Coping strategies for the quietly ticking firework?
September 19, 2011 7:49 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for coping strategies or appropriate vents for long-repressed irritation with minor things, such as frustrating professors, unfortunate policies, more-sociable roommates, and the stuff of life. While I'm ok with impersonal set-backs and serious personal challenges, these minor interpersonal irritants seem to be driving me closer and closer to open confrontation, and I don't know how to channel it properly while retaining some measure of my natural calm and distance.

I'm definitely starting to have an anger problem. I mean, I don't want to call it that, but maybe that's what it is. I actually don't know what a 'normal' level of irritability is. Some (many?) of my girlfriends repress anger constantantly, but I was always 'not like that'. I mean, I repress but I don't have that much of it to start with; it's always been this minor thing. Living with loud roommates last year sensitized me a bit. On the one hand, being more upfront is good, right? Repressing not-so-good and kind of bad. But I don't want to be 'that person', that person that irritates others in turn. So what's a good level of pushing people? What things are ok to be miffed about? What do you let go and what do you insist on 'taking care of', and how do you funnel energy into that action instead of internalizing?

Example: I write a professor (a week or so ago) with a legit question about how to navigate a conflict between his first class and another that goes on at the same time. I have no guarantee of getting into either, and want to hedge my bets. I said I had different reasons for wanting to take both classes, and wondered if he was still accepting slips during the second half of the first class. Ok so I rambled, but still: no response. If I ask a question-- even if I ramble, and even if the answer is no-- I expect a professor to answer it. Irritating. Actually, quite a number of professors don't get back to me. I like them all (in theory) and think they're cool (especially some), so it's hard to get irritated. So far only one professor (that I'm particularly close to) has been 100% available to me. I'm in a small liberal arts school and we're all cool here, etc.

Then there's stuff that has no great justification like how I was a little confrontational with the bookstore student worker today. I was returning my books (to resell) and one wouldn't go through 'cause it's an old edition. Not his fault, and I get it, but I was a little more openly frustrated than usual. Is it ok? I can't tell. I think I was not the best customer, though, and could tell he was a bit put-upon.

And then there's the ongoing issue I have addressing noise issues in my dorm apartment, which drive me insane. We're in Quiet Housing, so I'm supposed to address them, but it's beyond difficult for me to tell anyone to 'quiet down' directly, and doing it after the fact seems unnecessary (I prefer the short-term reward of just keeping to myself and reading instead). The thing that bugs me is my imagining intent or precedent, which is unprovable-- like, if I think someone means to be considerate and quiet, then it's ok if they're not. The underlying thing-- the fact that what really bothers me is that people are in my home at all-- is partly why I feel bad about confronting it. If I was really honest, then there'd be no compromise, but there are good reasons for staying on campus (money, and the fact that I can barely get up on time for morning classes as it is).

On some level, I've always acted out-- I've always been very stubbornly myself with the understanding this may passively drive people away-- but usually I've repressed actual emotion or irritation (with silence). I think I was intermittently off-putting/intimidating, but since I'm quiet, plump and female, I don't think I actively irritated or even concerned most people (who didn't have to clean up after me or give me money-- read, my mom). If I start being more confrontational, it's like I'd be losing my only veil against my overall social awkwardness, and it concerns me. All I can imagine is that this is a thing I was supposed to work out in adolescence but never did, and better late than never? I don't know. But input about 'appropriate irritation' and relevant coping strategies or anything else may be helpful.

Note: I'm very good at relaxing, escaping, avoiding, and taking my mind off things, so while I'm sure meditating would help, it's not 'the answer' (pretty sure, anyway). I'm not in a financial position to try therapy, though I'm not against a Cognitive Behavioral approach. I guess this is just something I'm thinking about rather than an active problem that's severely crippling my life or social interactions. I'm actually better at socializing than I have been for years. I just want some new ideas/strategies to fertilize the field, so to speak. If it helps, I have ADD.
posted by reenka to Human Relations (20 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
One thing that helped me was deciding that some things mattered a lot, and most everything else just didn't by comparison. So as long as I am taking care of those key items then everything else can either be ignored, explained or shrugged off.

It's easy to build this list of "small stuff" slowly. Just decide that, hey, if (for example) someone cuts you off in the street that, meh, it just doesn't matter. "Other people suck, but I'm better than that -- not only do I not cut people off, I don't get angry about it either."

