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How Do Negative Emotions Affect Your Health

Do emotions matter? Sometimes a job, relationship, or living situation looks good on paper but comes with intense stress or misery. You may be surprised to discover how those negative emotions affect your health.

We’re trained to suppress our natural tendencies. We try to be good workers, meet expectations, or belong even when it doesn’t feel right. Unfortunately, conforming to things that suppress our natural spirit can damage our health.

Here are three negative emotions and how they affect your health.

1. Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety make our muscles tense, our breath constrict, and our heart rate accelerate.

Stress is a response to outer circumstances while anxiety is a result of inner worries. However, the physical symptoms are similar.

Extended periods of heavy stress or anxiety are linked to several health problems.

Stress and Anxiety Cause High Blood Pressure

How Do Negative Emotions Affect Your Health
Stress and anxiety can affect your blood pressure

Short bursts of stress and anxiety raise blood pressure. There is no long-term impact on your health if it happens once in a while.

However, if you are getting stressed enough to feel a spike in blood pressure regularly, you might want to think about a change.

Years ago, I was a marketing manager in a small company. I loved my job and helped the company grow. As it became more profitable, the owners brought in experts to create systems.

Tasks that used to take ten minutes required me to submit a form to someone who had no idea how to do my job. I would spend more time explaining what needed to be done than it would have taken to complete the task.

This inefficient process started causing my blood pressure to spike. I could feel my heart rate accelerate like a Ferrari as I dealt with the red tape. It wasn’t long after that I found another job.

How Does Chronic Stress Affect the Heart?

Chronic stress causes us to eat and do things that impact our heart health.

When we feel tense and overwhelmed, we look outside of ourselves for comfort. It’s harder to sleep. We may eat more, binge on foods we know aren’t good for us, or drink and smoke excessively.

It feels justified at the moment because stress and anxiety are emergency signals, and we need to soothe ourselves. Unfortunately, these stress-related behaviors increase the chances of heart disease.

High levels of distress also increase a person’s cardiovascular risk. Researchers found people under mental stress are more likely to have a heart attack and stroke.

Anxiety and Stress Can Give You a Headache or Make You Dizzy

Anxiety and stress can cause headaches in two ways:

  1. Under stress or anxiety, our blood vessels constrict. This cuts down the flow of blood to the brain.
  2. Anxiety and stress affect our hormonal balance.

People who experience migraine headaches are up to five times more likely to have anxiety than those who don’t.

Stress and Anxiety Affect Your Bowel Movements

Scientists are discovering links between your brain and stomach. Prolonged or intense anxiety or stress can cause either constipation or spasms in your colon.

Stress is more likely to cause constipation. The fight-or-flight response causes your internal muscles to seize up and stops the normal movement of the colon.

On the other hand, anxiety may cause constipation or excessive bowel movements. The stress hormones released influence your nervous system. One result can be a spastic and overactive colon. When I get anxious, I have to pee.

Anxiety and Stress are Associated with Chronic Inflammation

As if all that wasn’t enough, anxiety and stress are also linked to chronic inflammation.

How Do Negative Emotions Affect Your Health
Chronic inflammation can escalate over time

Under normal conditions, inflammation is a natural and healthy immune system response. It helps us fight invaders and heal injuries.

Chronic inflammation is when your immune system is constantly responding with no resolution. Chronic inflammation is a precursor to several diseases, including diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, heart disease, and cancer.

Intense stress over-activates the immune system. Part of how it does this is through the stress hormone cortisol.

Cortisol is meant to help modulate the immune-inflammatory response. When chronic stress releases extra cortisol, the result is unmodulated inflammation.

Stress also releases adrenaline. In the short term, it is helpful because it gives you extra energy and oxygen to respond to the danger. However, repeated adrenaline responses result in fewer white blood cells and leave your body less prepared to fight off viruses and bacteria.

Anxiety and stress are part of living in today’s world, but that doesn’t mean we should let them take over our lives. Carving out time for rest, relaxation, and self-care is not selfish – it is crucial to your health and well-being.

2. Depression

Depression is sadness without relief. It feels dark and heavy. A depressed person may experience hopelessness and emptiness. There are many causes of depression, from physical to emotional.

Physically, chronic inflammation and too many bad gut bacteria can both contribute to depression. That may seem surprising, but more and more research is confirming these links.

Depression can be a sign your body is out of balance. In that case, changes in diet, exercise, and sleep patterns can help.

In other cases, depression may have an emotional origin. Toxic shame in a family system makes a person feel bad, wrong, hopeless, and depressed. Guilt about something real or imagined can lead to depression, as can the loss of someone or something important. Low self-esteem, feeling trapped, or like your heart’s desire is impossible to achieve will drive others into darkness.

Whatever the cause, it is worth finding a way out because extended depression can harm your health.

Depression Can Cause Heart Problems

The link between depression and heart disease is complex. On the one hand, when we’re depressed, we tend to be less active, eat heavier foods, smoke, and drink too much. Depressed people may also forget to take their medications. These lifestyle choices increase the burden on our hearts.

