We all get angry from time to time. Memes abound on social media, pushing the idea that we should always be happy and avoid negativity at all costs. This is cr*p. A balanced emotional life entails experiencing a range of feelings. Frankly, it’s not healthy to think that life is supposed to be all unicorns and rainbows.
That said, of course we should work towards the positive. And, difficult emotions, such as anger, may sometimes (or frequently) stick around for longer than they’re useful. Anger is an important emotion, and to suppress it will only lead to problems both physical and emotional. But, being irritable, pissed off, or downright on fire all of the time isn’t good for you, or those around you.
How To Be Less Angry
What to do if you’re stuck in anger? Do some work with a trusted counselor: Someone you can trust to help you dig deep into the sources and hold the space while you’re processing. Reach out to loved ones who can handle it when you’re not soft and fluffy at the moment. Explore insight meditation. Try out some lifestyle and dietary changes. For instance, I wind up hugely irritable and sometimes even explosive about a day after eating dairy or wheat (or worse, both together…you don’t want to deal with me after fettuccini alfredo). Get outside for even just a few minutes daily. Get your hands in the dirt. Be active…use your body. Some find yoga supportive. Others find that beating the heck out of a heavy bag helps. Whatever works for you.
Also, consider some botanical allies…
- The scent of vetiver is cooling. You can buy a bundle of vetiver roots online. Wet them and hold them close to your face…it actually feels cold!
- Vetiver is traditionally used in India for cooling off both physically and emotionally. It is available as an essential oil.
- Vetiver is specific for hot, burning anger…the kind that makes you kick the garbage can across the room.
- Vetiver combines well with citrus and lavender. Try 1 part vetiver, 3 parts lavender and 6 parts tangerine, mandarin, grapefruit, or lemon. Put a drop or two on a cotton ball that you carry around with you or stuff into your pillowcase at night.
- In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Liver and Gallbladder are linked with anger and frustration. These emotions can either arise from or actually trigger imbalances in these Organs (capital O for Organs in the Chinese System!).
- Dandelion root stimulates bile flow from the Gall Bladder, moving stuck Qi—though note that dandelion is contraindicated when there are gallstones present. “Stuck” leads to heat, which may lead to irritability or anger.
- In Western herbal traditions, as well as in Chinese medicine, dandelion is used as a “liver cooling” herb. It supports liver function, protects the liver from damage and is particularly indicated in folks who eat a diet rich in animal proteins and fats that cause heat in the liver.
- Dandelion is great as a tea but also helpful as a liquid extract. Capsules are OK, but not as good in my opinion.
- Not just for keeping vampires at bay, vervain is an indispensable herb in my practice for digestion, liver function, mood, and hormonal regulation.
- Vervain is a cooling nervine (nervous system-supporting) herb that’s particularly good for anger—especially when the anger is tied to either depressive states or in folks who tend to be tightly wound (think “type A” personality).
- Vervain supports healthy liver function (remember the link between liver and anger…).
- Try the liquid extract in drop doses or as part of a larger, supportive formula. Good luck drinking the nauseatingly bitter tea…
- Now, here’s an herb you may not be familiar with. Agrimony is a member of the Rose family, and is best known as a urinary system herb. But it’s helpful beyond that…
- Agrimony is one of the 38 Bach flower essences, used for people who seem fine or even happy on the outside, but are in fact not doing so great on the inside.
- Herbalist Matthew Wood describes agrimony as for folks who are, as he says, “caught in a bind.” They feel frustration and angst and a sense of being stuck, while often being, outwardly, the funniest person in a group.
- Agrimony is best as a tea but also functions fine as a liquid extract.
- I frequently say that chamomile doesn’t get near the amount of respect it deserves in the herbal world. It is great for irritability, crankiness, and peevishness.
- Chamomile is safe for young children but also good for adults in a mild state of being ticked off. Someone having a meltdown on a long car trip? Chamomile to the rescue!
- Chamomile is lovely as a tea, but the (expensive) essential oil is also helpful and quite strong. A drop on a cotton ball will go a long way.
- Wood, M (1997) The book of herbal wisdom. North Atlantic Books, Berkeley.
- Keville, K & M Green (2009) Aromatherapy: A complete guide to the healing art. 2nd Edition. Crossing Press, Berkeley.