Getting into a heated argument doesn’t just put
you in a bad mood. It can also compromise your
ability to perform everyday tasks—like driving—in
ways that could be dangerous for you or the people
around you. Here, top experts discuss what you
should never do when under the influence of
anger, with tips for regaining your composure.
1)You shouldn’t sleep on it
The saying “never go to bed angry” is valid advice.
Going to sleep may reinforce or “preserve”
negative emotions, suggests a study in the Journal
of Neuroscience, which found that sleep enhances
memories, particularly emotional ones. “We are
learning that sleep seems to help us process and
consolidate information we acquire while we are
awake,” says Allen Towfigh, MD, a New York City-
based board certified sleep medicine doctor and
neurologist. So going to bed after an argument will
likely cause that experience to be consolidated
more effectively than if you went on to remain
awake for that same eight-hour period, says Dr.
2)You shouldn’t drive
Operating a motor vehicle when you’re enraged
can be dangerous. Research shows that angry
drivers take more risks and have more accidents.
“When you’re angry, you’re primed for attack, so it’s
not a good time to jump in a vehicle,” says David
Narang, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Santa
Monica, Calif. “In addition, anger gives a person
tunnel vision—you stare straight ahead and may
not see a pedestrian or another car coming into
your peripheral vision crossing the street.” If you
must drive when angry, Narang suggests opening
your eyes purposefully and looking around you to
avoid tunnel vision.
3)You shouldn’t vent
Getting anger off your chest sounds like a good
idea, but it may actually make matters worse. In
fact, people who simply spent five minutes reading
another person’s online rants became angrier and
less happy in a study published in the journal
Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking.
An earlier study also showed that venting anger by
hitting pillows not only increased anger at that
moment but made aggressive behavior more likely
in the future. “They feel validated in what they’re
saying by venting,” says Narang, “but they’re not
4)You shouldn’t eat
Soothing your anger by reaching for food can
backfire in a couple of ways, says Kathy Gruver,
PhD, author ofConquer Your Stress With Mind/Body
Techniques. “When we are angry, we often make
unhealthy food choices,” she says. “No one ever
reaches for broccoli. We go for the high-sugar,
high-fat, carbohydrate-loaded comfort foods.” In
addition, a heightened state of emotions sparks the
fight or flight response, where the body thinks it’s
in danger. In such a state, digestion takes a
backseat to the “emergency” at hand and does not
function optimally, says Gruver. This may result in
diarrhea or constipation.
5)You shouldn’t keep arguing
Staying in the conversation when you have
difficulty modulating your anger makes it likely
you’ll say things you’ll regret, says Christine M.
Allen, PhD, psychologist and coach from Syracuse,
NY. “If it’s possible you will say hurtful things that
you’ll regret and can’t take back, ask for a ‘time out’
with intention to come back to the conversation,”
she suggests. You may need 10 minutes or 10 days.
“It’s the willingness to come back to the
conversation and initiate that is key,” Allen says.
Use the time out to actively calm the mind and the
body so that you express yourself in a more
mindful, intentional manner.
6)You shouldn’t post about your conflict on
When you’re angry, broadcasting your feelings to
your friends and family on Facebook and other
social networks will more than likely come back to
haunt you, says Narang. “Posting something
publicly can’t be taken back,” he says.
7)You shouldn’t drink alcohol
Reaching for a glass of wine to calm yourself down
after an angry encounter often does the opposite,
says Narang. “Alcohol makes it more likely you’ll
act out your anger because it removes impulse
control.” Alcohol lowers inhibitions by acting on the
frontal lobes of the brain, which are responsible
for controlling the impulses that prevent us from
giving in to urges to harm others or ourselves.
“This may lead to more permanent destruction by
doing things you’ll regret, all from a temporary
emotion,” says Narang.
You shouldn’t ruminate
Obsessively thinking about ways the other person
harmed you or was unfair to you—known as
rumination—does not resolve anything, says Allen.
If you find yourself on the receiving end of
someone else’s anger, you may be able to calm
them down by first keeping your own cool, says
Narang. Start out talking to the angry person in a
manner that matches his or her level of emotion
and then gradually become calmer and steadier as
you speak to them. “This leads them to a calmer
place,” says Narang.
This originaly appeared on health.con
Getting into a heated argument doesn’t just put