It grows from there and .... suddenly you find out that you're a Buddhist. Or at least a sympathiser.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:55 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't know if this applies to you, but I find that I am more readily irritated by small things like your examples when something larger in my life is bothering me. Once I recognize whatever that thing is, I am less irritated with others even if I am unable to immediately resolve the deeper issue. At least I know what my real feelings are from and can work towards addressing the main problem.
posted by abirdinthehand at 8:05 PM on September 19, 2011 [5 favorites]

re: professors

It's really easy to ignore/avoid email, and professors have a lot of people trying to get their attention at the start of the semester so it's easy for things to fall between the cracks. Ask in person (after class or at office hours) or use the telephone (quaint!).
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:17 PM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm generally a pretty laid back person, but when the occasional thing does start to bug me, it bugs me a lot. Usually this is something I have to deal with repetitively, like a roommate I'm having issues with or a doofus boss. And, usually, it's the kind of thing where bringing it up and discussing it would be completely out of line or make me sound crazy.

For instance, my roommate is very into recycling. Me? Not so much. But it makes her happy, so I try to pay attention to my recyclable trash, wash it out, and set it aside. OK, fine. But she does these really hypocritical things, like not using reusable cloth bags for grocery shopping so she brings home tons of plastic ones each time, buying poop bags for her dog instead of reusing the shopping bags, and using a brand-new garbage bag (instead of, again, reusing those plastic shopping bags) to put the recycling in. I KNOW, RIGHT?

But it's none of my business, and in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn't matter. It's way more of a headache to start A Thing about something that kind of bugs me than it is to just let it be.

So I take out my frustrations with a text file and mspaint. When I'm feeling pissy for no good reason, I'll fire up notepad, write a few paragraphs like I'm sending an angry, ranty email to whomever's pissing me off, read it over a few times, add choice phrases as I see fit...and then delete it. 90% of the time, I'll realize a few sentences in that I really don't care enough about whatever's going on to even warrant a fake confrontation, let alone a real one. Or sometimes I'll even open a picture of the offending person in mspaint and draw buck teeth and moustaches on them, and delete it once I've had my fill.

It's really dumb, but it makes me feel better. Once I spend 5 minutes venting my frustration at the computer, I'm fine. Try it sometime.
posted by phunniemee at 8:25 PM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

Exercise, sunlight, and yoga. Also, be sure to get enough sleep.

When I'm really frustrated and start to take it out on others, i decide to be the nice guy. i smile. It relaxes me because it relaxes the other person.

Also, your perception of being confrontational may beexaggerated. Try it, do it with a smile, and see howitgoes. It probably won't be nearly as awkward as you think. Besides, being able to confrontothers gracefully is one of the mostenviable of social graces. It'sa great skill that will serve youwell in life,at work, and beyond.

Sorry for all the run-ons. My ipad space bar is finicky.
posted by thinkingwoman at 8:25 PM on September 19, 2011

Over the years I've had a bunch of different coping methods, but thinking back over all of them, they boil down to the following: go and be alone in public. I'm a true introvert and it takes a lot of energy for me to be with people -- if I'm already angry, being with anyone, friends included, just pushes me over the edge. On the other hand, being completely alone when I'm angry leaves me with nothing to focus on besides my anger, so I stew and work myself up even more.

Therefore, when I'm getting really angry or frustrated or overwhelmed, I try to get out and do something by myself in public -- usually reading a book at a coffee shop.
posted by telegraph at 8:37 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

So what's a good level of pushing people? What things are ok to be miffed about? What do you let go and what do you insist on 'taking care of', and how do you funnel energy into that action instead of internalizing?

Hmm. Well, there are a couple guidelines you could go by.

1. Have this person and I previously agreed to something? If so, I would feel like I was justified in objecting if they went against our agreement. I think this would apply in your example of people being noisier than the regulations they agreed to when they signed up for Quiet Housing.

1b. Does this person owe me something? Either because I am paying them for it, or because it belongs to me and they borrowed it from me, or I have hired them for it and it is part of their job? Feeling "owed" is a kind of dangerous thing that can lead you into acting presumptuously, so the more explicit and clear it is that you are owed this thing, the better. In the case of your professor, as a student, I think I would feel owed competent teaching, and a normal, usual amount of availability and helpfulness regarding class matters. I would probably feel owed some kind of response other than completely being ignored if I asked a question to a professor in person, but not necessarily via email since not everyone uses it, and there could be other reasons. Also, in your bookstore example, I would not feel at all that I was owed the right to direct my frustration at the cashier just because he was working there and providing customer service.

