The Covid-19 pandemic has left many of us irritable, with good reason. We have had to lose access to go-to comforts like seeing friends or working off steam at the gym, and we have less privacy and more interaction with those we live with than we are accustomed to. Or we might just be lonely and wondering when this all ends.
If irritability is long-term and a consistent problem, it can also be a big deal as it can signify a mental health issue (more on that below).
[*Note that chronic irritability in children and adolescents is a different and serious issue that “predicts suicidality, social impairment, and depressive and anxiety disorders in adulthood.” (Leibenluft and Stoddard]. If this is an issue for your child, consider speaking with a child psychologist.]
How to manage your irritation
When it comes to stress-related irritability, what can be done?
1. Get honest about the source of your grumpiness.
TRY THIS: Journal about what you think is causing your bad mood and then read what you wrote aloud. How does it sit in your body? Does it ‘feel’ true? If not, keep writing.
2. Engage in self-compassion.
Again, one of irritability’s nastiest side effects is guilt. We worry we are a ‘bad person’, or ‘letting others down’ by being miserable. Self-compassion means extending the empathy you’d offer a friend to yourself.
TRY THIS: Write a letter to a friend having a similar tough time, offering them understanding. Then change the name at the top to your own and read it aloud.
3. Lower expectations.
The less we expect, the less there is to be upset about.
TRY THIS: Write down all your expectations then try to cross out all but three. How would it feel if this was all you expected from life and others at the moment?
4. Talk about how you feel.
Our irritability can be something we hold against ourselves far more than those around us do, but our guilt can convince us otherwise. And the less we admit we know there is a problem, the more irritable we feel.
TRY THIS: Reach out to those around you and admit that you know you are grumpy. Allow them to offer their feedback and understanding. If they can’t, work out boundaries between you so you can both do your best without more conflict.
TRY THIS: Make one list of all the things you can’t change about the situation, and one of all the things you can. If it feels symbolic and helpful, rip up the list of things you can’t change. Then use something like SMART goals to make a list of action steps towards positive change. What small step can you do today?
Does it drive you nuts that everyone else is so emotional and disorganised?It’s possible you have Asperger’s syndrome.
Are you irritable because nobody in the world seems to make any sense, ever? Or understand you? Has this been going on since you were a young adult?Irritability is also connected to many personality disorders.