What complaining does for (and to) your health
OK, so you’re having one of those days and desperately need to vent — but how much venting is too much? When does venting morph into complaining? Here’s how to get things off your chest without being too Eeyore about it — and why it’s important for your health.
Between studies that say venting is bad for your health, along with positivity this and silver lining that, I have to ask — where does all the anger go? Just because you’re not talking about what’s bothering you doesn’t mean it’s no longer there, which in the long run can be just as unhealthy. It’s ridiculous to act like your life is a box of kittens 24/7, but that’s what many of us attempt to do.
Plus, when the advice you receive is usually "Suck it up" or "It could be worse," it’s no wonder so many of us have resorted to suppressing our feelings altogether. Meanwhile, emotional suppression leads to constantly functioning at high levels of stress and tension, which then leads to high blood pressure, heart disease and a weakened immune system, among other things. It also leads to a cloudy mind, constantly distracting you and eventually impacting your career and relationships.
Venting versus complaining: Yes, there’s a difference!
I attribute venting to having a Scarlett O’Hara moment where you just can’t take it anymore — you rush to the Yoda in your life (admit it, we all have one), gush about the crap that’s frustrating you and together you figure out what you’re going to do about it. (Sure, you could vent to yourself to not have to subject anyone to your storm of anger, but then you’d end up committed and would have a whole new set of issues.) This is healthy because you’re constructively looking to change your situation.
Complaining, on the other hand, is when you vent about the same problems over and over and over and over and over (and… well, you know). Not only are you running around in circles and doing nothing to change your situation, you’re adding more fuel to the fire — so the next time you’re in said frustrated situation, guess what? You’re going to be frustrated times 10. This is unhealthy because you’re making your stress level worse, along with the stress levels of those you vent to.
How to become a venting extraordinaire
Choose a likeminded listener. Talk to someone constructively about what’s bothering you, and make sure you give as much griping time as you receive. If your problem can be solved quickly, talk it out to find a solution. If it’s something that can’t be solved — for example, your beau has a super-irritating habit — expressing your frustration about it to a friend can help you get it off your chest without denting your relationship.
Pinpoint exactly what’s bothering you. Sometimes women have a hard time focusing on one individual instance. Instead, we end up making broad generalizations that are impossible to combat, thanks to allowing the little frustrations to pile up. Take responsibility for that fact and only deal with one frustration at a time. Finding the common thread will help you get to the core of what’s really bothering you.
Physically vent instead. If you’ve talked about what’s bothering you but are still struggling to move on, try removing yourself from the situation for as long as it takes so you can cool down. Go for a walk, take a spin class, listen to Alanis — it’s much easier to find a solution when you’re feeling more calm and less Tasmanian devil.
Own how you feel. Don’t apologize for what’s bothering you — allow yourself to feel the anger. Expressing your anger too much will make it grow, as will allowing it to fester. Let your subconscious do the work: Leave a note for your subconscious and let it know that you’re on the market for a good old-fashioned epiphany to help you through your rough patch. It could take days, weeks or only an hour, but eventually you’ll be able to solve what’s bothering you if you trust in your ability to find a solution.