2. Is this person treating me with a basic standard of human decency? If not, I would feel justified in insisting that they do so. This cuts both ways, of course. In your cashier example, I don't think it was right to offload your frustration about the books on the cashier, even if you weren't directing it AT him/her personally. I also think it was rude of your professor not to reply to your email, but again, there might be other reasons that he didn't reply, so that bring me to...

3. Are there good reasons that people are going against the above things? You wrote above about imagining that people are intending to be quiet and how that stops you from complaining, but you are still irked so that's not a good reason. I'm talking about things that truly make you go "ah, I understand." Like if the professor didn't reply to your email because he can't use a computer and you didn't know that. It's always better to see if there's a good reason before going immediately to anger.

3b. Is there a *sympathetic* reason? Or, even if I am justified in objecting to this, I care about it, and the person has no good or sympathetic reason for doing this, am I still better off in this situation, or there will be consequences to the other person that I consider to be too much, and can I let it go? This is another one to be really careful with so be aware of whether or not it's in your nature to go too far with this and be unfair to yourself. I'm talking here about situations where, say, my friend is addicted to drugs and steals $10 from me -- I would probably let that go rather than calling the cops or going after her for it, but that's just me and you have to have your own line.

4. How much do I really care about this? If it's honestly not very much, that's a good time to let it go.

5. Will there be any benefit in objecting to this? Will the benefits of objecting to this outweigh the negatives? If not, sometimes it's good to just let it go.
what to do when you feel like you want to object to something.

You've written a lot about feeling miffed, angry, irritated, etc., but you don't need to get angry, rage, and explode at people in order to object to things you feel justified in objecting to. In fact, that's often completely counterproductive. You just need to be matter of fact and say something in a normal way without any passive-aggression behind it. When you do this right away when you first feel bothered, then I think it's a lot less likely you'll get to the place of explosions and fireworks going off over stuff that looks so minor to others, which makes them take you less seriously.
posted by Ashley801 at 8:40 PM on September 19, 2011 [9 favorites]

You say you're ok with 'impersonal' set-backs, but not interpersonal irritations. THen you give the example of the professor not answering your message and the book causing a problem at the bookstore. I don't know if this is just my misunderstanding of your categorization, but I can see the professor and the book both being impersonal irritations. The professor is not just ignoring you; he/she is likely ignoring a lot of students. The bookstore didn't pick *your* book to have troubles with nor did they set up that particular cashier to bother you; it was a random occurrence.

I myself would get realllllly annoyed by either of these things, because things 'shouldn't be that way.' And there's no guarantee that those same things aren't going to happen to you again. They actually don't have much to do with you, and so therefore, they're out of your control. I *hate* that kind of thing, and I have a big issue with things being illogical and/or unfair. If this sounds at all familiar to your mindset, bummer, because I haven't found an easy solution. Therapy helped me to 'see' how I was dealing badly with these things, and the best strategy that came out of it for me was to understand that these annoyances happen to everyone all the time, and while they *shouldn't*, I'm only prolonging the pain when I make a stink. On the other hand, sometimes things "shouldn't be" enough so that the right thing to do is to make a stink. So, there's some control in deciding whether or not to make a stink.

I also can really relate to the noise issue. I kinda think that being bothered by noises (that often don't bother others) is really a physical matter. Similar to how some people are comfortable in 80F weather and some people love the Arctic; you can't just tell someone to relax and they'll become comfortable in an environment that doesn't suit them. After ~15 years of living in dorms and apartments, including a high rise in Manhattan, I now have a 30 minute commute so that I can live in the boonies with nary a noise most of the time, except the neighbor with his stupid leafblower or the occasional motorcycle sans muffler. So it's never perfect anywhere, but that 30 min each way every day is so worth how much more relaxed I am at my home now, than I ever was living in dorms and apartments. I know you're doing your best with the circumstances you have, but promise yourself that some day, you will live somewhere quieter :)
posted by Tandem Affinity at 8:42 PM on September 19, 2011

Your question is kind of all over the place. No problem, but I'm putting it out there because as a result, I don't have a direct answer but more of a series of responses.

