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Think before you freak: Here’s what anger does to you

By CLAUDIA BERMUDEZ-HYUN, The Philippine STAR Published Feb 16, 2022 5:00 am

Are you fast to react? Do you lose your temper quickly and "see red" on a regular basis? Being angry all the time won't only reduce your hopes for better social interactions and put people off, it can significantly affect your heart and body in negative ways. Sometimes, irreversibly.

What is anger?

Anger, according to the American Psychological Association, “is an emotion characterized by antagonism toward someone or something you feel has deliberately done you wrong.”

If not taught to properly express anger at a young age, that anger will build up until unsuppressed outbursts are inevitable.

Experts at states that the “average adult gets angry about once a day, and annoyed or peeved about three times a day.” Other anger management experts suggest that “getting angry 15 times a day is more likely a realistic average.” These triggers give the amygdala and hypothalamus — two areas in the brain involved in the processing of emotions — a heavy workload on a daily basis.

Seeing red more often than you’d like? Think before you freak. Your heart is at risk.

Is anger bad?

Anger itself isn't always negative. If someone infringes on your rights, you need to tell them. If expressed in a healthy way and addressed quickly and efficiently, it might even be beneficial. The body's rush of adrenaline and cortisol helps some people think more rationally. Havoc occurs when anger is not properly managed.

Why do we get angry?

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There are many triggers: loss of patience, rudeness, injustice, lack of appreciation, personal worries, or even past memories that were traumatic and painful. How we process it depends on our personal history. If not taught to properly express anger at a young age, that anger will build up until unsuppressed outbursts are inevitable. Disorders such as Intermittent Explosive Disorder include sudden, repeated and impulsive bursts of aggressive, violent behavior and verbal outbursts out of proportion to the situation. This could involve breaking or throwing things, domestic abuse, road rage or temper tantrums. The environment, brain chemistry, genetic and inherited tendencies can also affect a propensity to overreact.

How does anger affect your body?

Angry outbursts are harmful to your cardiovascular health. “Losing your temper can trigger a heart attack, even as long as two hours after the anger has subsided,” according to a study done in 2014 by researchers from Harvard Medical School. Repressed anger — where you express it indirectly or go to great lengths to control it — is associated with heart disease and stroke, experts warn.

Be good to your heart: This fist-size organ is keeping you alive.

It weakens your immune system. Being in a state of rage is exhausting to the body, draining it of its energy, which can cause you to feel sick more frequently.

It exacerbates anxiety and depression. Anger is known to aggravate the symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), a condition characterized by excessive and uncontrollable anxiety that interferes with normal daily activities.

It can affect your lungs. There is substantial research available from the PMC (PubMed Central) showing close links between negative emotions and pulmonary function that can ignite and worsen an existing condition of asthma or emphysema.

What you can do

Admit you are angry. Become aware of your feelings and address them before you lose control.

Your breath is your best tool. Learn how to use it. A set of deep, slow breaths are all you need to begin calming down and recalibrating the outcome.

Your breath is your best tool: Learn how to use it.

Choose to change your environment. You can do this by getting up and walking away momentarily until you feel less explosive and more in control.

Find assertive ways to communicate. Communicate your frustration in a problem-solving manner so solutions can be worked out calmly and prevent future outbursts of the same type.

Awareness, medical advice and therapy sessions can curb and control anger outbursts.

Use humor when appropriate. Using humor as a coping strategy can lighten things up. Restructure your thoughts to get away from the black-and-white, all-or-nothing way of thinking.

Consider learning and practicing mindfulness. The following can help you instill calmness in your life: Meditation, journaling, prayers, anything that allows you to find your center and recalibrate daily.

Find an activity that you love. Bonus points if it needs your full physical and mental concentration, like boxing, swimming, brisk walking or running, biking, golf, or power yoga.

Any activity that requires concentration and physical effort will help you calm down after an angry outburst.

Talk to a close friend. Being heard and acknowledged heals you emotionally. Often a tight hug can help lift your mood by activating feel-good hormones in your body and brain.

Let it go. Once the issue has been discussed, stop. Don't allow it to linger for days in your mind. Avoid self-talk and move on.

Increase your serotonin via food intake: Salmon, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds are good sources.

Learning to control anger is a challenge for all of us at some point in our lives.

Seek help if your anger seems out of control, makes you do things you later regret, or takes a toll on your family or relationships. Remember that low serotonin levels (mood-enhancing amino acids) may be affecting your ability to regulate anger. Through self-awareness, medical advice and therapy sessions you can curb and control this condition, making life so much more joyful for you and those around you.