What to do when you’re angry at the world

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Medically reviewed by
Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated April 17, 2024
by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Anger is a common and healthy emotion that can sound an alarm when you or someone you care about has been wronged. At times, events can occur worldwide that change the way you interpret the world and feel about humanity. People go through tragic events, trauma, and challenging relationships in many areas of the world, and it can make others feel powerless to help.
When anger toward the world is severe, you might not know how to proceed. Know that you don’t have to cope with your anger alone. Many people feel anger at the state of the world, and many people experience mental illness in response to current events. If you feel that your anger about the world is impacting your daily functioning, there are a few steps you can take to address it.
How to reduce anger in the moment
When you first notice your anger, addressing the emotion before addressing the cause can be beneficial. Below are a few ways to control your nervous system when angry.
Notice your physical sensations
Before proceeding, scan your body and check in with each muscle group. Are your fists clenched or your shoulders tensed? Is your chest tight? Do you feel hot or that your heart is beating quickly? Once you’ve noticed where your sensations are, focus on changing them.
Reduce physical symptoms
If you notice your fists are balled up, unclench them. Take deep, measured breaths if you notice a tightness in your chest. The Marines have a breathing technique to reduce anger and calm the nervous system called the “4-7-8 Exercise.” You can practice this through the following steps:
Close your mouth and inhale through your nose for four counts.
Hold your breath for seven counts.
Exhale through your mouth for eight counts, making a whooshing sound.
Repeat these steps four times.
Change your environment
After removing tension from your body, consider changing your environment. If you’re angry at home, walk around the block. If you’re angry at work, get up from your desk. If you cannot leave your location, you might try visualization exercises by thinking of a location you’d like to visit and how you would feel there.
Engage in physical activity
Short bursts of physical activity may also help you release immediate anger. Studies show that exercise releases endorphins that can provide positive feelings to the body and brain. Regular exercise has also been associated with improved mental well-being.
How to cope with anger long-term
Below are a few other strategies for coping with anger, focused on long-term results.
Focus on the positives in the world
When you’re angry at the world, you might forget the positive aspects of life. Every situation might feel useless or meaningless from the lens of your anger. Try to look at the world objectively, considering what has made you happy before. In addition, consider the actions people take worldwide to care for each other and make a change. If it helps, you might read about current positive gains for human rights and success stories of people saving and helping each other.
Reach out to a positive friend
Consider reaching out to a friend if possible. Having companionship may make it easier for you to see the world in a more positive light. Having someone by your side can show you that the whole world isn’t against you and that there are people you love and appreciate who may help you distract yourself.
Partake in a positive activity
Anger is a powerful feeling, but it is often temporary. Taking the time out of your day to partake in a positive activity may help you change your mood. Reading a book before bed helps some people focus. Other people like to exercise to externalize their energy productively. Find a routine that works for you.
Practice “opposite action” from dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
Opposite action is a skill from dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) focused on acting opposite to the emotion and emotion-motivated urges you are experiencing. To partake in this skill, follow the following steps:
Identify your current emotion. In this situation, it may be anger. Name the emotion in your head and out loud, if you can.
Check the facts of the situation to see if your emotion is justified.
Identify and describe the emotion-motivated action urges you have. For example, perhaps you want to withdraw socially.
Ask yourself whether expressing or acting on the emotion is effective and whether you can change the circumstances prompting it.
If you cannot change the circumstances or if acting on your emotion is unhealthy, identify ways to act opposite to your action urge.
The opposite action to anger is gently avoiding confrontation, offering compassion, and choosing to let go.
Act this way for as long as needed, even if it doesn’t yet fit your reality.
Repeat the opposite action until your emotion changes.
Although anger about the state of the world often makes sense and is justified, dwelling on the anger to the point that it harms your mental health may be unhealthy. In these situations, the opposite action skill might be beneficial.
Consider your schedule
If you are undergoing a stressful period in your life, your schedule might contribute to your anger. Many people spread themselves too thin when focusing on professional success. Long hours at the office may seem beneficial initially, but they can start to negatively impact your health through symptoms like mental burnout, which can lead to depression.
Doing quality work is an area of pride for some people. However, ensure you’re not working to the point that your stress is causing you to get irritated more quickly. If you can’t change many aspects of your schedule, consider where you could add more fun moments to your life. For example, you might create a fun bonding exercise at work, take an hour in the morning for a hike, or spend more time with your children at night.
Consider your work environment
If you’re angry at the world, it may be due to your career. In some careers, especially in caregiving and healthcare careers, caring for others can lead to compassion fatigue. If you are a mental healthcare worker, doctor, caregiver, social worker, humanitarian worker, or volunteer, you might be exposed to unfair, scary, traumatic, or challenging situations. These situations might cause you to feel angry at the world due to a feeling of helplessness.
Although it might not be possible to change your career, consider reaching out for support with the situations you are exposed to that might contribute to your anger. If you’re taking on more work than you can handle, consider taking a break or asking for a change. Your mental health is vital, so having a job that consistently harms you might not be healthy in the long term.
Be open to change
Many people are angry at the world due to significant life changes like loss or moving homes. Dealing with your grief after experiencing a loss may be intensely challenging. However, there are ways to embrace change that may cause you to feel less anger. Studies show that anger is often a secondary emotion to other feelings like fear and sadness. If you’re not feeling other emotions, you might be suppressing them.
To face your emotions, let them come as they’re ready, and give a label to them. The world may not be the same as it was before the change. However, it’s normal and healthy to grieve, feel sad, or fear change. The behaviors you choose to partake in can change the outcome. Instead of harming yourself or others through your anger, choose to accept your feelings, live alongside them, and cope with pain.
It may not seem like it, but your happiest days may be ahead of you. The anger you’re feeling may subside with time. Many people have moments when they feel angry at the world and their circumstances. These feelings may be more manageable with hope, self-compassion, and understanding.
Seek professional support
In some cases, anger is a sign of an underlying mental health condition. For example, irritability, anger, and rage are common symptoms of depression and anxiety. Other conditions, like bipolar disorder or personality disorders, can also involve extreme anger.
Try not to feel shame in your anger or mental health. Over 41.7 million US adults see a therapist, and there are many reasons to reach out. A therapist can help you identify and work through any symptoms of depression or anxiety that you might be experiencing and offer personalized coping suggestions for your anger.
Manage your anger about the world with compassionate guidance
Talk to a licensed therapist
Get support with online therapy
Some people may struggle to reach out for help due to embarrassment or a fear of leaving home. In these cases, and many others, contacting a therapist online may be more convenient. When you sign up for online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp, you may not have to deal with the same restrictions you do at a traditional therapy office. You can schedule therapy sessions at times convenient for you and choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions. In addition, your therapist can send you digital worksheets you can print or fill out online.
Researchers in the mental health field have found online therapy an effective treatment method for those living with anger challenges. A recent meta-analysis found that motivated individuals experienced positive outcomes in online anger management therapy, with results comparable to in-person options. Therefore, seeking in-person treatment for anger may not be necessary if you’re not comfortable doing so. If you are worried about the environment, you may also reduce your carbon footprint by receiving therapy from home.
Takeaway
Getting over intense anger may not happen overnight, but there are ways to progress. When you have an ally who cares about your well-being, it can make it easier to see the positive aspects of the world. Know that you’re not alone; support is available in many formats, including therapy. Reach out to a therapist online or in your area to get started and gain further guidance and resources as you navigate these feelings.**


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