You say, "I'm ok with impersonal set-backs and serious personal challenges." It sounds like you feel pretty confident about your ability to handle stress. But I wonder about that because reactionary responses to minor irritants is how stress usually catches up with people. We find ways to deal with the big things but then have less tolerance for the little things. You already know how to manage stress (you covered that in your question) so I don't have any suggestions on that front except to maybe acknowledge that during times of higher stress, you're more likely to be irritable.

I'm guessing you're about 20 years old and you indicated that this kind of stress response is something that maybe should have been figured out in adolescence. Um . . . no. I don't know how to convince you of this, but you're so not done learning about this kind of shit yet. There's so much about yourself that you don't even know that you don't know yet. Nobody figures anything out in adolescence. We survive it, that's all.

You ask what level of irritability is "normal?" And I don't think there's a good answer for that. You're as irritable as you feel. And that's normal for you.

You mention that your girl friends "repress" a lot of anger. How do you know it's repression? Or if they tell you it's repression, maybe it isn't really because they're talking about it with you and thereby not actually repressing it? Having tact and decent boundaries can be seen as repression but it's not really.

Regarding your examples:

1. Professors rarely respond to rambling emails. It's not that they don't care, it's just that they need priorities or they'd never get anything done and your email doesn't register very high. Go in person. Your irritation at this could maybe be fixed by putting yourself in their shoes for a moment.

2. It totally wasn't the bookstore clerks fault about your book. He or she had probably been dealing with sell backs and disappointed students all day. Again, the "insert yourself" method will probably suffice for that fix too.

3. Loud doormates in "Quiet Housing." Hmmmm. I was probably one of your loud doormates so this one is harder. I think this one is about boundaries. What are the house rules? Which, of the behaviors that you're dealing with, are you ready to put up with and which would you prefer to not deal with? Draw a line in the sand and get good at using assertive language to protect your boundaries. Example - Hey you guys, you're being loud and I need quiet to complete my work. Can you take your social hour elsewhere or quiet down a bit, please?

Finally, I think it comes with age, but try not to take yourself so seriously. I think you're holding onto things because you're not dealing with them in the moment. Nobody is going to "be put-off," by a little confrontation from you. Unless you get really bad-moody about it, nobody will care. You see, we're all too busy thinking about ourselves, and whether or not we're normal, to spend too much time thinking about others.
posted by dchrssyr at 8:45 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, some people will disagree, but I don't think there's anything wrong with phrasing your requests apologetically to start with, as long as you know in your own mind that you don't NEED to be apologizing for it. I think if you start with that kind of a request and THEN you are ignored, that's a good time to step up the assertiveness.

I was once on an overnight train where everyone in the car was sleeping, except for these two guys who were in the seat directly behind me and they were being *loud.* They had these really irritating guffawing laughs that were driving me crazy. Generally I don't love confronting strangers in situations where I about to go to sleep near them because I never know if they'll be silently pissed and like stick gum in my hair while I'm asleep or whatever. But I thought if I was friendly about it, it would be okay. I turned around and said in a really friendly way, "Hey guys... I'm sorry but... it's 2 am right now." That was all I had to say. They said "Oh! Sorry! We didn't realize how late it was." Then they were quiet.

So, I think it's okay and it sounds like you might be more comfortable starting that way anyway. Just, if you do get ignored by starting off that way, you have to get comfortable with turning up the assertiveness too.
posted by Ashley801 at 8:54 PM on September 19, 2011

Heyo! Sorry you are feeling such intense rage. I understand.

First thought: is there any change in your medications for ADD lately, and/or, have you been taking them regularly and as prescribed? I recently unintentionally went off of anti-depressants for a short bit (6 days) and the number one symptom I noticed was irreconcilable rage over VERY SMALL irritations. It has disappeared since getting back on meds and getting enough of them back in my system.

Second thought: where are you located? Do you attend college where you grew up? In other words, is your perception of what is "confrontational" mediated by cultural differences based in geography? I'm from Atlanta and now live in Minneapolis and people here are far more passive-aggressive and much less direct, or as you say, confrontational.