Additionally, depressed people tend not to heal as quickly. Depressed patients are more likely to return to the hospital with an infection after surgery. This reduced healing response may increase a person’s chance of heart problems.

Some medications for depression can increase the risk of heart disease. They can also cause weight gain which puts a strain on the heart.

Pretty big spiral of crappiness, right? As if a depressed person doesn’t have enough of a burden.

Depression Can Cause Memory Loss

A depressed person is not vibrant, present, and excited. They lack energy and tend to be disengaged and withdrawn.

It’s not surprising, then, that depression is associated with poor memory. Researchers find a clear link between depression and cognitive performance. Basically, depression makes it harder to think.

Depression also seems to influence what we remember. People with a prior history of depression remembered more negative adjectives from a list than people who had never been depressed.

Antidepressants may also contribute to memory loss. Both tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can cause a decline in memory function. This decline may be temporary.

Depression Can Cause Changes in Bowel Habits

Strong emotions often ‘hit us in the gut’ or cause a ‘sinking feeling.’ When we’re nervous, we have ‘butterflies in our stomach,’ and some situations are ‘gut-wrenching.’

The brain-gut connection is powerful, and depression and bowel troubles can be a negative cycle.

Depression can both cause and be a result of an inflamed digestive system. Pain, diarrhea, and bloody stool are all signs of inflammation in the intestines.

3. Anger

Anger burns like fire. As an emotion, it lets us know when our boundaries have been crossed and give us the power to stand up for ourselves.

Some experts say anger is a secondary emotion that covers up vulnerable feelings like loss, hurt, abandonment, or loneliness.

When anger is appropriate, and we have time to recover, it can help us gain clarity and take new steps in our lives.

However, anger and frustration can become chronic. In that case, we are always boiling under the surface with tension and rage, and it can damage our well-being.

Anger Can Weaken the Immune System

Anger is a biological response to danger and releases large amounts of cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream. Over the long term, these hormones interfere with the body’s ability to heal.

In one study at Harvard University, simply recalling an angry experience from their past caused healthy people to experience a six-hour dip in a critical immune antibody level.

Extreme Anger Can Trigger a Stroke or Heart Attack

For people at risk for a cardiovascular event, anger can increase the chances of a stroke or heart attack. Researchers found that for two hours after an outburst, the risk of a heart attack increased almost five times, and the risk of stroke increased three times.

A person who rarely gets angry is not likely to suffer a heart attack from a single experience. People who are chronically and repeatedly angry increase their changes of heart issues.

Anyone who has felt angry knows it causes your blood pressure to rise. The risk of hypertension, or high blood pressure, seems to be highest when you feel anger frequently but don’t cope with it well or express it.

Chronic Anger Can Damage Your Lungs

Anger temporarily increases our ability to intake air. If we have to scream, fight, or run, this is very helpful. However, chronic anger does not give the lung tissues time to recuperate and balance.

A study of 670 men over an eight-year period found that those with the highest hostility rating had the worst lung capacity.

Anger Affects Your Life Span

Anger can shorten your life expectancy whether you get angry a lot or hold it inside.

One study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found frequent fights with their spouse almost doubled the chances middle-aged adults would die at a relatively young age.

A 17-year study at the University of Michigan found that couples who hold in their anger have a shorter life span than those who readily express themselves when they’re mad.

So, while fighting all the time is not healthy, neither is biting your tongue to hold the peace. The most beneficial thing to do with anger is express it constructively and tell people directly what made you mad and what you need from them.

If you’re around people who won’t listen or change, then you need to find another constructive way to relieve your frustration and find balance. Changing your environment, breathing, exercising, and humor are all effective ways to get away from anger and into a healthier state.

How Do Negative Emotions Affect Your Health
For good health, express your emotions in fun ways

Emotions are Powerful, and They Matter

Sometimes we’re taught that how we feel doesn’t matter. Society pushes us to suppress our feelings. Learning how to manage emotions is a powerful and valuable skill, but we lose valuable information when we repress too much.

Suppressing our feelings too well can lead to staying in destructive marriages, jobs, and mismatched situations too long. It can cause us to doubt and hate ourselves and give up our power to other people. If we judge our emotions instead of understanding and processing how we feel, we end up stuck.

Negative emotions are not fun. They don’t feel good, but they do deliver essential information. If you are chronically stressed, anxious, depressed, or angry, don’t assume it’s out of your control.

Changing how we feel isn’t always about changing outside circumstances. Sometimes the work we need to do is in accepting ourselves and finding more peace. Other times, our feelings are telling us it’s time to make a change.

Only you can know the truth of what the right next step is for you. Our feelings help keep us on track and motivate us to take action when necessary.

Emotions matter. If you ignore them, they will take a toll on your health and shorten your life span. Listen to what they are telling you! If not, your health will eventually pay the price.

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