Anger is a strong emotion, and it can take a toll on your body. Not only does it raise your heart rate, hostility and anger have been linked in recent research to heart disease.1,2,3 How are they related? A theory is that similar to other forms of stress, anger triggers a surge in adrenaline. This stress hormone that boosts blood pressure and heart rate, increases the heart’s workload and multiplies its need for oxygen. 2 While these internal stress responses help us prepare for emergencies, they might cause harm if repeatedly activated.
How can I keep my anger under control?4
There are a few studied techniques that have proven helpful in reducing the body’s response when facing a situation that typically angers them.
- Relaxation: This can come in the form of breathing deeply, relaxing imagery, or slow exercises aimed directly at relaxation and stress reduction.
- Cognitive Restructuring: It’s easier said than done, but changing the way you think about situations that anger you can help keep your emotions in check. Acknowledge your anger, then try to replace angry thoughts (which may be illogical) with counter-balancing rational thoughts.
- Better Communication: Jumping to conclusions can escalate a negative situation with another person. A great way to diffuse this tension is to slow down, think carefully about your responses and theirs, and try to withhold judgement and avoid drawing false conclusions in the process.
- Using Humour: Humour can often help diffuse rage, in part . If you can stimulate laughter, it decreases serum levels of cortisol and epinephrine (stress hormones) and increases the level of endorphins. Laughter can also alter dopamine and serotonin activity in the body.5 Humour forces you to stop and look at the situation in a different way, which can help you refocus and solve the problem in a more constructive manner.
- Changing Your Environment: Sometimes the environment we are in is contributing to our anger: at work, with a particular person, or at home. Take a break and schedule some time away from that environment to reduce any stress related to it.
It’s always good to learn to recognize the warning signs of building tension, such as a racing pulse, fast breathing or a restless feeling. 2 Once you are able to recognize these signals, taking the steps to relieve the tension before it builds can help curb negative emotions. This also gives you the opportunity to change your behaviour. If you know you have a tendency towards anger, practising regular mindfulness meditation or yoga can help.6
If you feel you have a lot of anger-related muscle tension in your neck or shoulders, contact your chiropractor. If you are having difficulty expressing your emotions, feel free to discuss this with your chiropractor and he or she can point you in the right direction for further care or treatment.
- Buckley, T., Hoo, S., Fethney, J., Shaw, E., Hanson, P., & Tofler, G. (2015). Triggering of acute coronary occlusion by episodes of anger. European Heart Journal: Acute Cardiovascular Care, 4(6), 493-498. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/2048872615568969
- Harvard Health Publications. Anger: Heartbreaking at any age. September 2006. Available at: http://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/anger-heartbreaking-at-any-age. 2006. Accessed January 4, 2017.
- Williams, J., Paton, C., Siegler, I., Eigenbrodt, M., Nieto, F., & Tyroler, H. (2000). Anger Proneness Predicts Coronary Heart Disease Risk : Prospective Analysis From the Atherosclerosis Risk In Communities (ARIC) Study. Circulation, 101(17), 2034-2039. http://dx.doi.org/10.1161/01.cir.101.17.2034
- American Psychological Association. Controlling anger before it controls you. 2017. Available at: http://www.apa.org/topics/anger/control.aspx. Accessed January 10, 2017.
- Yim, J. (2016). Therapeutic Benefits of Laughter in Mental Health: A Theoretical Review. The Tohoku Journal Of Experimental Medicine, 239(3), 243-249. http://dx.doi.org/10.1620/tjem.239.243
- Maleskey G. How angry is your heart? Prevention. March 7, 2014. Available at: http://www.prevention.com/health/health-concerns/getting-angry-really-can-hurt-your-heart. Accessed January 4, 2017.