Everybody feels irritable sometimes. Whether you’ve had a stressful day or simply want to be left alone, experiencing irritability is very common. However, if you’re not careful, this negative emotion can cause bigger problems in your life. Not only can it be emotionally draining, but irritability can lead to friction between you and your friends, family, and co-workers.
If you want to learn how to be less irritable, you’ve come to the right place. These strategies can help reduce your irritability levels while also promoting a zen state of mind. But first, you need to understand the causes of irritability, so you can curb them.
7 Causes of Irritability
There are many factors that can contribute to or cause irritability, such as lack of sleep, stress, low blood sugar, and even hormonal changes.
However, constant irritability can indicate an underlying health condition like diabetes, an infection, or a mental disorder like depression and anxiety. Let’s explore these causes and figure out which one can apply to your situation.
1. Life Stress
Going through a stressful period can make anyone a bit more irritable than usual. That’s because stressful experiences will make it much harder for you to manage your emotions, meaning that you can quickly become overwhelmed. As a result, you’ll be less tolerant of people and situations around you.
Keep in mind that while stress is a normal part of life, prolonged periods of stress can cause emotional exhaustion. That’s why it’s vital to recognize the signs of stress and take active steps to relieve it.
2. Lack of Sleep
Sleep problems are known to make people irritable, especially after a night with little to no sleep. Children are especially prone to being unusually emotional or irritable after not having enough good quality sleep.
Generally speaking, you should aim for an average of 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Otherwise, you might experience irritability, anxiety, or depression. You can boost your sleep quality by getting regular exercise, avoiding coffee and alcohol before bed, and removing electronic devices from the bedroom.
3. Low Blood Sugar
Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can affect your psychological and physical health. People who suffer from diabetes are more likely to experience hypoglycemia due to the use of insulin.
However, temporary low blood sugar can affect anyone that hasn’t eaten for several hours. Besides irritability, symptoms of hypoglycemia include headaches, drowsiness, increased heart rate, trembling, and lightheadedness. In some cases, it can even affect your sleep, increasing the chance of nightmares and excessive sweating.
4. Hormonal Imbalance
Hormonal imbalances are known to trigger a variety of physiological and physical symptoms, like irritability and fatigue. Those are often caused by poor nutrition, inadequate sleep, and high levels of stress.
Some conditions, like diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and polycystic ovary syndrome, can also lead to hormonal imbalances.
5. Premenstrual Syndrome
Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, can cause mood swings and irritability. Other symptoms of PMS include fatigue, food cravings, increased anxiety, and headaches.
While irritability is common in the lead-up to their periods, some women can also have a premenstrual dysphoric disorder, which can trigger depression and anxiety. This condition affects 5% of women of childbearing age and can be relieved with birth control pills, antidepressants, and OTC medications.
According to estimates, depression affects almost 21 million adults in the United States alone. Although the condition manifests differently for each individual, it usually causes fatigue, persistent sadness, and irritability. In fact, one of the early signs of depression is severe irritability.
Remember that irritability is more common in men than in women suffering from depression. It often occurs alongside substance abuse, risk-taking, and aggressive feelings.
While it’s not advised to self diagnose, it’s believed that people may have depression if they experience any of the following for at least two weeks:
• Loss of interest in hobbies or activities
• Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness
• Digestive problems
• Changes in weight and appetite
• Memory and concentration problems
If you think that you are experiencing depression, you should contact a specialist to get a more accurate diagnosis and treatment.
Anxiety can sometimes be triggered by stressful situations such as going through life changes, problems at work, or relationship difficulties.
While this type of anxiety should go away once the stressful situation passes, it can also linger and worsen, leading to generalized anxiety disorder. This type of anxiety affects at least 20% of US adults and can cause:
• Muscle tension
• Rapid heart rate
• Shallow breathing
• Sleeping problems
• Panic attacks
How to be Less Irritable: 9 Ways
Although irritability can do a lot of harm to yourself and the people around you, there are several ways you can manage it more effectively. By following these tips, you will be able to maintain your calm and reduce the frequency and severity of irritable episodes.
1. Figure Out the Source
In order to address your irritability, you need to figure out what’s causing it. Try to analyze each situation when you are irritated and consider what might have set you off. More often than not, the trigger is extremely simple and can be solved without anger or irritability.
2. Reduce Alcohol and Caffeine
You might not be aware that alcohol is a depressant that can make you feel down for days after drinking it. On the other hand, caffeine is a stimulant, meaning that it will rev you up and increase your aggressiveness. When combined, these two substances are able to boost your overall irritability.
To minimize these effects, you should cut down on both caffeine and alcohol and opt for natural alternatives like matcha tea and golden milk.
3. Think of the Bigger Picture
Usually, you’ll notice that small or medium annoyances are the ones that make you feel irritated. Whether it’s a bus that’s late, a bad grade, or an obnoxious boss, you’ll rarely remember these problems for more than a few days, weeks, or even months.
So, it’s better you take a moment and remind yourself of the bigger picture. In other words, think of everything that is going well in your life, such as your health, employment, or relationship. By doing that, you will realize just how insignificant the trigger of your irritability truly is.
4. Get Some Quiet Alone Time
Finding a quiet place to simply distract yourself from all the surrounding commotion should help clear your mind and reduce your irritability. As a matter of fact, irritability can be a sign that you need a small break, so make sure to take one once in a while.
Do some yoga, listen to music, meditate, or just sit in bed. No matter which activity you prefer, you can be sure that it will have a positive effect on your mental health and help you achieve a zen state of mind.
5. Take a Nap
Do you feel worn out from a stressful day at work or school or simply feel like you can’t handle your responsibilities anymore? Then maybe it’s time to take a nap. You’ll be surprised at how much a good nap can help improve your mood, especially if you have trouble sleeping during the night.
If you can’t afford to take a nap, then try and go to sleep earlier than usual. That way, you will recharge your batteries and reduce the chance of irritability the day after.
6. Cut Down on Your Phone Usage
Even though your phone can be a distraction from your daily routine and stress, it can also damage your mental health. Actually, social media, in particular, can stir up all kinds of negative emotions, including frustration and irritability.
As a result, it’s advised that you reduce your screen time by leaving your phone in another room or setting up app limits. That will allow you to engage in healthy activities and connect with people naturally.
7. Change Your Eating Habits
Poor diets are known to have an impact on both mental and physical health. Research shows that junk food can increase the chance of violent behavior and psychiatric distress. Thus, it’s best you change your eating habits and embrace healthy food. While fast food and snacks might taste good, they won’t help curb your irritability.
8. Laugh More Often
Laughing and having a good time can help relieve stress, anxiety, and irritability. Don’t have a reason to laugh? Find one! Watch a comedy movie or show, search for a hilarious joke, or remind yourself of a funny memory. Embrace your humorous side, regardless of what makes you laugh.
9. Get Professional Help
Lastly, it should be noted that irritability can point to a bigger problem like depression. If your irritability lasts for more than a few days, you should talk with a mental health professional. They will be able to diagnose and treat any underlying issues, which should reduce your irritability.