Health

Stressful emotions that affect your health and how to deal with them

Feelings such as anger, worry and jealousy can come with health risks, and here is how to regain control

Your emotional health has a bigger impact on your physical health than you might think.

Whether you are angry, worried, jealous, guilt-ridden or stressed, here are the health risks you might face - and tips you can adopt to help yourself process and move on.

WHEN YOU ARE ANGRY

Your body experiences a surge of testosterone, and your heart rate and blood pressure increase.

Health risk: You are almost five times more likely to have a heart attack in the two hours after an angry outburst, and your risk of stroke is three times higher.

And anger motivates us to seek rewards, which is why a glass of wine might look more appealing than ever.

Regain control by: To avoid losing your temper, do not skip meals. Hunger reduces the brain's serotonin levels, which affect our ability to regulate anger.

Also, use your non-dominant hand as much as possible - people who did that for 14 days were better at controlling their aggression.

WHEN YOU WORRY

When you fret about things before they happen or when you make a mistake, the decision-making part of your brain struggles, forcing other brain regions to work harder.

Health risk: Your brain will not perform as well on everyday tasks and gets fatigued more quickly. Plus, if worrying raises your stress levels, your risk of Alzheimer's disease rises, with research proving that women who tick both of those boxes double their dementia risk.

Regain control by: Writing down what is worrying you, which clears brain space for other tasks. And do not shelve the worry - suppressing it increases anxiety.

WHEN YOU FEEL JEALOUS OR ENVIOUS

This is when your brain's anterior cingulate cortex fires up. The same region is activated by socially painful situations, like being ostracised by friends, which explains why jealousy evokes such strong reactions.

And if you are taking a contraceptive pill that contains oestrogen, your response could be even greater.

Health risk: Jealousy makes you blind to objects in your line of sight because your brain is distracted by processing its green-eyed thoughts.

That is dangerous during tasks that demand attention and carry a risk, like driving.

Regain control by: Turning malicious envy (the bitter variety) into benign envy (think: if they can do it, I can too). Dutch research confirms the shift in thinking translates into real results.

And do take a social media detox - more than 30 per cent of users feel frustrated when they visit Facebook and the biggest reason of envy is friends' posts.

WHEN YOU FEEL GUILTY

A few brain regions are activated, including one that subconsciously spurs you to do nice things for the person you have wronged, even before you are ready to own up and apologise.

Health risk: Guilt makes you feel physically heavier so you will avoid exercise, say US researchers.

You will also focus on small details at the expense of the big picture, so instead of declining a chocolate bar, you scrutinise the calorie content of different bars, before picking one to eat.

Regain control by: Owning up to whatever is making you feel guilty, but make sure you spill all the beans. Confessing does provide relief, but guilt escalates when you tell only the partial truth.

WHEN YOU ARE STRESSED

Your body is flooded with adrenaline and norepinephrine, which makes your heart beat faster, and cortisol, which shuts down non-essential body functions. And your brain's prefrontal cortex suffers, so paying attention and thinking clearly becomes difficult.

Long-term stress switches on genes that are normally silent, upsetting the body's balance of hormones.

Health risk: You will make riskier decisions and might develop sleep bruxism, so you grind your teeth at night.

You will also get more headaches and are more likely to catch a virus.

Over time, stress increases the risk of age-related memory loss, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and depression.

Regain control by:Exercising more. Physical activity reorganises the brain to be more resilient to stress, by training it to automatically switch off regions that promote anxiety when it is exposed to stressful situations.

This article was first published in The Singapore Women's Weekly/Bauer Syndication (www.womensweekly.com.sg)

WELLNESS & BEAUTY