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Your husband left his dirty clothes on the floor again, right in front of the hamper. Some speedster cut in front of you on the road and then gave you a dirty gesture. Your boss chewed you out for something that wasn't your fault. Your best friend canceled plans at the last minute yet again. Now you're mad. Crazy-mad. Smoke is coming out of your ears. Your heart is pounding like you just ran a marathon. And you're one breath away from exploding.
We've all been there, and it's a horrible feeling. It's losing control and losing your mind all at the same time. Which is why we've developed this step-by-step process to help reel you back from the edge:Step 1: Breathe it away.
In the heat of the moment, you're not thinking straight. Deep breathing won't come easy right now, but you can still use breath as a calming technique. "If only one logical thought gets through to your mind, let it be, 'Pay attention to the breath,'" says Jean Peplinski, a registered yoga teacher at Jean's Yoga in Michigan. "You might be too mad to even make your breath slower, but if you can just pay attention to it for one moment, that's one moment you're not focusing on your rage," Peplinski explains. Before you know it, your breath will slow itself down, and the rage will drop down a notch or two.Step 2: Get it out.
If possible, find a place where you can release your anger. Literally. "Physically and vocally get it out by vocalizing your anger without words," suggests Lauren Klayman, a massage therapist at Urban Oasis in Chicago. It's not about screaming until you see stars or throwing pillows, because those actions can simply feed your fury. Rather, think about it as "pushing the anger out of you with your voice," Klayman says. "Pretty soon, it will change the energy in you and around you," she says. If nothing else, the noises you make will make you laugh. See Step 3.Step 3: Laugh it off.
Replacing your frustration with laughter can have a positive effect on you, the target of your anger, and the situation in general. "One could name 101 solutions for stress, and all of them should be laughter," says Enda Junkins, LMSW-ACP, a psychotherapist and motivational speaker. "Laughter releases anxiety, changes our perception, and helps us cope. It doesn't change stressors; it changes how we relate to stressors," Junkins says. "If we laugh more, we stress less.Step 4: Sweeten the deal.
At this point, you're probably ready to sit down. So go ahead and unwrap that chocolate bar stashed in your drawer meant for times just like this. "Sugar gives a quick, calming effect," says Rachel Brandeis, a registered dietitian based in Atlanta. The benefits might be more psychological than scientific, but either way, it might just do the trick. If you'd rather not consume the calories, substitute a healthy sweet-treat like a handful of strawberries or a juicy orange.Step 5: Soothe your nerves.
While you're savoring your sugar fix, prepare a calming cup of kava tea. In the South Pacific, kava has been used for centuries as a natural antidote to stress, and the Herb Research Foundation points to several scientific studies that back up the claim. Find a tea that combines kava and age-old sedative-inducer chamomile, and you're sure to find your happy place in no time.
Originally published on LHJ.com, March 2005.