Irritability is normal sometimes.
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Do you feel annoyed by other people’s behavior, even if they aren’t doing anything inappropriate? Do you get a little short-tempered with your loved ones?
It’s normal to feel irritable sometimes.
But if you feel irritable often or your irritability causes problems, it’s important to take a closer look at what’s going on. There are always steps you can take to grow mentally stronger, so you can be more tolerant of other people and feel better about yourself.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to address your irritability so you can feel better. Here are seven strategies that can help:
1. Pay attention to your warning signs. It might feel like you go from calm to irritable in a split second, but in reality, there are likely warning signs along that signal you’re growing irritable.
Your heart rate might increase, you might sigh a few times, or you might get a little mean with people. When you learn to recognize that you’re growing irritable, you can take steps to address the situation before you become so irritable you can’t think clearly.
Removing yourself from a stressful situation, getting a little physical activity, or finding something to laugh about for a minute might be all it takes to reset yourself.
2. Take a few deep breaths. Your body responds to stress by releasing a stress hormone called cortisol. This triggers a physiological response, like a rise in blood pressure. That response can worsen your irritability.
Taking a few slow, deep breaths can stop that response and calm your body. That in turn will send signals to your brain that you’re safe and it’s OK to feel calm.
When you feel irritable, inhale slowly through your nose to the count of three. Hold it for three seconds, and then slowly exhale through pursed lips for a count of three. Try this three times and you might find you feel a little calmer and less irritable right away.
3. Remove the source of stress. Ask yourself where your irritability is coming from. You might find there’s a known source–like someone interrupting you repeatedly when you’re trying to concentrate. If you can identify the source, you might fix the problem.
Take action that will get your needs met. Set boundaries, take a break, or speak up politely.
If you aren’t sure why you’re irritable or you can’t change your situation, address your emotional state. If you can’t fix the problem, you can choose to fix how you feel about the problem.
4. Reframe thoughts that fuel irritability. Thinking things like, “I can’t stand this for one more second” or “She just needs to stop talking” will fuel your irritability.
When you notice you’re thinking about how much you dislike something (or someone) or you’re focusing on the unfairness of a situation, reframe your thoughts. Identify the facts–and leave out the judgments.
For example, when you’re thinking, “I can’t stand being stuck in traffic” remind yourself that there are millions of cars on the road and traffic jams are bound to happen. Then, remind yourself that you’ll be OK.
5. Remind yourself what you can control. Your irritability will increase when you feel trapped. Thinking you’re stuck in a terrible meeting or that people are demanding too much from you will fuel your irritability.
Remind yourself that there’s always something you can control–even if it’s just your attitude or your breathing.
Think about the fact that you do have choices. Walking out of a meeting is a choice. It may not be a good choice but it’s an option. Simply reminding yourself that you aren’t being forced to do things can reduce some irritability.
6. Engage in physical activity. As stress hormones flood your body, it can be helpful to use physical activity as an outlet. Going for a walk during your lunch break can help you channel your energy into something positive.
Running, doing pushups, and lifting weights are other strategies that can help you manage your frustration with the world in a healthy way.
Incorporate regular physical activity into your daily schedule and use it as an as-needed outlet any time you want to regulate your emotions.
7. Create lifestyle changes. Your irritability might be a sign that you could benefit from creating changes in your life. No matter how much you try to manage your irritability, your efforts aren’t going to work if you’ve got a never-ending to-do list, you’re in a toxic relationship, and you work 24/7.
If you’re chronically irritable, take a step back and consider what lifestyle changes you might make to improve your well-being. Eating a healthier diet, exercising, getting quality sleep, and taking better care of yourself might help you feel less irritable.
Get Professional Help
Irritability is a common symptom of mental health issues, like anxiety and depression. It may be important to get professional treatment. Medication, therapy, or a combination of the two may resolve your irritability and help you feel your best.
To find a therapist, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.