7 Ways To Cope When Dealing With Anger & Heartbreak

Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor By Kelly Gonsalves
Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor
Kelly Gonsalves is a sex educator and journalist. She received her journalism degree from Northwestern University, and her writings on sex, relationships, identity, and wellness have appeared at The Washington Post, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.
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It's been an emotional week in America, as many of us cope with the anger and grief of yet another police killing of a black man in Minneapolis. As we collectively grieve and speak out against the racism and injustice around us, it's important to also make sure we're listening to our own bodies and pausing to take care of ourselves. If you're feeling overwhelmed right now, here are a few ways to cope with everything that's going on right now:

1. Remember to eat, sleep, and move. 

"When you are in the thick of all the work, you may not realize and/or forget to take care of your body," trauma specialist and sex educator Jimanekia Eborn, M.S., recently told mbg. "Setting alarms for yourself on your phone to drink water and eat can be really helpful. Some folks may laugh at that, but it can honestly be so helpful."

In addition to remembering to eat and hydrate, prioritize getting enough sleep to make sure your body and soul have the time to recoup and recharge. Movement will also support your mental health, keep your energy levels high, and help you stay grounded in your body. A 2018 study found three to five 45-minute workouts each week can help decrease your number of poor mental health days by 40%, including alleviating stress and depressive symptoms. 

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2. Honor your emotions.

Don't bottle it up. Whether it's anger, sadness, fear, or exhaustion, know that you have every right to feel the way you feel. Carve out time for yourself to sit with and acknowledge the emotions that are coming up for you. It can help to talk with a trusted friend or therapist to air out and process what you're feeling. Journaling about what's coming up for you can also help you move through the feelings and stay grounded.

"People are literally dying, every single day, as a result of systemic and institutionalized racism and capitalist patriarchy, so it is important that we honor the full spectrum of emotions we rightfully have in response to these inequities," racial justice activist Rachel Ricketts once told me. "Acknowledge and embrace your anger. It is there for good reason, and you have every right to it."

Remember that your anger is a tool for change. It's an important emotion that's signaling to you a need, that's telling you what you value and moving you toward action. So make sure to stop and listen to it.

3. Turn anger into action. 

Use your emotions to fuel actions. What tangible things can you do to help demand justice, fight racism, and support black people? When you're contributing to the solutions, you'll find empowerment and satisfaction. Ride those highs, and then keep giving. There's always more work to be done. 

Here's a frequently updated roundup of concrete ways to help. It's also a great time to educate yourself if you're not very familiar with race issues in America. Rachel Elizabeth Cargle, Rachel Ricketts, and many other educators and activists create excellent resources and spaces for those looking to seriously commit to learning and action. Show up and do the work.

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4. Come back to your breath. 

Your breath is a powerful tool for grounding yourself and releasing anxiety. When you pause to breathe, you're deactivating your brain's fear centers and moving back to the calmer, more rational part of your brain. With just a few minutes of intentional breathing, you can bring your heart rate back down and ease your stress levels significantly. It won't make all your emotions go away (and remember, your emotions are justified and helpful tools), but it can help you not feel overwhelmed and immobilized by them.

Breathe in through your nose counting to 4, allowing the air to fill and expand your stomach (not your chest). Then breathe out through your mouth counting to 4. Repeat. 

5. Connect with people who get it. 

You don't need to fight every troll or heartless commenter on social media. And while you do need to call out your loved ones who say problematic things, you can also limit your interactions with those people going forward. Protect your peace.

On the flip side, make sure you're spending time connecting with people who are going through the same feelings you're going through, who are as alarmed and heartbroken as you, so you can love and lift each other up. Connecting with your people will remind you that you're not alone in this and allow you to let your guard down and make space to grieve. 

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6. Take breaks from news consumption.

While it's important to stay informed and bear witness to what's happening right now, it's also important to give your heart and mind breaks. If you're finding yourself glued to news and social media feeds for hours on end, recognize that you may be ruminating in a way that's not actually helping you or anyone.

Create a news intake plan that works for you, whether that's checking in for five minutes a few times a day or simply carving out a one-hour window each day to fully immerse. Avoid the itch to keep checking if it's not actually serving you or enabling you to serve others. 

7. Carve out time for yourself.

"Intentionally schedule your self-time for yourself," Eborn recommends. "A lot of people live by their calendars. Schedule yourself some time to be alone and check in with yourself. It does not have to be a long amount of time, or it may need to be. I would say schedule at least 30 minutes of time to just check in with yourself. Physically, spiritually, and emotionally—you deserve it and you need it."

This time should be about doing exactly what your body and soul need, whether that's meditating, bingeing Hulu, making art, or simply taking a long, hot bath.

As Ricketts recently told mbg, "I cannot pour from an empty cup. I cannot show up for others if I am not showing up for myself."

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