How to De-Stress Your Arguments

by on November 12, 2013

argumentIf you haven’t noticed, arguing can be bad for your health. On the mental side of things, it can send your anxiety and stress levels skyrocketing. On the physical side, arguments, conflicts and other forms of negative social interactions can boost up your body’s inflammation levels.

The latter doesn’t mean your head instantly swells up like a balloon (although your ego can after an argument victory), but that your immune system goes into high alert. Constantly maintaining that high alert can eventually take a toll on your blood pressure and heart while kicking you into a morass of diabetes and depression.

We’re not making this stuff up. A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry linked depression to inflammation. Another published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that after an argument, the body has an increased level of cytokine molecules, which are linked with inflammation. 

Avoidance is Not the Answer 

The answer is not to stop arguing altogether, simply agreeing with whatever comes down the pike. While acquiescing can seem like the path of least resistance, it can actually backfire and make your stress and anxiety even worse. If you never stand up for yourself or your beliefs, not only will you appear to be a doormat, but you may start harboring resentments that fester and feed on your soul.

The end result can be a massive eruption somewhere down the line, usually at someone or something that doesn’t merit your bloody sword of rage. Either that or the internal stress can once again start deteriorating your mental and physical health, leading to more depression, anxiety, weight gain, heart disease, digestive issues and problems sleeping, thinking and remembering things.

Tips for Stress-Free Arguments

OK, there may be no such thing as a truly stress-free argument. But you can drastically cut down on your stress while arguing with a batch of tips pointed out by Psychology Today, Lifestyle Lounge and Outlish magazine.

Don’t fight. There’s a major difference between an argument and a fight, notes Psychology Today blogger Stephanie Sarkis. And you’ll be less stressed if you keep the former from turning into the latter. Fighting involves name-calling, bringing up past issues, focusing on problems and screeching at the top of your lungs. Arguing, on the other hand, is founded on mutual respect, looking at a single issue, focusing on solutions and keeping the voices calm.

Choose your battles wisely. Not every single argument deserves your full attention, or even any attention. If you honestly don’t care about a particular point or outcome, it may make sense to save your energy and focus for something about which you do.

Listen to the other side. When you’re not so narrowly focused on yours as the only solution, you may be surprised how often the other side of the argument makes sense. Heck, you may even be more surprised at how often you might even change your mind!

Keep emotions in check. You’ve heard the term “crimes of passion,” referring to murders and other atrocious acts that come to pass when emotions rule the roost. Arguments should instead let your brain do all the talking, not your heart. This doesn’t mean you can’t feel strongly about an issue, it just means you should back up your beliefs with intelligent facts rather than passion gone wild.

Don’t be scared of being wrong. One of the reasons people change their stance during an argument is because, well, they may realize they were wrong to begin with. See how enlightening listening to the other side can be? 

It may be super-tough to admit your wrong if you equate being wrong with being humiliated or embarrassed. It can be super-duper tough to admit it if your ego gets in the way, insisting you must win the argument no matter what. Being wrong is not a major humiliation. It’s simply a risk you run for being human. And ego-driven arguments are generally the most useless ones.

Know when to step back. If you find yourself getting all red in the face and about to erupt, step back and take five. Don’t wait until you’re so close to eruption that you stand up and stomp out of the middle of the argument. But do keep an eye on those sneaky emotions and ask for a brief break if they’re about to push you into saying something you either don’t mean or will eternally regret. 

Calmly speak up and tell the truth. “I’m about to get really upset and say something damaging. Can we resume this discussion in about 10 minutes after I cool off a bit?”

Deed done. Damage averted. And your emotions have a moment to quiet down and again take a backseat. Do make sure you come back, however, and don’t leave the argument forever unfinished and the other person forever dangling in the wind.

De-Stressing After the Fact 

When an argument has wrapped up, you’re still at risk for falling prey to stress and anxiety – even if it was an argument you won. That’s because your ego likes to kick in yet again. 

“Your ego-mind constantly returns to the scene of the crime and combs through every agonizing detail and words said by you and the other party,” notes the Your Happiness is Within blog.

De-stressing starts by first recognizing your ego at work, and its main work is to whatever it can to protect itself. It pores over the dirty details of the argument to ensure it has fully and done its duty, protecting whatever identity you’ve created for yourself.

Let’s say it’s an argument at work under your self-created identity of “good employee” or, even more ego-centered yet, whatever title you hold on the job. Your ego will kick in after the argument, examining every nook and cranny of every word you uttered to make sure you didn’t put a chink in that “good employee” armor or otherwise mar your title.

Realize this is what’s happening. Then let that specific identity go and you automatically let the pain go, since you’re no longer paying attention to the argument. As long as you review the argument in your mind, your body is undergoing the same stress, anxiety and inflammation reaction over a done argument as it does with a current one. Yuck is right!

Thus letting go of the rampant thoughts after the argument can be just as important as keeping your cool during one. And both help to make your arguments as stress-free as they can be.

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