You all know what it feels like when you are stressed, anxious, or angry about something. Your breathing increases as you try to get more oxygen into your body. Your heart pumps faster, increasing pressure on your arteries. Your muscles tighten. You may experience an upset stomach, headache, chest pain, shortness of breath, or a tense jaw. Your palms get sweaty, and your pupils dilate. You may even begin to shake. These bodily reactions to anger—fight, flight, or freeze response—if incessant, put undue stress on the cardiovascular, nervous, and respiratory systems.
When this acute fight, flight, or freeze response is activated and running, the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline occur. In addition, when this stress response is active for a long period of time, inflammation can result, and studies show that inflammation is linked to heart disease, osteoarthritis, depression, sleep disturbances, bone loss, allergies, asthma, autoimmune diseases and cancer. Not only can these stress related hormones cause illness, they can slow down or interfere with other body processes such as digestion, tissue repair, and the immune system.
White blood cells, for example, may respond by releasing inflammatory hormones like cytokines and chemokines. The cykotine family influences and regulates the function of the immune system. If too many inflammatory hormones are released, natural killer cells—the body’s own personal predator which hunts down and kills unwanted intruders—can be shut down or blocked, thus becoming unable to fight viruses, for example, and you get sick. So when your emotional response to a difficult event or events in your lives triggers a neurological response of fight, flight, or freeze, these strong emotions put your health at risk.
Thankfully, there are things you can do to rid yourself of the strong energy connected to anger and minimize the effect it has on your body. To begin, you can acknowledge these feelings when they arise. This acknowledgment will help you open yourself up to feeling the sensation. Feel its energy. Feel how it affects your body. Where do you feel the anger? In your chest? Jaw? Or Stomach? Once you feel the anger, pay attention to the thoughts that accompany the emotion. Examine them. Hold them up to the light. Ask yourself if they are true. Take a look at the myths surrounding your anger. Do they hold up? Look for any failings in your thinking. Are you repeating negative patterns, perhaps? If yes, consider changing your thoughts to something more positive. Because when you change your thoughts, you change your feelings. And when you change your feelings, you change your bodily response and behavior.Once you are feeling calm, it may be beneficial to take a look at the things that need to change in your life. Ask yourself what you need? Where do you want to direct your attention? Is it something out there or is it internal? When you have an answer, take positive action. Talk to someone about your feelings; somebody you trust. A friend or family member perhaps, or a therapist. Be honest and open. And do not be hard on yourself, or others for that matter. Remember, everyone you meet is struggling with some kind of difficulty. Be gentle. Go for a walk or maybe a run. Clean the house. Go for a drive. Or climb a mountain if you must. But use your anger for good. Channel that energy into something positive. Use the force as a catalyst for change, health, and overall well-being.