Third thought: from my reading, it seems like what's really angering you about the situations you have described is that there seems to be a protocol for how to handle things, but people aren't following those rules and/or the situation is therefore out of not just your control, but the control of the supposed parameters. For me, the best coping strategy is increased specific communication about my boundaries/expectations/needs, in a matter-of-fact way, when interacting with someone... E.g. the email to professors: I'd add a line like "I understand you may be busy, but if you could please let me know either way if you are taking slips or not. I need to make a decision by X date, so I look forward to hearing from you before then. If phone or in-person is more convenient than email, please let me know." Or with your quiet housing situation, talk to your RA and say something like "I am living here because it's quiet housing and I really need and expect this X, Y and Z behavior to meet our guidelines for this housing. Because you are in a position of authority, I would really appreciate if you could help enforce these ground rules for our living situation." In other words, sometimes the very process of articulating my needs helps take the burden of the outcome off of me, and reduces my irritation.

I hope things get better. (Oh, and I say this, as a 27 y/o, not to be an asshole, but rather to be affirming: lots of people in the youth work field now view adolescence as not really ending until the mid to late 20's, so you are still in the midst of grappling with a lot of change and actual brain formation. That means you are still very much learning how to work this out!)
posted by Betty's Table at 8:55 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Watch the movie Falling Down.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 9:13 PM on September 19, 2011

Thanks for the input so far! I guess it's only fair to say I'm 33, so it's a bit funny seeing the assumption of 'early-20s' just because I was thinking I should have been better socialized... well, more than fifteen years ago now. I was more at peace with my irritability when I was 20, and less into creating solutions-- more oblivious, too. I was just irritable and owned it, because back then I thought I was pretty cool. So anyway, I'm pretty sure adolescence is over (finally?) but then again, maybe you can't really tell from how I act unless you saw how much worse it was, or something.

Anyway, it probably is about analyzing the reasons and context of each problem and then simply categorizing it and responding appropriately. To be clear, I never claimed the bookstore thing was appropriate-- I said it was unjustified-- rather, my irritation spills over now more than it used to. I have been under stress recently, but I've had lots of stress in my life that didn't make me confront anyone/express my emotions. I had a standard way of extreme but set response if I got severely overwhelmed: I'd leave (sometimes doors got slammed on the way). So I feel like getting older makes me mushier? Or maybe less horribly repressed, I'm not sure. I also get weepier easily, when at 18 I didn't cry at almost anything. I've also become more likely to take it out on inanimate objects just recently, but I think this is just a temporary heightening since I really hate moving.

The idea of smiling and saying semi-confrontational things softly, as well as being apologetic but at least verbal, is something I have to work to remember: it doesn't come naturally. I think half the problem is often my lack of obvious affect when stressed or uncomfortable, a lazy construction on my part 'cause extraverting any emotion is more difficult than shutting it all off (including smiling, etc). It's good to remember that people won't like, fall over if I'm slightly harsher than normal (when normal is at zero, anyway). And it's true that a big part of it is frustration at unpredictability in behavior, mostly because I'm good at dismissing bad things if I expect them. The professor visit is a bit difficult 'cause we're in-between quarters and my school doesn't tend to have set office hours (and some professors don't even have offices... sigh). But I'll try to do the whole 'am I owed something, and if so, what' test.

With roommates it's hard 'cause it's so tangled up in unreasonable demands-- you could claim they were following Quiet Housing guidelines, just not my super-hardcore-introvert level, but then they never promised they would. I have tried the RA route in the past, but it didn't really work 'cause the RA basically told me to talk to them myself and that he'd be a facilitator if necessary. We're all very mild here in the Northwest. Still, it's good to break things down into 'really need' and 'should deal with', and study-time counts as a necessity. On the bright side, I wouldn't categorize this as 'intense rage', thankfully. Maybe when I start biting people.
posted by reenka at 9:56 PM on September 19, 2011

Note: I'm very good at relaxing, escaping, avoiding, and taking my mind off things, so while I'm sure meditating would help, it's not 'the answer' (pretty sure, anyway).

