8 Step Plan To Manage Irritability
Fortunately, we are much more than just our genetics; we have the ability to change.
And suppose someone is truly hard-wired to dislike things initially. In that case, it doesn’t mean you can’t develop the capacity to catch these thoughts and feelings quickly and manage feelings of frustration and irritability effectively.
Not to mention, even ‘likers’ are bound to have their challenges with disliking things from time-to-time.
So, let’s take a look at an 8-step plan that anyone can use to help manage feelings of irritability.
The single most significant factor which determines whether or not you'll make a change is simply your motivation to change.
And until you reach the “Action” stage of change, very little is likely to change.
But how do you get into the “Action” stage of change?
You’re going to need leverage. Most human behaviour can be distilled down to two basic themes – the desire to avoid pain and the desire to seek pleasure.
And in many cases, the desire to avoid pain will serve as a stronger motivator.
If your natural inclination is to be angry or dislike things, it'll be essential to figure out how this approach is costing you.
Is it hurting your romantic relationship?
Is it costing you at work?
Is it creating distance from your children?
Is it causing you to feel unhappy?
Once you find a strong enough motivator (or motivators) to enter into an “Action” stage of change, you’ve now entered the proper zone for making change.
Identify Your Triggers
Is your initial reaction to dislike most things, or are there just certain areas where it is particularly challenging to manage frustration?
Chances are good that not all topics will be challenging to manage.
It will be essential to figure out what those triggering thoughts or situations are and be ready to take action when they come up.
The one advantage of having a challenge with being irritable is that you likely have a good sense of what makes you frustrated beforehand.
You need to be prepared for this and commit to act quickly to manage the negative feelings that will inevitably show up.
Be Aware of Physiological Signs
Feelings of anger and irritability come with physical clues, as your body essentially is getting you ready to fight.
Most people will notice that there are two or three tell-tale physiological signs they routinely see when they become frustrated.
The most common ones are:
- Increased heart rate
- Tightness in chest
- Feel flush
- Tightness in stomach
- Clenching your jaw
These symptoms are clues that you are becoming agitated, so it's essential to pick up on these signs A.S.A.P.
Be Aware Of Mental Signs
Just like there are physical signs of anger, there are also mental signs.
And given that we are all creatures of habit, it's common to have specific thoughts or phrases that pop into your mind when you’re frustrated.
Be aware of these common phrases. You’ll want to catch these mental signs quickly as well.
Change How You Breathe
Once you’ve picked up on the physiological and mental signs of frustration and irritability, it's crucial to quickly reverse the trend and head towards calm.
One of the best ways to do that is to change how you breathe.
When we are agitated, we tend to take short, choppy breaths from high in the chest.
To help create a greater sense of calm, it’s important to take slow, deep breaths from your stomach.
If you are alone, I’d suggest using the following breathing pattern:
- Breathe in (3 - 5 count)
- Breathe out (3 – 5 count)
Repeat this breathing pattern ten times, followed by 1 – 2 minutes of breathing, as you would normally.
If you found the deep breathing to be calming, feel free to repeat it as often as you like.
Breathing this way should help create a greater sense of calm by lowering your heart rate and blood pressure.
If you are in public when you are feeling frustrated and don't want to draw too much attention to yourself, I'd suggest merely breathing in and out as slowly and deeply while focusing on drawing air from your stomach.
What you say to yourself in your head matters… a lot.
If you feel frustrated or irritable and you say things in your mind that promote those feelings, it’s a lot like pouring gasoline on a fire.
In this case, feelings of frustration can turn to full-on anger very quickly.
On the other hand, if you focus on calming statements to help keep frustration in check, it’s like putting baking soda on a fire.
Ideally, I’d suggest coming up with a few key phrases before you ever get frustrated that you can use to create a sense of calm when you need them. Here are a few quick examples:
“I need to calm down.”
“I can handle this.”
“I don’t want to make things worse.”
“This isn’t that big of a deal.”
“This feeling will go away shortly.”
Once again, it’s crucial that you come up with your own self-talk phrases, but you need them in advance. Otherwise, it’s going to be much more difficult to catch your anger early, which is far and away the best time to catch it!
Once you have that initial wave of anger under control, it’s important to figure out how you got there.
Or said another way, it’s time to start asking questions such as, “Why did that make me so frustrated?”
A big part of examining evidence is asking yourself questions and providing the most factual answers you can come up with.
Here are a few examples:
“Do I have a good reason to feel this way?”
“Does it help me or the people around me to be this frustrated all the time?”
"Is being frustrated all the time who I am? And do I want that?"
Once again, the questions you ask yourself will vary based on your thoughts, the situation or how frequently (or infrequently) you experience feelings of anger or frustration.
If All Else Fails, Leave the Situation
If you have encountered a situation where you feel highly irritable and have reached a point of no return (i.e., you didn't catch the physiological or mental signs of irritability quickly enough), the best thing you can do is leave the situation.
But how you leave is critical.
If you make a grand exit and let everyone know why you are leaving, it doesn’t help the situation and will likely leave anyone within your vicinity feeling bad.
Instead, it’s best to call a timeout and excuse yourself for 10-15 minutes.
But before leaving the situation, let the other person know where you are going and reassure them you intend to return to the situation and finish the conversation if it’s incomplete.
Leaving the situation will allow your body and mind to relax gradually (provided you don't leave the situation and continue to ruminate about what you found frustrating).
Once you are in a calmer state of mind, it’s far easier to return to the situation and communicate in a friendly, or at least more neutral manner.
Not to mention, it can help prevent you from saying hurtful things, which can only serve to make the situation worse.
Do you encounter people in your daily life who seem to naturally dislike most things?
How do you manage feelings of frustration and irritability?
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