By Uzma Jawed
It’s extremely hot, the car’s air-condition isn’t working, and you are stuck in traffic. The traffic slowly starts moving, but for some reason the car in front of you doesn’t. You slowly feel the tension build up, and you start honking and screaming at the car in front of you. Later, when you walk across a busy street, someone bumps into you accidentally, and you start screaming and pushing that person.
We all face situations like this. Everyone feels angry at times due to life stresses, such as financial problems, marital problems, health problems, etc. For some, if anger occurs too frequently, lasts too long or intensifies, it can affect them physically, mentally, spiritually, and psychologically.
Anger is a powerful emotion, and a myriad of research shows that it can have disparaging results on human health. It can impair our cardiovascular system, have an impact on our immune system, brain, weight, and even cause skin and hair problems.
In his book “Forgive for Good,” Dr. Frederic Luskin says that certain enzymes are released during anger and stress, which causes cholesterol and blood pressure levels to go up. Sue Meyers, a family sociologist, explains in her article that anger triggers the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response. This causes the adrenal glands to release stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. The brain then diverts the blood away from the gut towards the major muscle groups. This causes heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration to increase. Furthermore, at times of anger, pulse rate rises above its normal level leading to higher blood pressure in the arteries, hence, causing a greater chance of a heart attack.
An article called “Anger is Hostile to Your Heart,” published in the Harvard Gazette, further proved that irritable old men had three times the risk of heart disease than their more steady peers. Moreover, the journal Psychosomatic Medicine suggested that anger and hostility can provoke the creation of inflammatory proteins, which may, in turn, cause the hardening of the arteries, causing heart disease and stroke.
Scientists of the John Hopkins University at Baltimore have also found that short-tempered men have a higher risk of heart attack, even if there is no family history of health problem.
Our immune system also becomes more vulnerable at times of stress, since the rush of cortisol overpowers the white blood cells and makes them less responsive to pathogens, hence, increasing chances of bacterial and viral infections. Researchers at the Ohio State University College of Medicine state that chronic stress delays wound healing from 24% to 40%.
When cortisol and insulin escalate during periods of stress, so does our desire for food. We crave more carbohydrates and sugary foods, as they temporarily reduce the stress levels. As the levels of cortisol remain high even when stress levels go down, we tend to keep eating, even if we are not hungry. As a result – we get fat.
Skin / Hair
The article “Distress Signals” in the Weekend also mentions that anger and stress can release hormones that fuel the overproduction of the sebaceous gland. This can result in hair loss as well as dull and lifeless hair. The oiliness produced by these glands can also block pores, hence, causing pimples and acne.
Some psychological and behavioral symptoms that have also been correlated to anger include: panic attacks, reactive depression, confusion, tearfulness, irritability, and obsession. These are the results of an imbalance of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Hence, if a person does not identify the root of his anger for controlling or redirecting it, he can cause great damage to himself and others around him.
Medicine for Anger
Avoid being too sensitive to provocation. Divert yourself.
“Speak, when you are angry, and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” This quote by Ambrose Bierce shows us the advantages of controlling our anger and temper, and redirecting our mind from upsetting feelings. In this way, we can have peace of mind instead of a conflict. An effective method, which Prophet Muhammad (sa) once taught a man, was to take a sip of water and not swallow it, while he was angry with his wife. A couple of months later, the man came back to the Prophet (sa) and told him that it had worked.
We should be quick to listen and slow to speak. As we have two ears and one mouth, we should use them proportionally.
If you feel out of control, walk away from the situation, until you cool down.
Try to identify the problem and think of possible strategies to solve the situation.
Use relaxation techniques, such as meditation, yoga, or reading a book.
Do regular exercise, as this will help increase your tolerance level.
Inspiration from the Quran
It has also been revealed in the Quran that forgiveness is a superior moral trait: “And verily, whosoever shows patience and forgives, that would tryly be from the things recommended by Allah.” (Ash-Shura 42:43)
For that reason, believers are forgiving, compassionate, and tolerant people “who repress anger, and who pardon men.” (Al-Imran 3:134)
“Let them pardon and forgive. Do you not love that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (An-Nur 24:22)
“The recompense for an evil is an evil like thereof; but whoever forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is with Allah.” (Ash-Shura 42:40)
“But if you pardon (them) and overlook, and forgive (their faults), then verily Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (At-Taghabun 64: 14)
One of the divine attributes of Allah (swt) is patience. The Quran says: “…and be patient. Surely, Allah is with those who are As-Sabirun (the patient).” (Al-Anfal 8:46)
Sabr in Arabic has a richer meaning than the word patience. It means to stop oneself from despairing and panicking. Additionally, it means to stop one’s tongue from complaining and controlling one’s rage in times of stress. As Javed Mohammad, the author of “Riding the Roller Coaster,” elaborates, it encompasses holding back, as well as moving forward with courage and perseverance.
Conclusively anger is detrimental to a person’s physical health as well as spiritual being. The myth of ‘letting out the steam’ is just that – a myth. It has never helped anyone stay in good shape and acquire a positive frame of mind. So just get rid of those angry thoughts that instigate negative reactions. There is so much more to do than waste precious moments of life!