Short-Circuit Anger to Help Your Heart

Too much anger can cause your blood pressure to rise. It can cloud your thinking. It can cause you to act out in a way that, at the very least, isn’t very helpful and, at worst, is extremely dangerous.

In fact, much of the harm that anger can cause actually happens to the person who becomes angry.

Research has repeatedly shown the adverse effects of anger:

1- Anger can not only bring on heart rhythm abnormalities (arrythmias) in the short-term, but the stress hormones that are released while you are angry can lead to changes in the body that are linked to developing heart disease and atherosclerosis as a long-term consequence.

2- Those rating the highest for the anger personality trait had a higher risk of heart attack (up to three times the risk) and up to two times the risk of coronary artery disease (CAD), according to a study published in Circulation in 2000.

3- A study published in the February 25, 2009 issue of American College of Cardiology made the official link between anger and sudden cardiac arrests. The mechanism by which this happens is arrhythmia, or an abnormal heartbeat, as mentioned above.

4- For two hours after an outburst of anger, you are a higher risk of cardiovascular events such as stroke, heart attack and arrhythmia, according to the findings of a meta-analysis published in the June 2014 issue of European Heart Journal.

5- On an everyday level, anger can compromise your immune system, make anxiety worse, and even damage your lungs.

You don’t want to endanger your physical well-being, your relationships, or at the extreme end, hurt another person physically or emotionally. There are ways to control yourself so that an angry episode won’t ruin your entire life in one moment.

What Causes Anger?

Anger is an emotion that is triggered by our thoughts. The real, hard truth is that it’s not the situation itself that causes the anger – it’s how we’ve interpreted it. And the underlying issue is that we don’t think about how we are thinking.

Instead, “we humans have a tendency to run on auto-pilot,” said Justin Baksh, LMHC, LPC, MCAP, and the Chief Clinical Officer at Foundations Wellness Center.” Unfortunately, this auto-pilot mode may have some faulty programming. We may have learned unhealthy patterns of coping from our parents or other authority figures, for example. We may unconsciously feel that rage is an acceptable response in a wide range of situations.”

Once this ‘auto-pilot’ mechanism is able to be turned off, Baksh explains, you can actually become aware of the body’s physiological responses of anger in any given situation. “Awareness is the first step in halting the anger response,” said Baksh.

How Do We Stop Ourselves When We Are Angry?

Once we become aware of anger bubbling up, there are two ways we can halt it in its tracks.

The first is to remove ourselves from the situation. Separation is key – remove yourself physically so that you can reflect, mentally and then emotionally, on the event or person. Take walk around the block, visit nearby stores, or have a quick snack at the café on the street corner to distract yourself and calm down. You’ll be able to gain perspective and handle the situation or person more appropriately. Your response will be more in line with reality and less like to be an emotional one.

Continuing to focus on the problem, on the other hand, generally does not help resolve it. In fact, your anger may continue to escalate as you ruminate on it.

So, if at all possible, remove yourself from the situation.

If you cannot separate yourself from the person or the problem, then try running through a quick mindfulness technique with these simple steps:

♦  Stop – Ask the person to give you a moment. You can leave it at that or follow up by saying that you need to get your thoughts together so that you can properly respond.

♦  Observe – Note what is happening to you physically, mentally, and then emotionally, without judging anything. Ask yourself how you are feeling, what you are thinking, and what emotions are coming to the surface. Remember, you are simply taking inventory and, again, not passing judgment on yourself or anyone else.

♦  Breathe or engage in an activity that brings you present in the moment – This is to get yourself “un-stuck” from the words or content of what’s been happening. Instead, you pay attention to details of your present surroundings that you hadn’t noticed before. If you are on the city streets, look at the sidewalk and note whether it is concrete or brick. Or, focus on the shoes of folks walking by. What color are they? What style?

♦  Gradually expand your awareness back to your environment – You can take notice of other elements of your surroundings, one by one.

♦  Respond but do not react to the situation at hand – Now that you’ve achieved mental clarity, you can respond in a healthy way.

You’ve now mindfully and purposefully turned off auto-pilot and not allowed yourself to react to the anger you may be experiencing.

Responding mindfully is not something you’ll probably be able to do perfectly at first. Don’t expect that. Just try it – and know that practice makes perfect. Just like everything else in life, if you become aware of how the emotion of anger builds up through the use of mindfulness techniques, then you have a better chance of intervening.

Do you have an anger problem? If you find yourself getting angry often and/or out of proportion to the event or person, you might.

With over 600,000 people a year dying of heart disease in the U.S. – or one out of every four deaths – everyone could benefit from a little (or a lot) less anger in their lives.

Start practicing mindfulness today and reap the benefits for many tomorrows to come.

Shift Frequency © 2018 – Educational material

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