Feel like throwing a brick through a window as of late? You’re not alone. According to a 2018 Gallup poll more than half of Americans said they had experienced a lot of stress during the day, 45% said they felt worried, and 22% said they felt angry “a lot.” That’s a record for Gallup since they first asked the question in 2006. And those numbers are reflective of life before the shitshow of 2020.
Anger often masks an emotion underneath, like fear or sadness, creating a smokescreen of rage to hide what’s really going on. But what anger really is, no matter how flawed the thinking, is an assertion of our most basic right to being an individual. It’s basically our lizard brain saying, “Don’t f**k with me.”
Which is not to say we’re at anger’s mercy. On the contrary, since we’re not lizards, we’ve got a whole host of ways to combat this emotion non grata, often before it even starts. Read on for four ways to fight the good fight.
Is there a more enraging word to hear when you’re, well, in a rage? If you’re worked up to the point of someone telling you to relax, it’s time to stimulate your vagus nerve and activate your parasympathetic nervous system before someone (or someone’s feelings) get hurt. Which is really just a fancy way of saying, “take some deep breaths.” But it works! Deep, slow, diaphragmatic breathing (the kind where you feel your belly expand as you take breaths) has been shown to reduce fight or flight symptoms and calm the parasympathetic nervous system almost immediately.
Want to stimulate your parasympathetic response but feel like just sitting around breathing is going to drive you insane? Blow off some steam by exercising and you’ll be killing multiple birds with a single stone. (No anger taken out on actual birds, please.) While exercising can help you deal with anger after the fact, a study by the American College of Sports Medicine found that exercise also acts as a prophylactic, decreasing the odds of getting angry when you normally might. So you’ll be happier and fit, which will probably just make you happier.
Don’t Eat This
Looking to go from mildly irritated to totally cray in no time flat? Wash down a fast food feast with a pot of coffee. A University of California study showed that a diet high in trans fatty acids was directly linked to increased aggression.
But Do Eat This
When your anger is reaching great heights, chances are your blood pressure is too. Look for foods high in magnesium, like almonds, pumpkin seeds, cashews, and spinach, which have been shown to lower blood pressure and help regulate mood. Also, reach for foods that contain tryptophan–a precursor to boosting serotonin, like pineapples and bananas. And another fun(gi) food fact: the Queen of Mushrooms, reishi, have been shown to protect against stress and regulate mood.
Unless you’re a character in an Aaron Sorkin screenplay, chances are you’re not at your most eloquent when you’re angry. But that doesn’t mean you should swallow your words. Not only has journaling been shown to decrease mental distress and increase wellbeing, a Cambridge University study found that individuals who write for 15-20 minutes, 3-5 times a week make less stress-related visits to the doctor, have improved immune system functionality, and reduce their blood pressure.
Sometimes the difference between annoyed and infuriated is about an hour. Cut your sleep short by that much and what might have been a simple inconvenience to your morning can set your whole day on a path to ruin. In a recent study, researchers found that less sleep consistently corresponded to increased levels of anger, a theory long supported by anecdotal evidence. And while catching more zzz’s will make you less likely to react with anger, it will also give you less time to be angry. After all, even the most aggro among us looks as gentle as a puppy when we’re in peaceful slumber.
Prefer drinking your anger away instead? Try our oat milk lattes with reishi mushrooms and turn that raging boil back down to room temperature.