The past few weeks have been particularly stressful at work, and so the powers that be organized a truly wonderful treat: free massages for staff.
I relished the idea of being able to abandon the pile of work on my desk for a blissful fifteen minutes to have the the stress and anxiety kneaded out of my tense shoulders in the middle of a workday, except...it kind of hurt.
"Hmm...it feels like someone has been holding in some anger maybe? You know that feeling when you really want to yell at someone but hold it in inside? It all goes right here," the massage therapist explained, pressing my tender shoulder as I silently grimaced from the pain. "You should consider having regular massages."
I actually thought I manage angry feelings pretty well. I'm not the most confrontational person, but I like to think I can hold my own when discussing a conflict. And when I'm really angry--like truly, truly pissed to the extent that I wouldn't be able to speak about it without yelling, I either go for a run or I bake bread.
If you saw me on an angry run, you wouldn't necessarily know that I was angry. I would probably just look like a really dedicated athlete, but an angry run is one of the best releases (not to mention forms of cardio) that I know of. I pound the pavement without a break for as long and as fast as I possibly can until it literally feels as if the anger has loosened and left my body (please forgive the New-Agey description). Afterward, I usually feel much clearer about whatever the issue is--not to mention exhausted. Usually too exhausted to fight about anything until I've rested and had time to give whatever's bothering me some thought. So, win-win.
But sometimes, when running's not enough, I bake bread. The recipe is so simple and it always seems to turn out right, and that itself is calming. Maybe it's that I've made it so many times that I can kind of tune out as I bake and reflect on whatever is bothering me...but mostly I love that I can physically channel ugly, angry feelings by kneading a limp piece of shapeless dough until it become firm and springy, and can stand on its own, and then it becomes something beautiful that I can share if I feel so inclined. And somewhere between the satisfaction of beating the hell out of a lump of dough and the calming serotonin release triggered by carbohydrate consumption, I always feel at least a little bit better.
Not that I'm opposed to regular massages.
I highly recommend an angry run, but when that just won't do, here's how to make Anger Release Bread:
5-6 cups all-purpose flour (you can substitute whole wheat flour for 1 or 2
2 tablespoons of dry yeast
2 tablespoons brown sugar or honey
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups hot water (120-130 degrees F.)
olive oil for brushing
A cake pan of hot water
Mix 3 cups of the flour with the yeast, sugar and salt. Pour in the hot water
and beat 100 strokes.
Stir in the remaining flour until the dough loses its stickiness. Turn onto a
floured surface. Knead for 8 minutes. Really beat the hell out of it. Think about whatever (or whoever) is making you angry and pretend that it's sitting in front of you in the form of dough.
Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with a warm damp cloth. Let rise for 30 minutes in a warm spot.
Punch down and divide the dough into two pieces. Shape into round loaves and place on a greased baking sheet. Cut an "X" one-half inch deep in each of the loaves with a wet sharp knife and use a pastry brush to brush the tops of the loaves with a little olive oil.
Place baking sheet with loaves in the middle of a COLD oven. Place a pan of hot water on the lowest shelf. Heat the oven to 400 degrees and bake 40-50 minutes until golden brown.