July 2019

Anger Management and Women

Author: Becca Edwards

What sets you off? Is it looming deadlines? Family members pulling you in too many directions? Or, maybe being stuck behind someone who does not understand traffic circles? For me, it can be all of the above, and I have noticed I am more prone to irritability or even anger since turning 40. Pissed I was getting pissed, I decided to do some research and find out why.

Why do 40+ women get angry?
Let’s start with two mood regulators: serotonin, a neurotransmitter, and estrogen, a sex hormone. Serotonin helps control mood and impulse control. Because the hormone estrogen plays a part in the production of serotonin, when estrogen levels decline (with PMS, peri-menopause, etc.), serotonin levels decline, too, taking your mood control with it. Lack of serotonin also inhibits our ability to manage pain and sleep, making it difficult to be perpetually all-smiles, Jennifer Garner-ish when we are experiencing age-related chronic pain or have not had a decent night’s sleep in a while.

Tips to manage anger
Breathe. I know, I know. It annoys me to even type the word “breathe”— and not because I do not believe in the power of breath. It is because quite often when we are upset and someone tells us to breathe, it seems like an oversimplification of our thoughts or feelings or a generic response. However, biochemical greatness happens when we breathe. When you take a long deep inhale and then exhale, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. The brain then sends this message to your body. In turn, anger-induced bio-responses, such as increased heart rate, fast breathing, and high blood pressure, all decrease.

Having taught yoga for 20 years, I have noticed most people breathe from their sternum, often not even from the diaphragm. To breathe properly, try originating your breath from your navel, and feel your entire torso inflate with your inhale and deflate with your exhale. Next, bring equanimity to the breath so the inhales match the exhales in duration. It helps to close your eyes and count up to three or more as you inhale and down to three or more as you exhale.

Practice gratitude and positive self-talk. Fun fact: Stress hormones like cortisol are 23 percent lower in grateful people. According to a report on NBC’s Today, “Research shows that when we think about what we appreciate, the parasympathetic or calming part of the nervous system is triggered and that can have protective benefits on the body, including decreasing cortisol levels and perhaps increasing oxytocin, the bonding hormone involved in relationships that make us feel so good.”

Each morning, rather than letting your mind be consumed with the morning rush, your to-do lists, or that nagging neck pain, sip on thoughts of gratitude. Think about who and what truly makes you happy.
Now for positive self-talk. It can be challenging for many women to channel their inner Stuart Smalley. One reason is we often get stuck in a cycle of acting out, regretting our actions, and then feeling guilty. Give yourself a little slack. Be as open as possible with family and friends about what you are going through, apologize, and move on.

Exercise. Sometimes we confuse exercise with a physical action to maintain our weight. But exercise—whether light, moderate or strenuous—promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. Exercise also helps release endorphins—powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good—and helps with maintaining a healthy weight, which often makes us feel better about ourselves. And lastly, exercise allows us to redirect our frustrations or aggressions. Some excellent exercise options for venting include boxing, power yoga, or running on the beach, but did you know that simply walking reduces cortisol?

Give yourself a timeout.
Timeouts are not just for children. Adult timeouts give us the opportunity to acknowledge our feelings of anger. We can then excuse ourselves and step away from the situation, whether it is a surly teenager or that piece of furniture that just stubbed our toe. Next, we remember how awesome it is to breathe and take a few long, deep breaths. It is important during this time to just chill out, not speak or act out.

Consider supplementation
As I am not a physician, I cannot prescribe any supplements, and you should always consult your healthcare provider before adding any supplements into your health plan. Having said that, here are a few supplements that are noteworthy:
• Magnesium. This mineral helps produce serotonin, increases sleep and can relieve mood-related premenstrual symptoms.
• Vitamin D. The Mayo Clinic supports studies that link low vitamin D levels in the blood and various mood issues including depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
• Ashwagandha. This adaptogen promotes mental clarity and serenity and, in the Ayurvedic tradition, is called the “herb that rejuvenates.”
• Rhodiola. Another adaptogen, this herb has been used for ages to promote a stable mood. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), two review articles published in 2011 and 2012 looked at 15 studies that tested rhodiola on physical and mental performance in 575 people. Both reviews found evidence that rhodiola may help support mental and physical performance.
• Omega-3s. A review published in the journal Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience noted that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) can help decrease feelings of sadness, promote stress relief, and increase libido.

Avoid sugar and alcohol.
Many of us eat sugary foods because “we deserve it” or need a pick-me-up or comfort food. Sugar has been proven to feed many mood disorders. For example, the roller coaster of high blood sugar followed by a crash may accentuate the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Many of us also think that glass of wine at the end of the day will make everything better. But because alcohol is a depressant, many women actually feel bluer after drinking two or more glasses of white—or red, or rosé, etc.

Eat whole, nutrient-dense foods.
Food is fuel. One of my favorite health resources, Dr. Axe, wrote a compelling article titled, “Mood-Boosting Foods: 7 Foods for Greater Happiness.” I highly recommend giving it a quick read; his favorites are avocado, grapes, shiitake mushrooms, raw nuts, salmon, sesame seeds and strawberries.

ake steps to improve your sleep.
The issue of sleep keeps popping up, and for good reason. Sleep deprivation, after all, is a well-known and used form of torture. Good sleep practices include turning off all electronics and doing something relaxing like reading or crossword puzzling before bed, diffusing or applying essential oils like lavender, and avoiding high-fat or sugary foods in the evening. Talk to your healthcare provider about supplements like magnesium glycinate, L-theanine and melatonin.

Be social.
In her book, The Hormone Cure, Dr. Sara Gottfried talks about the positive effects of women being with other women. Apparently, spending 15 to 30 minutes with other women produces the same amount of oxytocin (a feel-good hormone) as an orgasm.

Be intimate with your partner.
Being intimate with your partner has more benefits than you may even know. It replaces sugar cravings, relieves pain, and is a stress-management technique—just to name a few. 

Becca Edwards is a wellness professional, freelance writer, and owner of b.e.WELL+b.e.CREATIVE (bewellbecreative.com).

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