If you have ever been so upset that your blood boils, then you have experienced the interconnectedness of anger and the body. Anger happens - maybe you were cut-off in traffic, heard something offensive, or perhaps your trash was not collected on trash day. Sometimes it feels as if anything can send you over the edge if you let it. Check out a few important facts about anger and the body to know.
1. Emotional Overload
When we are angry our stress hormones increase, blood pressure rises, and blood vessels constrict, resulting in increased heart rate and rapid breathing. This internal chain reaction of anger and the body is similar to the physiological expressions of “fight or flight.” In distressing situations these conditions can be helpful. However, triggering this chain reaction too often damages your cardiovascular system over time.
2. Heart Disease
If you are chronically angry but otherwise healthy, you are 19% more likely to develop heart disease than people who are more relaxed. Similarly, if you already have heart disease, chronic anger will exacerbate your health. As such, many doctors now consider anger a risk factor for heart disease. It is important to note that we are not talking about short bits of anger but persistent intense expressions of anger.
3. Facial Distortions
Have you ever been told that you should not twist your face for risk of it staying that way? Well, there is a little truth to that old wives’ tale. When you feel anger, the expression usually registers on your face. Your eyes narrow, brow furrows, and lips tighten. Do that enough times and voila! - You end up with frown lines and permanent creases.
4. Body Reactions
The physical reaction is not limited to creased facial skin. The act of screwing up our faces in reaction to anger can also put pressure on our teeth and jaws. Many of us clench our jaws when we are angry and end up grinding our teeth. Guess what comes next - the illustrious tension headache. Lovely. Others of us also experience excessive sweating, tense neck muscles, and clenched fists.
5. Environmental Infection
Laughter is contagious and anger is infectious. A cry, laugh, or smile can cause a chain reaction of awesome contagious goodness. So, too, can anger - minus the goodness. Negative actions are often met with negative reactions. This circular behavior is not good for anyone.
6. Why We Get Angry
Anger is a natural emotion. It is our emotional and physical reaction to the violation of our expectations. We expect a certain behavior, action, belief, or viewpoint but receive something outside our personal norms. These expectations are different for everyone and can also vary by region or culture. The interruption or blockage of the expectations can send us over the emotional edge from unhappy to angry.
7. Various Expressions
We often express anger in one of three ways - either keeping the anger inside where it manifests into other negative behaviors and an “angry worldview”; turning the anger “outward,” where it takes the form of verbal or physical assault on other people; or controlling the anger, handling it in a manner that does not cause physical or emotional harm to anyone, yourself included. The latter is ideal as it encourages us to seek help.
8. Reduce Risk
The good news is that you can reduce your risk of chronic anger induced heart disease. One way to do this is by finding a relaxation method that works for you and using it consistently. Something as simple as reciting a mantra can help you to relax and reduce your stress hormone levels. AWS has many pages full of positive phrases, quotes, and mantras. Check them out and keep one or two in your pocket.
9. Professional Help
Learning to slow your roll, calm down, and recognize your triggers will serve you well. However, you cannot do it alone. Talk with a healthcare professional. If you find your anger is persistent, counseling and anger management sessions might be the medicine you need.
Anger happens but we must learn to express it appropriately - without harm to others or ourselves. Some expressions leave physical or mental wrinkles while others leave permanent physical and emotional scars. How do you handle anger?