Seeing Red

So much for New Year good tidings and cheer. All that post-holiday bliss appears to have dissipated—something that occurred to me as I watched TV reports of bargain hunters elbowing one another to stake their claim on sale items, angry drivers circling the mall parking lot for a space close to the Macy’s door and road rage on the Southern California freeways. And who can forget about rapper Chris Brown or actor Alec Baldwin’s cosmic meltdowns late last year.

Indeed, people’s fixation with minor irritants is definitely on the rise—perhaps you may have felt this way yourself, or even been on the receiving end of it in your salons. According to a recent study from USA Today, 60 percent of Americans report feeling angry or irritable. That’s up from 50 percent when a similar poll was taken in 2011. Social experts have even gone so far as to give the trend a name, dubbing it the “anger epidemic.” Why is it such a mad, mad world these days? A host of possible reasons attributed to anger increasing include the uncertainty in the job market and the economy, working long hours—on average about one month more per year now than in the 1970s, and with less vacation—as well as a constant barrage of emails and the demands of social media.

Sudeepta Varma, a board-certified psychiatrist and a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at New York University Langone Medical Center, recently told New York TV station WNYW that Americans really are more angry now than ever. Varma said much of it can be traced back to the pressures we place on ourselves that are related to a host of things like how much money we think we should be bringing in, our material possessions and our personal image.

While there’s no quick fix to counteract and quell the rage, there are some productive and constructive ways to release the negative, pent-up energy, which also wreaks havoc on your body—research shows that anger can increase people’s, especially men’s, chances of developing coronary heart disease, create worse outcomes with preexisting heart disease, and can also lead to stress-related problems such as insomnia, digestive problems and headaches. Here are some tips from the Anger Management Center of Chicago that can help curb rage.

  • Take a break: Slow down, count to 10 and take the time to get your temper under control before you express your frustration.
  • Remain calm: Once you’ve cleared your thoughts and calm your demeanor, it’s perfectly acceptable to express your concerns in a nonconfrontational yet assertive manner.
  • Go for a walk: Exercise and physical activity can do wonders for your emotions.
  • Laugh it off: If you feel yourself beginning to get angry or see that someone’s blood is starting to boil, diffuse the situation with a little humor.
  • Try relaxation techniques: When your temper begins to flare, try some deep breathing exercises. Draw a series of deep breaths and hold each one for approximately three seconds. Follow this by gently and slowly exhaling.

Namaste. ✂ —Brett Vinovich, publisher, [email protected]