Does Venting Increase Stress? 3 Healthy Ways To Express Yourself Instead

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Health And Wellness

Are you solving problems or creating more?

We spend about 30 percent of our entire lives at work. The rest of the time is probably spent running around doing errands, catching up on homework, or chasing after the kids.

Finding healthy ways to relax and relieve stress isn’t always feasible. But venting to friends, family, and colleagues is quick and free, and most of us can’t resist it as an answer for how to reduce stress.

We’re often told to not hold on to worries and to share our problems with those closest to us. Stress can be isolating, and holding on to it can leave us feeling overwhelmed.

So, unleashing our inner complaints on the daily must be therapeutic, right? Maybe not.

Bottling up your stress might lead you to lose your cool once it all overflows, but does venting increase stress and exaggerate your concerns?

RELATED: The Scary Truth About What Happens To Your Body When You're Stressed

Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of venting, and explore some possible solutions. 

The pros to venting

1. It brings immediate, cathartic relief.

Stress is like holding your breath and it feels great to let it out. One minute your mind is packed full of your life’s biggest worries, and next thing it’s spilled out onto the desk of a co-worker or down the phone to your best friend, leaving you feeling light and released.

Instead of holding on to everything until you eventually explode, you let it out in short bursts, making things a little more manageable. The instant catharsis is liberating, and you certainly down see any negative repercussions in the moment. 

2. You can easily find emotional support.

You know what they say: a problem shared is a problem halved.

It feels great to sound off and know you have someone there to listen. We all need a shoulder to cry on or even just a supportive smile staring back at us. Life is full of tests and trials, and sometimes it feels like there’s no rewards.

Knowing you have someone there to support you takes away the pain. It’s also great knowing you're not alone and maybe your loved ones are going through similar situations. 

3. You get a different perspective.

When you’re in the pits of stress, it’s hard to see a way out. Talking it out with someone can help you come up with some solutions together.

It’s like the walls are caving in around you and someone just tossed you a shovel. Maybe they’ve been through the same thing and found a way out.

Venting out loud to someone with a fresh perspective can help you see light at the end of the tunnel. 

While letting out your frustrations and emotions can be helpful, there are also a few downsides to airing your feelings.

RELATED: Why Venting To Your Friends Actually Makes Your Stress Worse (Plus, 5 Healthy Ways To Feel Better)

The cons to venting

1. You spreads negativity.

Stress is contagious.

Have you ever been up to your eyes in work and someone comes to you to complain about their day? It doesn’t feel great and it definitely doesn’t help you get anything done.

Research shows that stress is easily passed from person to person, and merely observing a stressful situation can bring on burdens of your own. When you vent, you can trigger stress in other people, and suddenly you’re both picking up on each other’s worries.

2. It makes you look bad.

You should never feel that your worries don’t deserve to be heard, but venting regularly may not be the best idea.

If you’re someone who vents to your co-workers or friends often, you might not be representing yourself in the best light. It can come across as negative or dramatic.

People want to see you succeed and would probably rather you work on solutions instead of surrendering to every little burden that comes your way.  

3. You may end up making your stress worse.

Venting is addictive, and if it becomes a habit you might resort to it more often than you need to. Before you know it, you’ve created an echo chamber where you and your friends are validating each other's negative feelings and constantly sharing more stress.

Venting doesn’t solve your underlying concerns and will only leave you in a state of stress. This means your worries only mount.

Even though you felt relief in the moment, in the long run, venting may not help the situation.

So, what is the solution? How can we vent in a healthy way?

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1. Vent on a timer.

Old habits die hard, so quitting venting cold turkey is not easy.

When you feel like you're about to burst with stress, give yourself 5 minutes to let it all out before moving on. This means you neither exacerbate your negative feelings, nor burden your friends.

By giving yourself a limited amount of time to vent, you also get to focus on what’s truly bothering you rather than spiraling through lots of little worries. This will bring you closer to finding practical solutions. 

2. Be constructive.

Empower yourself by solving problems, not making more.

Approach your stresses with an open mind and be ready to work on them. Creating a healthy matrix where you can vent to someone you can rely on will help you work on solutions together.

If a manager, friend, or family member is part of the reason you’re stressed, it also helps to go straight to the source and have a calm, honest conversation with them so you can come to an understanding together.

3. Write it down. 

If you’re maxed on time or feel like you’ve been bothering too many people, keeping a journal or list is a great alternative to venting. You can track some recurring problems and see what’s getting you down.

Writing out our worries also allows us to slow it down and approach our problems calmly. Just remember that you're never a burden, and if your journaling or list-making isn’t working, it might be time to talk to someone.

There’s a big difference between unnecessary venting and asking for help.  

RELATED: 5 Ways To Vent Your Feelings Without Becoming A Total Burden To Your Friends

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Alice Kelly is a writer with a passion for lifestyle, entertainment, and trending topics.

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