May 23, 2022
Like any other emotion, anger is normal. When something feels threatening or not within your control, your body’s fight-or-flight response kicks in to protect you, whether you feel a spark of annoyance or consuming rage. At times, anger can even be helpful or motivate you toward something positive.
Anger becomes harmful, though, if it’s chronic or you’re not expressing it in healthy ways. Having a short fuse or suppressed resentment damages your physical and mental health, says Dr. Cynthia E. Collins, MDLIVE Clinical Medical Director.
And your heart takes the brunt of your wrath. The chance of having a heart attack doubles within the hours following an angry outburst.1
“Anger that isn’t managed well can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mood disorders as well as worsen other conditions, like chronic pain, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and inflammation.”
It may be challenging, especially in the heat of the moment, but you can channel anger into healthy outlets. Here are 4 helpful tips from Dr. Collins to diffuse your anger:
Recognize that anger hurts you and your health, not anyone else. Taking a step back can help you realize anger doesn’t do anything to fix the issue. It helps to:
Acknowledge your triggers and find alternatives
Change your perspective by trying to solve the problem
Note how often you become angry and try to find the root cause(s)
If you tend to internalize or suppress anger, talk therapy can help you develop tools to acknowledge, express, and release your anger in healthy ways. Have an appointment with an MDLIVE therapist in as little as a week.
That doesn’t mean wearing your anger like a cloak of fury or lashing out at others. It means being assertive about your needs – without being aggressive. Communicate respectfully and calmly. It helps to:
Speak without criticism
Use “I feel…” statements
Learn assertiveness techniques
Talking to a friend or family member can help you feel better in the moment. However, repeated venting without looking for a solution chains you to your anger and damages your mental health.2 It helps to:
Meditate or write your thoughts down
Ask for perspective from a trusted person
Get help from a professional who can shed new light
The occasional complaint about a bad day or something irritating you is normal. The opposite of that is trauma dumping.3 Talking about traumatic or toxic events in your life to someone if they’re not prepared is dumping your trauma on that person. It doesn’t help you heal or move on, and it’s harmful to others. If that sounds familiar, learn how to stop here.
Doing something physical can help diffuse anger in the moment and over the long run. That’s because chronically elevated stress hormones from anger and hostility cause inflammation in your lungs, among other health conditions.4 Regular exercise can help you improve your lung capacity and build resilience against acute stress and anger. It helps to try:
Yoga and tai chi
Boxing, cardio, and strength training
Deep breathing, hiking, and walking
Chronic pain or physical health problems can worsen anger or mental health symptoms. If you aren’t feeling well, have an urgent care appointment with an MDLIVE board-certified doctor in minutes.