it? You can try playing out a situation in your head, so you know what to do next time.
When you’re practising, try to avoid using negative words – they can be insulting and hurtful – which also might make others around you angry too.
Use positive self-talk to help you think about the situation in a positive way. So, if a situation that makes you angry happens again, you’ll know how to cope with your emotions better.
Sometimes our anger can start to affect our relationships. You can talk to your friends and family, a teacher or coach, who might have ideas about how you can manage your anger.
If you’re having trouble coping with your emotions, you can seek professional support from a general practitioner (GP), counsellor or other mental health professional. Alternatively, you can visit a headspace centre to get started.