10 Things not to do when you're angry
Getting into a slanging match with your partner, having a heated argument with a friend or blowing a gasket at an annoying co-worker doesn't just raise your stress levels, it can also compromise your ability to carry out other tasks safely. Yes, there's a time and a place to be angry and it can actually be good for your health to let it all out, but there are some things you definitely shouldn't do when you're feeling the red mist descend - check out our list.
#1. Don't sleep on it
You know how your mum used to say "Never go to sleep on an argument"? Turns out, she was right, how about that! Going to sleep whilst feeling cross can actually reinforce negative emotions, according to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience (1). That's because sleep enhances our emotional memories, so by going to sleep angry helps your brain to consolidate those negative feelings, which could leave you feeling drained and emotional when you wake up. It's best to talk things through (if you can) before you head off to the Land of Nod.
#2. Don't vent
What, talking about your anger is a bad thing? It might seem like a good idea to get it off your chest, but venting could actually make you feel angrier and less happy. A recent study revealed that those who spent five minutes reading another person's rants online experienced feelings of anger and decreased levels of happiness (2). Fancy hitting a pillow to let your anger out? Careful, it could lead to more aggressive behaviour in the future.
#3. Don't eat
Comfort eating when you feel angry could backfire, and eating whilst angry makes it more likely you'll make unhealthy food choices. Think about it, how often have you reached for the broccoli when you're in a rage? It's high-fat, high-sugar or high-salt foods that we turn to - comfort foods that leave us with depleted energy levels later. Your digestion won't function properly if you're angry either, as our bodies are so busy generating the 'fight or flight' response we're conditioned for that digestion takes a backseat, often leading to constipation or diarrhoea.
#4. Don't drive
Driving when angry can be really dangerous - and we're not just talking about road rage! Research has shown that if you're angry, you're more likely to take risks and cause an accident (3). Anger can lead to tunnel vision, so you may not notice things in your peripheral vision as much, like a pedestrian crossing the street or another vehicle.
#5. Don't head for Facebook
It can be tempting to post about your argument on Facebook, but bear in mind that broadcasting something that should be private to friends and family will more than likely be something you'll regret in future. It's best to keep these feelings to yourself, or talk to a friend, if you need to.
#6. Don't keep arguing
If you're having issues controlling your anger, staying in an argument makes it more likely you'll lash out verbally and say things you'll regret. Ask for a 'time out' or agree to come back to the conversation later, once you've cooled down. For some people that takes 10 minutes, for others it might be 10 days. Use your time out to calm your mind and body - yoga, meditation or even going for a long walk alone can help - so that you're able to express yourself more mindfully and get your point across whilst keeping your cool.
#7. Don't drink alcohol
Ever find yourself reaching for a glass of wine to calm down after a row? Stop - it could actually have the opposite effect. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions which can affect impulse control and make it more likely you'll act on your anger (4). Drinking acts on the brain's frontal lobes which control our impulses, so you might find you do things you regret whilst under the influence of alcohol.
#8. Don't ignore your blood pressure
Did you know that your risk of stroke and heart attack increases in the two hours following an angry outburst (5)? Stroke risk increases three-fold, whilst you're five times as likely to suffer a heart attack after being angry. If you're prone to high blood pressure, checking it when you're angry is a good idea, as if it's rising, you need to work on ways to manage it, such as better sleep and exercise.
#9. Don't be obsessive
Ruminating about an argument and the hurtful things somebody has said or done isn't helpful or productive. Keeping your cool could help to calm down a person who is aiming their anger at you. Lead them to a calmer state of mind by refusing to be drawn into an argument, and if an angry outburst does occur, don't spend hours worrying about it later, whch could cause anxiety and depression.
#10. Don't write angry emails
Remember that when you write an email in anger, you can't take back what's been said. If you really need to vent and write down your angry thoughts, open up a new Word document or grab a pen and paper and get scribbling. This way, you can vent your feelings and frustrations without the risk of being able to send it easily to the other person!
Controlling your anger can reduce your stress levels and keep your blood pressure in check - but if you really need to vent, letting it out is better than holding it in and making yourself feel ill. Just make sure you do it constructively and with good reason!
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