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You need to calm down.

When I was interviewed for my first teaching job – the same one I have 25 years later – I did not take the interview terribly seriously. I had already been offered a position in the town where I was living at the grade level I desired. I was about to accept the offer when the call came for the interview:

A teaching job in a neighboring town at a less preferred grade level for only one year. A maternity leave replacement.

Nevertheless, I agreed to the interview with the goal of getting in a little more practice in the event I needed to interview again someday.

So when my future principal asked me how I managed stress and anger as a restaurant manager — the job I had been doing for the previous decade — I told him that when I was especially angry, I would step into the walk-in freezer and throw cases of French fries against the wall until I felt better.

It’s true. That was my primary means of stress relief, though admittedly, I rarely felt stress while managing those restaurants.

I rarely experience stress at all. I’m annoying that way.

That probably would’ve been a much better answer, but again, I wasn’t taking the interview seriously. I had my job already.

But by the time the interview and tour of the school were complete, I knew I had made a terrible mistake. Even though it was a one-year position at a less-than-suitable grade level, I desperately wanted to work in this school for this man. Everything about the school spoke to me.

I couldn’t believe how stupid I had been.

Somehow, despite my less-than-ideal interview, he hired me. I am still grateful today. I met my wife and many of my closest friends at that school. I’ve built a career and made a name for myself inside the walls of that building. My life has been supremely beautiful thanks in part to my teaching career at that school.

Even though throwing cases of frozen French fries against a wall to release stress and anger worked for me back then, it turns out that there may be much better ways to manage anger.

A recent study in Japan has found that writing down your reaction to a negative incident on a piece of paper and then shredding it or scrunching it into a ball and throwing it into the trashcan effectively eliminates anger.

“We expected that our method would suppress anger to some extent,” said researcher Nobuyuki Kawai. “However, we were amazed to find that anger was eliminated almost entirely.”

Researchers believe the results may be related to the phenomenon of “backward magical contagion” — the belief that actions taken on an object associated with a person can affect the individuals themselves.

A voodoo doll of sorts.

In this case, getting rid of the negative physical entity – the piece of paper – caused the original emotion to also disappear.

It’s also a lot easier than tossing around cases of frozen potatoes.

A separate study, based on a review of 154 studies, indicates that when anger strikes, decreasing arousal is far more likely to reduce aggression than venting.

Engaging in activities such as deep breathing, muscle relaxation, yoga, meditation, and mindfulness can help you control or “turn down” your angry feelings and aggressive impulses.

Playing a sport has proven to be effective at eliminating anger, but researchers now believe that it has more to do with the companionship and teamwork associated with the game than the physical exertion required.
So perhaps hurling 35-pound cases of frozen French fries against a freezer wall didn’t work nearly as well as I once thought. It may have felt good at the time, but the release of anger and stress that I was seeking might have been eluding me.
Today I almost never experience stress and am rarely angry. After having been arrested, jailed, and tried for a crime I didn’t commit, homeless, tortured at gunpoint, and plagued by decades of PTSD, few things bother me these days. People annoy me and frustrate me, but I rarely become genuinely angry.
I’m also a relentless optimist. It’s annoying to some but supremely beneficial in terms of relieving stress and anger.
But when I do experience anger or stress, I lean into things that relax my mind:
Playing a game with my kids. Riding my bike. Petting the cats Watching a Celtics game. Writing.
Mostly, I simply tell myself that the stress and anger I feel now will be irrelevant in an hour, a day, a week, or a month, so why not just allow this moment to already exist in that future?
If this won’t be bothering me by Friday, why not treat today like Friday?
I also try to address issues of conflict immediately, which often leads to quick resolutions.
But if I find myself especially angry at some point, I may try the strategy of writing the source of my anger on a piece of paper and then destroying it:
Shredding it. Crumpling it up and tossing it away. Maybe burning it.
The best I can do today is a small bag of frozen French fries in my freezer, and I don’t think that will do the trick or make my wife very happy.