Imagine a rubber band being stretched to its full capacity repeatedly. There are two outcomes in this scenario, either the rubber band will snap because of the pressure or it could lose its elasticity. Either way, the rubber band can no longer function as a rubber band. It renders itself useless. Now let's apply that scenario to real life.
We are the rubber band, and our negative emotions, such as anger, fear, or anxiety are represented by the pressure placed on the rubber band as it is stretched to breaking capacity. As a result, we either respond to the pressure by snapping or we get so used to it whereby we no longer react to these negative emotions anymore. Either way, we no longer function like we used to, which in the case of a more controlled response, may not be a bad thing.
Dealing with negative emotions can mean holding them all in or letting them all out. However, there are consequences to suppressing our emotions or expressing them in an unhealthy way. We may end up hurting others, ourselves, or both.
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Suppressing Your Emotions Affects Your Health
Suppressing your emotions can have adverse effects on your mental and physical health. Bottling up negative emotions can make them build up inside you like a volcano about to erupt. These strong built-up emotions can lead to depression or even aggression.
Aside from the mental health impact, your physical health can become affected too. That’s because mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, and stress can affect us physically. Heart disease is just one health risk that can develop if we suppress our negative emotions.
People who are in professions that deal with highly stressful situations regularly are more likely to have problems with substance abuse and depression. Many professionals who have trained themselves to suppress their emotions have mental or physical health problems. Just ask anyone who is in the military, or a surgeon, or a policeman. Let's take a look at the ways suppressing your emotions can affect your health.
Headaches and Migraines
Perhaps the most immediate physiological response to holding back on negative emotions is experiencing headaches and migraines. Our facial muscles, including our jaw muscles and the muscle along our forehead, tend to tense up in response to a stressful situation. The tension then often leads to a headache or can trigger a migraine.
If you feel your stomach churn into a knot when you feel nervous, it’s because your gut is connected to your vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is connected to your emotional centers, making it sensitive to any change in your mood. The gut is called the second brain, and this gut-brain connection can deliver unwanted health issues whenever we bottle up emotions. Chronic suppression of our emotions can even lead to ulcers.
Heart Disease and High Blood Pressure
Emotional stress has long been associated with heart disease. This is because our heart responds to our emotions. You would have felt your heart rate increase when you were scared or upset, or even excited with pleasure. Chronic emotional stress can also increase the fatty deposits in the coronary arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Chronic stress and bottled-up emotions can also raise blood pressure levels, which can lead to more problems.
High Blood Sugar Levels
Our risk of developing type 2 diabetes can also increase if we continue to suppress our emotions. While it may not be obvious, chronic emotional stress can escalate blood sugar levels and can cause cell damage as inflammation leads to oxidative stress.
As with other emotions, negative feelings should be expressed healthily. There are ways in which you can express your negative emotions without resulting in hurting others or yourself. Find a healthy positive outlet, or simply share how you feel with a trustworthy friend. These simple acts can help ease some of the emotional burdens you may be feeling right now.