Irritability rears its ugly head when we are feeling disappointed, hurt, angry, let down, or confused. When the new year starts, we make all kinds of plans to improve, get organized, lose weight, build our business and a part of us thinks we will have the stamina and motivation to make real progress. Somewhere around the middle of January, reality sets in and we realize how hard it is to make changes. Then, we can get downright grumpy. Can you relate to this at all? I know I can.
As a therapist, I've learned a few tricks over the years about how to overcome irritability and reclaim a positive outlook. I'll share 10 tips to overcome irritability in this article, both to remind myself and to give you some (possibly new) information to try out.
1. Tell yourself, "Even though I'm feeling _________________ (negative emotion here), I forgive myself and know that this feeling shall pass. I will re-focus my attention to just one change I'd like to make and re-think my approach. "
2. Make sure you are getting plenty of Vitamin D – if you can not get it through sunshine (January is notoriously gloomy in some climates) – talk to your doctor or nutritionist about supplementing with Vitamin D3. There is a wealth of research that shows many more people are deficient in Vitamin D (the happy vitamin) than we would suppose.
3. Stop what you are doing and list 10 things you are grateful for – out loud. Get creative – pick things that you really have to notice and think about. Example: "I'm grateful for warm showers, deep breathing, the way the sunlight glints through the crystal hanging from my rear-view mirror, the sound of my cat purring, the jokes my nine-year old told me this morning, etc .. "
4. Swap negative thoughts for more truthful thoughts. When we get irritable or down, chances are our thoughts are telling us something negative and not entirely truthful. Analyze the thoughts going through your head, and notice if there are cognitive distortions (all or nothing thinking, fortune-telling, catastrophizing, etc.) – then re-frame the thought without the distortion.
5. Breathe very deeply through the nose (important) 4 or 5 times. Breathing deeply through the nose brings cooling oxygen to the limbic system of the brain which calms the neural activity in this emotional center of the brain. As you inhale, imagine a beautiful color of blue coming in and spreading throughout your whole body and mind and as you exhale, imagine your body and mind is letting go of all stress and tension.
6. Pet your pet. Petting your cat or dog (or hamster or mouse?) Has been shown to lower blood pressure, soothe nerves, and bring a sense of contentment.
7. Have you been somewhat isolated? Pick up the phone or go out and talk to someone. We need conversation, human touch, and eye-to-eye contact with people to remain healthy.
8. Smile. It sounds so simple and yet it is profound. The nerve endings in your face talk to your brain and when you smile, your brain thinks "oh, we must be happy" and then your brain seeks to make this reality.
9. Pray. Meditation, mindfulness, and prayer are all ways to connect your spirit with God's Spirit. Prayer changes things (prayer changes us).
10. Dance. Wherever you are, you can find a spot (go into the bathroom and close the door if you must) to dance around. The activity gets blood pumping and the silliness of dancing a jig in the middle of the day can make you giggle. Giggling is the perfect antidote to irritability