People tend to carry anger because it’s not always socially acceptable to express anger. However, keeping it bottled up can make you irritable, shorten your patience and decrease your attention span. Ruminating on events, replaying scenarios internally can overwhelm your thoughts, making it difficult to concentrate. An inability to express frustrations equates to a loss of control.
Anger risks your health
Chronic low self-esteem can lead to or worsen mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. When you see yourself as powerless, your mind may use everyday experiences to reinforce that view, until you develop an entire belief system about your capabilities, McCall explains. That can lead to depression, anxiety, mood swings, insomnia and a host of other mental health conditions.
Anger also causes stress hormones like adrenaline to flood your system. Those hormones can increase your blood pressure, heart rate and even your cholesterol level. Unresolved anger may also up your odds of developing:
- Eating disorders like bulimia
- Type II diabetes
- Sleep disorders
- Various addictions like smoking and drinking to self-soothe
Angry outbursts can trigger heart attacks and, for people who already have heart disease, suppressed anger may lead to worse long-term health outcomes.
How to safely express anger?
Wait until you’ve had time to cool down before confronting the other person and enter the conversation with an open mind. Go into any conflict knowing that you could be wrong, or that you could be seeing the issue from the wrong perspective. You should be open to change and even willing to accept fault.
Be aware of the tone, pitch and volume of your voice. Use “I” statements. For example, I feel like I’ve been shouldering most of the housework lately. This shows the other person how you’re feeling, as opposed to making them feel attacked.
Practice constructive listening. Listen without an agenda so you can truly understand why the argument started in the first place. Don’t just think about your next “line of attack” while the other person is speaking. Instead, let them finish their thought, process what they said and then respond.
When to unleash your anger?
Sometimes you just need to smash something. Release your inner Hulk with these safe, rage-busting activities:
Kickboxing: Exercise releases endorphins, or feel-good hormones. This form of exercise can boost your mood and increase your overall sense of wellbeing—plus you get to punch stuff.
Running or sprinting: Running can literally create distance between you and your source of frustration. It also offers solo time to clear your mind and reflect on solutions. Side note: Don’t push yourself beyond your normal, healthy exercise limits; it could put unnecessary strain on your heart. If you develop chest pain, palpitations or any other heart attack symptoms while exercising, stop immediately and call 9-11.
Journaling or creative writing: This method can be especially helpful if you aren’t sure how to verbalize your feelings just yet. It can let you vent toxic emotions, or help you organize your thoughts before acting on them.
Finally, don’t underestimate the power of a good cry. “Men, especially, are told from childhood not to cry. But it’s a healthy way to release negative emotions. You’ll feel better afterwards,” says McCall.