Blow Off Steam To Protect Your Brain And Your Heart
All of us suffer from some form of stress in our lives. For many people stress is an emotional pressure cooker, amplifying feelings we may already be having or might possibly be suppressing. The way...
All of us suffer from some form of stress in our lives. For many people stress is an emotional pressure cooker, amplifying feelings we may already be having or might possibly be suppressing. The way we deal with emotions such as sadness, anger, apprehension, etc, can have a major impact on our memory, mental and physical health.
Almost everyone experience anger from time to time, and it is an appropriate response to some stressful situations. It often helps us resolve conflicts, but anger can lead to high levels of stress hormones, anxiety, depression, and even memory loss. Chronic anger arouses the nervous system and increases heart rate and blood pressure. Expressing every angry feelings or emotion that comes to mind can be socially alienating, and people who tend to get angry quickly with little or no provocation have a greater risk for heart disease than those with calmer temperaments.
There is a clear relationship between levels of stress-related emotions such as anger, and blood pressure; the stronger the emotion, the higher the blood pressure. And as blood pressure increases, so does the risk for strokes, dementia, and memory loss.
Although studies show that control of angry outbursts might benefit physical and mental health, too much anger suppression may increase blood pressure levels. New research suggests that an intermediate level of anger expression, somewhere, between unbridled outbursts and complete containment, may be the healthiest response, allowing a certain amount of stress release without blowing our tops. Anger modulation is the goal, striving for a healthy expression of angry feelings in the right situation.
In a study of men age 50 to 85 years, using standard anger expression scale and covering a variety of ways people express anger, such as the rate the respondents slammed doors, made sarcastic remarks, or lost their tempers. Men with moderate levels of anger expression had a lower risk of heart attacks compared with those who tended to express fewer angry feelings. A little bit of anger expressed directly rather than indirectly seems to protect the brain as well as the heart. Also, subjects in this study who responded that they directly show their anger rather than indirectly by just saying nasty things or making sarcastic remarks showed a significantly lower risk for developing stroke, which often causes long-lasting memory impairment.
Anger, stress related or otherwise, is sometimes the flip side of sadness. In fact, some psychoanalysts describe depression and sadness as “anger turned against the self”. Many people have found that their anger may be masking underlying feelings of sadness or disappointment and I’ve heard it said that it’s easier to feel mad than sad. The idea of modulating angry feelings applies to unhappy ones as well, and talking with friends or professional is a good option to keep in mind.
A good way to de-stress and build your brain power is simply to hang out with friends and play a game of chess or some card games like bridge or poker. In Asian communities, old folks often come together for a game of Mahjong. This is a game that requires a sharp mind and it certainly is a good memory training game and it has been proven to improve one’s memory. The advantage is that it also gives respite to the stress of life. Together with the fact that Chinese tea is often drunk during Mahjong sessions, it is not surprising that cases of Alzheimer’s and dementia is low in such communities.
You may also consider taking stress-management classes to acquire specific skills on how to handle your reactions to stressful situations. You can learn to better monitor and better interpret any automatic, sometimes irrational thoughts that stem from stress. You also learn to use progressive muscle relaxation techniques and related strategies.
After a few months of stress-management instruction, studies have found that volunteers showed significantly reduced rates of heart attacks and other cardiac events, and improved memory mental and physical health outcome for many years.
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