These are very much not the same thing. But if you're not into meditating, try a long walk in nature. (Research has actually compared a walk in nature, even a city park, vs a walk on the city street, too. Nature wins.)
posted by salvia at 10:27 PM on September 19, 2011

So, I totally own the wrong headed assumption that you're a 20something, not that there's anything wrong with being 20. I'm sorry and I think I realized it was wrongheaded/a boneheaded thing to say almost immediately after posting it. But I stand by my recommendations: consider it's a culmination of stress, put yourself in other's shoes, assert your boundaries, and take yourself less seriously.
posted by dchrssyr at 10:28 PM on September 19, 2011

Here's something I wrote recently on anger management that may be of use to you. The key thing is that regardless of who or what triggered it, your anger is your thing and dealing with it non-destructively is your responsibility. Leaving when provoked is fine, healthy and usually appropriate; slamming the door on the way out, not so much.

It's easy for anger to rob us of dignity. If you focus on not letting that happen, your life will improve.
posted by flabdablet at 1:53 AM on September 20, 2011

You know, you are exactly the kind of person you want to be. You do know that, don't you?

If you haven't learned it at 33, it's time you did.

Be the person you want to be. Take 15-20 minutes and design that person. Check periodically to see if you are that person. If not, correct yourself.

Who else do you think is responsible for your behavior and reactions? The outside world or the neocortex in charge of your 33 year old corpus? Metafilter? Mom?

You can blame things on ADD, a few extra pounds, being female, being sensitized to loud noises and irritations. Doesn't really help anything to blame. Blame isn't an affirming act.

Look at yourself closely when you are being a crank. Why? How is your mind reacting? Why? How can you act IN THE MOMENT like the person you want to be?

In the end, you are the one running that brain, that mouth and that heart. Just try and do a good job of it. The world has ways of sanctioning you if you don't. If your prototype is to be a crank, then eventually you'll get all the alone you want.
posted by FauxScot at 1:59 AM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm not in a financial position to try therapy, though I'm not against a Cognitive Behavioral approach.

Most colleges/universities offer free therapy and psychiatry services, though whether their people do CBT is a bit more of an unknown. It might be worth checking out. One of the biggest things campus counseling services do is help people find ways of coping with stress and anger.
posted by kittenmarlowe at 8:03 AM on September 20, 2011

one of my fundamental adages: If you have a problem and you get upset, then you have 2 problems.

When you are faced with a situation that sets you off, try to determine what outcome you are verbalizing in your mind. Sometimes your mind is looking for a constructive outcome, and sometimes your mind wants revenge, wants to "show them!" or wants the last word. Having "the last word" is the least constructive outcome for a disagreement.

Try to put "yourself" to the side and try to get the "fair" or "reasonable" outcome. It's not about you, it's about the SYSTEM, and if you make it about you, you're gonna experience a lot of rage.

Try to explain what you need, and ask experts how you can get there. When the book won't scan, ask the clerk, "Is there anything I can do? I'd really like a little bit of money back, is there another code you can enter?" When emailing a professor, try to put your desired outcome as the subject line or the first line in the email. Don't even share the special snowflake information. Don't bury your request in a mass of solid text. Tell them what you need, "Can you sign an Exception Form for me?" "May I enroll in your closed class?" Make it easy and simple for them to help you by prompting them with the next step.

That being said, I can remember having simmering savage anger, which would erupt at the slightest affront. I think medication is the only thing that short-circuited that loop of irrational emotion.
posted by ohshenandoah at 1:26 PM on September 20, 2011

A few points:

Regular vigorous (not long or exhausting, just intense) exercise makes a big difference in the ability to spontaneously weather stressors -- things that ought to slide off us but can get snagged on raw nerves. Make it part of your day, doesn't have to be long.

Practicing anything makes it more likely part of your repertoire in the future. This fact is true for undesirable behavior (getting upset at things, anger, losing your cool) as well as desirable (asserting your needs, defending your interests). Try to differentiate these cases, and actively, consciously decide to practice the later while suppressing the former.

If anger overwhelms a situation you think there is an honest and worth-defending interest at the center of, physically back off a bit, breathe abdominally, stretch, relax, let the peak subside while determining the minimum result you need to achieve to respect your needs. Then go back and try again. Sometimes it takes three tries to get something to go.

What was said up thread about being alone in public, as well as walks in nature, is also good advice for bringing calm, if you're an introvert and can clear your mind. If you can't, meditation may teach you, but it takes much work.

Your professors probably ignore lots of email, but your intelligence and ADD tendencies work against you in one way here: you're verbose. People pressed for time will be able to meet your needs more easily if you can present your needs in a terse, pithy fashion. Single sentence, subject line if possible.
posted by ead at 2:56 AM on October 25, 2011

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