Impact of Chronic Anger and Stress
Anger alerts us to threats or dangers and then we can take action to protect ourselves. When the body feels threatened, the sympathetic nervous system gets switched on in preparation for dealing with the danger. We get ready to fight or run away and these aren’t always the best things to do. The way we think about situations adds to feeling angry and keeps us feeling stressed. People who are chronically stressed or angry are living in a state of near constant arousal which inevitably impacts upon their physical health.
Chronic anger has been shown to be associated with coronary heart disease, heart attacks, hypertension and high cholesterol (Player et al 2007). Often individuals seek out foods high in sugar, fat or salt to alter their mood and gain some comfort. Some turn to alcohol or drugs. All can have lasting health implications. For people with diabetes, stress can make it difficult to manage their condition due to the impact of cortisol on blood sugar levels. Stress and anger will challenge the immune system and often cause skin conditions such as acne and eczema to worsen.
Reducing everyday stress and learning how to manage anger is important and often some simple lifestyle changes can make a real difference.
10 lifestyle changes to reduce stress
1 Identify your stressors
Look at the things which are making you feel stressed. Are there some things which you could change? Find ways you can improve situations.
2 Getting into the habit of regular exercise
This can help reduce stress and has lasting health benefits. Going for a walk is a free and pleasant beginning.
3 Relaxation and calming strategies
Progressive muscular relaxation takes a bit of practice but is a useful part of your stress reduction programme. Recordings are readily available on the internet. Learning how to do controlled breathing is also beneficial.
4 Regularly do something you enjoy
5 Develop a routine that allows you to get adequate sleep
6 Eat a healthy well balanced diet
Cut down on caffeine as it is a stimulant and too much will make you feel on edge. Reduce alcohol intake and smoking – alcohol and nicotine will make your stress worse (and aren't good for your health anyway). They will all impact on your ability to sleep well.
7 Learn how to say “no” without being aggressive
8 Connect with others
Make time to see your friends and family as enjoying pleasant company will help you feel more relaxed. Try to reach out to others for support. A supportive network is immensely useful. Don’t withdraw.
9 Meditation, yoga and tai chi
These take longer to learn but the benefits of such practices pay for the effort involved. All increase physical and mental relaxation and allow a more flexible response to stressors.
10 Accept what you cannot change
It can be very hard to do this, but there are some stressors which you just cannot change. It’s better to focus on what you can control and change.
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Player MS, King DE, Mainous AG, et al: (2007) Psychosocial factors and progression from prehypertension to hypertension or coronary heart disease. Ann Fam Med 5:403–11.