Source: MotherNature.com Natural Products
From the Rodale book, Age Erasers for Women
Unlike our mothers, we've been encouraged to express our feelings--all of them. Even anger.
"The older generation of women--those ages 55 and older--was raised to believe that nice ladies don't get angry. But young women got a different message--that you don't have to be a 'nice lady' all the time," says anger researcher Sandra Thomas, R.N., Ph.D., author of Women and Anger and director of the Center for Nursing Research at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
That's good, because suppressing anger is a sure way to make you old before your time. Failing to deal with anger has been linked with numerous physical and mental ills as well as premature death, according to Mara Julius, Sc.D., psychosocial epidemiologist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor. For more than 20 years, Dr. Julius has studied how coping with anger affects the health of women and men. In her first study, she found that women who suppressed anger during arguments with their spouses were more likely to die prematurely from cardiovascular disease, cancer and other causes than those who expressed their anger during arguments.
Now that we're expressing our anger as freely as men, we're suffering like them. Men have long had a reputation for venting easily enough--maybe too easily, since their anger is often misdirected. "A man who is angry for one reason or another will come home and kick the dog," says Sidney B. Simon, Ed.D., a counselor and professor emeritus of psychological education at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and an author who specializes in anger and forgiveness.
And we seem to be following suit, according to a comprehensive new study on women and anger. "We found that women tend to express their angry feelings most frequently to members of their families--especially their husbands--even if their families are not the source of their anger," says Dr. Thomas, who conducted a study of the anger habits of 535 women. "On one hand, this can be viewed in a positive way: More women now feel secure enough in their relationships to express their real feelings without fear that they will end those relationships. But some constraints must be practiced. Yelling and cursing solve nothing and can cause a lot of alienating, especially when they involve children. Little kids don't understand why Mommy is really angry at Dad or the people at work but is yelling at them. When this occurs, and it occurs frequently, it can cause a whole new set of problems--including guilt."
Not that dealing with the A-word has ever been a walk in the park. "When you get angry, there are various physiological changes in the body, because anger triggers the fight-or-flight response," says Christopher Peterson, Ph.D., author of Health and Optimism and professor of psychology at the University of Michigan. "The adrenaline gets hyped up, the heart beats faster, the respiration becomes more rapid and shallow and digestion stops."
When they occur often, these changes take a toll on your health. Getting angry frequently has clearly been established as a contributing factor to higher rates of heart disease, high blood pressure and other life-threatening illnesses, especially if you have a Type A personality and get angry easily. "Everything bad that anger does to men it also does to women," says Redford B. Williams, M.D., director of the Behavioral Medicine Research Center and professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, and author of Anger Kills. Women start out with lower risk of heart disease than men, he says, but hostility increases that risk just as it does for men.
Anger also affects our mental capabilities. "All emotions have some influence on the way we think, but strong emotions can actually slow your ability to rationalize, solve problems and make decisions," says Dr. Julius. "When you're feeling anger, rage or hostility, it overwhelms you. In some people, it slows down the thinking process; in others, it stops the thinking process completely."
Adds Dr. Peterson, "Anger also causes us to lose our sense of humor and to alienate people. It takes its toll on our energy, creativity and all those other things that might keep us feeling young."
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