By Sheryl Kraft
I've been around long enough to know that no matter how calm, careful and wise we may think we are, it's just about impossible to get through life without letting emotions lead us astray.
But oftentimes things like anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, shame, guilt and jealousy can be hazardous to your health, causing you to do things you wouldn't normally do—like eat or drink too much or sleep or relax too little. I'm sure you all know what I mean: maybe your spouse/partner/child/boss/friend/window washer/waiter/in-law/fill-in-the-blank did something to drive you bonkers. Those emotions gnaw at you like that pesky fly that keeps on dodging the swatter.
And then it happens.
Self-destruction sets in. I don't mean the intentional slash-your-wrists kind of self-destruction, but instead, behavior that veers from your best intentions. Whether that be cutting yourself a huge slab of chocolate cake (or having seconds), cheating yourself of sleep or drinking yourself into near-oblivion, it's all bad—and it all will make you feel bad the next day.
Not convinced you really want to tell your emotions to cease and desist? OK, then, here's how they can be front and center and play havoc with your health:
- Keep obsessing. Can't stop thinking about that seven-layer chocolate cake or that extra few glasses of wine? Then don't. Thinking about it will make you want it even more and make it even tougher to resist. The more you think about it, the more you'll convince yourself that you deserve it. There's nothing like a little obsession to fuel the fire of desire.
- Don't distract yourself. Don't engage in anything relaxing, like knitting, talking a walk or calling a good friend, even though studies find that these go a long way toward curbing unwanted behaviors and keeping emotions in check. Why risk distraction when instead you can let your emotions wash over you and carry you away?
- Don't keep a journal. Being accountable for your actions will only result in you being able to control them. Knowing what you are feeling and what it's causing you to do will only make you face up to your imperfections, help you plan ahead and deal with temptations. Just because someone once said, "I write, therefore I am," doesn't mean you have to buy into it.
- Shun regular exercise. There's no reason to break a sweat when you've already worked up a sweat with your emotions. Regular exercise can help regulate your mood, make you feel good about yourself, help you strengthen your resolve and control your cravings. Why would you want to do that when you can instead exercise your right to your emotions?
- Go to sleep angry. So what if it's true that getting enough sleep is good for reducing your cortisol (stress) levels? Then why in the world would you want to go to sleep feeling all nice and relaxed? Going to sleep angry will keep those levels high enough to make you irritable, depressed and unable to deal with even small problems.