Anger in America

Mad Is Bad, So Manage Your Anger -- Or Else!

Who isn’t angry about something these days?
Take my friend Sam: a sweet husband and docile dad, but put him in heavy traffic and he starts foaming at the ears. He’s angry at stopped cars, passive drivers, even angry at himself for choosing the slowest lane.
Lisa has a hair trigger, too. She can go from friendly to furious in a single breath. (If only she would take five in a row and exhale to a count of four.) Her newest pet peeve? Unconscious imbeciles who shout intimate details of their lives into their cellphones with no regard whatsoever for the people around them.
“I can hear you!” she bellows, flames emerging from both nostrils, looking very “Game of Thrones.”
And then, of course, we have the queen mother of anger-making, otherwise known as the 2016 election. I’m not taking the Democratic side. I’m not talking the Republican side. I’m taking the side of peaceful co-existence, a united state in America where harmony and understanding prevail and we’re listening to each other and solving problems for each other, while moving steadily toward healthier, happier lives for all of us.
The wheels are completely off that bus.
So don’t get angry when I remind you that if you want to live a healthier, happier lifestyle, it’s not enough to eat well, exercise often and use a standing desk. You’ve also got to do something to manage your hostility and let go of resentment, bitterness and other toxic emotions.
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else,” the Buddha taught. “You are the one who gets burned.”
There is plenty of research to show that feeling anger — for too often or too long — puts an enormous strain on your health. It boosts your blood pressure and tenses your muscles, setting you up for pain, pills and doctors’ bills. Anger also triggers a dump of chemicals into your body — including epinephrine and norepinephrine — that can, over time, clog up your blood vessels and damage your heart.
There are other nasty effects, too, but rather than dwell on the problem, let’s look instead at a few positive strategies:
BREATHE YOURSELF DOWN. At the first sign of upset, start conscious breathing. It’s one thing to express frustration. Anger is something else. It’s like throwing up: You know when it’s happening. To defuse it on the spot, count to 10 or breathe deeply until anger gives way and serenity moves in.
STEP ASIDE. If you feel someone else’s anger coming your way, don’t meet it head on. Rise above it. Imagine yourself just stepping aside — an elegant move you can master in an aikido class — and let their threatening and thoughtless behavior blow by. Remain calm and in control. It’s a sign of strength, not weakness.
WHIP OUT THE LAVENDER. This belongs in the category of minor miracles. Next time you’re feeling your cork about to pop, whip out a small bottle of lavender oil and take a few whiffs. Inhale slowly. Exhale deeply. Essential oils are penicillin for the brain. They work quickly, and the brain responds in kind. Lavender is a popular essential oil known to relax and calm you, and the only nasty side effect is getting oil on your pants if you spill it.
MEDITATE. You can train your brain to be calm and clear by developing a meditation practice. A few minutes a day on the pillow or in a chair — eyes closed, relaxed, focusing on your breath or a mantra — is a blissful way to transform anger into gratitude. How cool is that?
STOP AND (RE-) THINK. Neuroscientists tell us the mind attaches to the negative. This helped us survive in caveman times, when every animal was a threat. These days? The fight-or-flight response disturbs our peace. So notice your quick negative reactions to events or people, and when you observe yourself getting angry, stop and switch course. Is anything really wrong? To return to a calm state, do something proactive instead of reactive. Snap your fingers. Pull on your ear. Or this! Go get a copy of “All is Well: The Art {and Science} of Personal Well-Being” and have your best time.
“The best remedy for a short temper is a long walk.” — Joseph Joubert Marilynn Preston is the author of Energy Express, America’s longest-running healthy lifestyle column. Her new book “All Is Well: The Art {and Science} of Personal Well-Being” is available now on Amazon and elsewhere.

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