Do you have days (weeks? months?) where everybody and everything gets under your skin? It happens to the best of us. Maybe you haven’t been sleeping well, or you’ve eaten foods that don’t agree, or there’s simply too much on your plate. I’ve created a list of things to do and questions to ask yourself when irritability is getting the best of you.
Awareness. The first step in creating a shift in a pattern (short-term or long-term) is to begin to recognize it as it is happening. Pay attention to when during the day you are most irritable, what things appear to set you off, and how you deal with the feelings. Do you take your feelings out on others or do you internalize them.
Become aware of the physical sensations that accompany irritation. I have felt the stir of irritation as a tingling in my arms, but you may feel it in your stomach, your shoulders, or your throat. Your body will register the irritation even before your mind does.
Curiosity. Allow yourself to wonder what is going on with you. How long have you been feeling this way? Were there obvious precipitating factors like a missed meal, change in diet, drinking or smoking cessation, or new coworkers?
Is your irritability connected to taking on too much, saying yes when you want to say no, physical pain and discomfort?
Are you using irritability to create distance or a boundary? Though it can be an effective barrier to keep others away, you are the one living with the discomfort of being irritable. There are better ways to get some space.
Take ownership. What action steps do you need to take to move out of the irritability? Here are some possibilities:
cut sugar and alcohol from your diet
have your hormone levels checked
decrease caffeine consumption
eat more often
take more time for yourself
get professional help
And, don't forget the powerful medicine of throwing a temper tantrum! (preferably on your own or in a safe environment)