Anger and Your (Mental and Physical) Health

angry picture

Did you see this recent article in CNN’s The Chart about angry outburts? The author of the study (Dr. Murray A. Mittleman, Harvard) found that people who had angry outbursts were at greater risk for “cardiovascular events” for two hours after the anger episode than those who were calm.

It seems that we are learning more about more about how psychological health affects physical health.  For example, we know that stress can affect every system of the body.  We also know that depression can take it’s toll on our cardiovascular system, and other areas of the body as well.  Now it looks like we can add anger to the list of psychological issues that affect our bodies as well.

This shouldn’t come as too big a shock, of course, because our heads are attached to our bodies – it’s all just one big system!

But how can we manage our anger?  Even those of us who don’t consider ourselves “angry people” can struggle with our tempers from time to time.  Whether we get mad at our kids, our neighbors or the other drivers on the road – anger can take its toll in lots of ways.  Here are some tips to manage:

Get it out.  Some people like to talk about it, others like to write about it or sing songs about it.  Some way or another the anger needs to come out in safe, controlled ways.  Try a few strategies and find one that works for you – just know that bottling it up isn’t usually a good option.

Do something for stress relief, even if you think you don’t need it.  We all feel stress from time to time – what’s important is that we have a few strategies for dealing with it.  We need to engage in those activities regularly – at least a couple times per week – even if we think we’re too busy or don’t need it.  When stress builds, anger isn’t far behind.

Consider changing something.  If you find yourself becoming angry at the same things over and over (cars on the highway, a rude neighbor) consider changing your routine.  Take a different route to work.  Avoid your neighbor at the mailbox.  Sometimes even slight changes in routine or behavior can make a big difference.

For more ideas about managing anger and stress, check out the American Psychological Association’s Help Center.