Think about the last time you were upset or angry about something. In the midst of whatever you were feeling, you probably didn’t stop to consider the ways that negative emotions affect health.
Maybe you yelled or took physical action. Perhaps you felt so helpless or hopeless that you turned to a substance to try to get rid of the feeling.
At the end of the day, you can be sure that those negative emotions had a physiological impact. You may have noticed it in an increased heart rate, sweating, an upset stomach, and/or adrenaline pulsing through your body.
And if you’re not mindful, negative emotions can lead to chronic stress.
Chronic Stress is How Negative Emotions Affect Health
We don’t mean to imply that an occasional outburst will immediately expose you to the dangers of chronic stress. Emotions affect health most negatively when they are prolonged and the body doesn’t get a break.
And chronic stress is sneaky – not to mention dangerous. If negativity is your default setting, you begin to normalize it. Over time, you fail to notice you’re in a constant state of stress.
Meanwhile, when your body is in the throes of chronic stress, hormones are thrown off balance, the immune system is damaged, and the brain is depleted of feel-good chemicals like endorphin and dopamine. From there, it’s a downward spiral.
The body feels constantly under attack and shifts into a permanent state of fight or flight. Maintaining this state increases the risk of health problems such as depression, anxiety, headaches, weight gain, digestive issues, weight gain, trouble with sleeping, and impaired memory/concentration.
The Danger of Prolonged Exposure to Stress Hormones
Furthermore, stress hormones affect the respiratory and cardiovascular systems too. In a state of chronic stress, your body is forced to breathe faster to more evenly distribute oxygen-rich blood to your body. This causes your heart to pump faster and increases your blood pressure – putting you at a higher threat for a heart attack or stroke.
Finally, if chronic stress is not abated, hormones such as cortisol can become elevated to the point where it impacts how blood clots. This sets the stage for an even higher risk of stroke and heart attack.
So it’s clear that steeping yourself in negative emotions does more than just impact your mental health.
So How Do You Manage Negativity?
Here’s the deal.
Stress is normal. It’s a natural physical and mental response that was designed to protect your body in case of an emergency by preparing you with a quick reaction.
And life is full of stressors. They can show up in something as mundane as a family obligation or work deadline all the way to a serious health diagnosis or a war. In other words, into everyone’s life (at least) a little stress will fall.
In the short-term, stress can help you cope with potentially serious situations. It prepares your body to deal with the task at hand. But as we mentioned above, it can be all too easy to shift into a state of chronic stress and not even realize you’re there. Especially if you’re frequently experiencing negative emotions and have come to see this as normal.
The key to ensuring this doesn’t happen is to first learn how to identify what stresses you out. From there, you can start to take care of your physical and emotional state in such situations. There are several lifestyle choices you can make that will help you on this path.
Start With Diet and Exercise
This isn’t to say that you need to do a complete diet and exercise overhaul. That alone can leave you feeling negative and induce a great deal of stress!
But you could start by swapping out a few processed foods each week that are high in salt, sugar, and fat for healthier whole foods. This can help alleviate some of the digestive issues that come with chronic stress.
And as far as exercise, get out and take a walk whenever you can. Kicking up those endorphins that are depleted by chronic stress can help you find more balance. In addition, once you start moving, you may find that exercise can have a calming and even meditative effect. Which brings us to our next suggestion.
Try Yoga or Other Mindful Movement Activities
You don’t need to be able to touch your toes to do yoga. In fact, if you can’t touch your toes, that’s all the more reason to give it a try!
But it isn’t just yoga that can help with managing stress. T’ai chi, Pilates, or any other exercise systems that include breathing as a major component can bring you to a deeper state of calm and relaxation – thereby reducing stress.
In addition, the breathing techniques taught in these practices become tools that practitioners can use in everyday life.
Make Sleep a Priority
We know that getting enough sleep can be tough. And if you’re not a naturally good sleeper, you can stress yourself out even more about the fact that you’re not getting enough sleep. Then you can’t sleep. So it becomes something of a Catch-22.
So rather than focusing on how much sleep you get, just commit to making sleep a priority in your life. This means going to bed at the same time each night, sleeping in a cool, dark, and quiet space, and then letting go of the outcome.
This is one of those areas where learning breathing techniques can be tremendously helpful in training your brain to navigate out of negativity, calm down and sleep longer for optimal health benefits.
Release Your Grip on the Controls
If you’re frequently stressing about things over which you have no control, consider changing your focus to the things you can control. For example, you can’t change the way someone reacts or responds to a situation. But you can certainly change how you do.
Are Negative Emotions Leading You Toward Chronic Stress?
Life can be really challenging at times. And releasing negativity can feel next to impossible. But it’s obvious that negative emotions affect health.
So if you’re interested in taking advantage of the many mindfulness services we offer – including yoga classes and life coaching sessions – contact us today. We’ll bring our expertise right to your business, school, or organization so you can ward off chronic stress before it becomes an issue.