We see outrage everywhere. You’re probably upset about something now, if you’re reading this. I know I am. I’m outraged about all the outrage, and that’s not helping me chill about the things I should really be upset about. It doesn’t help that, no matter how I adjust it, my social feed is filled with people complaining about this or that. It’s like some of them are just looking for reasons to be angry, and trying to get everyone else to be mad about it with them. I get it. You don’t like our President, the high-priced rent, your car always needing to be fixed, and your left sock is always sliding down in your shoe. But there’s a cost, and it’s incredibly high.
I’ve been meaning to write about this for almost a year, long before this blog was in existence. I’ve spent countless hours watching my social feeds and feeling my heart break as my friends were jerks, or someone was a jerk to them. I cried after each “friend” that unfriended me spewed hateful words my direction when I asked for clarity or, worst-case, told them not to post shitty things on my wall. I have a very low tolerance for hateful people, which makes the internet both a very bad and very good place for me to be.
Often stunned, unusually silent, as my friends scream sweeping generalizations, post fake articles, and incite word riots in my social streams. It started to wear on me so much that I got sick. I don’t get sick. Ever. *knock on wood*
It made me wonder how constant outrage could affect the rest of the people in my stream, because if I’m sick, they can’t be faring well. As it happens, I was right. I had conversations with a few close friends who admitted they had been kind of sick for weeks, months in some cases. After a little research, I found out that being upset all the time is killing us. Combine that with sitting at our keyboards for long periods, which we all know is already killing us .
Anger is a normal part of being human. You’re probably normally a patient, kind being with a ton of tolerance and love in your interactions. At least, until lately, when it seems like you’re upset about something almost daily. I don’t blame you, there’s a constant stream of reasons to be angry. Without any downtime from the anger, your body will become stressed, and it will react to try to put you back in balance. If you continue to feed yourself stress sandwiches, your body starts to see this as a normal meal – your regular state – and stops being happy.
When you’re triggered, when you feel threatened, your amygdala fires up your fight or flight response. Your amygdala doesn’t care that you’re not in any real danger, or about anything but reacting RIGHT NOW, because all of the blood rushed straight to it through your frontal cortex, making rational thought almost impossible. In milliseconds, your adrenal glands kick in and flood your system with hormones. Your pupils dilate as your blood pressure, core temperature, pain tolerance, and heart rate shoot through the roof like a bottle rocket trying to reach the moon. You also get a burst of physical strength and energy, which is great if you have to lift a car off someone, and not so great while you’re sitting at your desk.
The release of adrenaline sends fatty acids and blood sugar coursing through your veins. Over time, fat in your blood builds up and blocks your arteries. It’s okay, though. You’re only mad about this thing right here, this one group of words on your computer screen. And this one. And this one.
Research suggests that a constant stream of adrenaline confuses your hippocampus – responsible for emotion, etc. – and it begins to see angry as your natural state. Your hippocampus is really important to your interactions, and when it’s damaged, it rears its ugly head as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Fun!
Now that you’re always angry, you’re probably having a hard time relaxing, because your brain has all but forgotten that your natural state isn’t angry. You might have unusual insomnia, be easily distracted, and have an even harder time making decisions. Since your brain and body are intrinsically locked together, as your body disintegrates, so does your brain. Not only are you actively disrupting your immune system, you’re damaging essential neuropathways and retarding the growth of neurons, essentially breaking down the ways your brain communicates with your body.
All of this can [will, eventually] manifest itself as one or many health problems like
- cardiovascular disease
- high blood pressure
- digestive problems
You know on TV, where the fat white guy keels over after something that makes him shocked or angry? That can and does happen, and not only to overweight middle-aged guys. It happens to people like you, reading this now, wrestling with thoughts of being angry at me for bringing this to your attention.
As if that’s not enough, anxiety and depression, as well as the aforementioned anger, become a state for normally healthy folks, never mind the exacerbation of these diseases if you’re already living with them. There’s still so much we don’t understand about the brain – both brain researchers and lay people – though we can see the effects of it every day.
I’ve already said that anger can damage your heart. Holding it in can be just as damaging, tripling your risk for a heart attack. People over 50 who lash out when they are angry are more likely to have calcium deposits in their coronary arteries, increasing their risk for heart attacks, too.
If you’re still not convinced, or shrugging it off because it was just that word, once in a while, consider that the streams of your social media accounts are built to feed you more of what you interact with. So, if you’re liking, commenting, or sharing things that piss you off, your feeds will give you more of that. Yep. They’re set up to kill you, too. How’s that for a fine how’dya do?
The CDC says that at least 85% of all diseases seem to have an emotional element. Your emotions have the ability to trigger your genes to express health or disease. You were wrong if you thought you were done with your genes after you passed them on. Chronic anger and upset, with or without outbursts, can be sabotaging your health.
What To Do About It
- Relax. Take a deep breath and hold it for a count of 6. Exhale for a count of 6. Do that 10 times.
- Meditate. Pray. Whatever you call it, allow yourself to consider your feelings.
- Watch something delightful, read a great novel, find positive imagery.
- Take a walk. If there’s bad weather, walk around your house.
- Get some actual exercise. Do sit-ups, push-ups, yoga asanas. Take an hour.
- Put on some ambient film scores and grab a notebook. Record what you’re feeling. Don’t try to figure out why, unless it occurs to you to write it. Stream of consciousness writing is healing.
- Take a nap.
- Take a shower.
- Take a 24 hour social media break. Do it at least once a month, work up to once a week.
Are you fed up? How do you deal with it? Have you noticed any health issues, even minor ones, due to your constant stressed out state? Let me know in the comments below.