Let’s talk about irritation anxiety:
It happens every month, around four days before my period. The irritation builds and builds like a wave, finally erupting in an explosion of anger and agitation. I can’t focus. I can’t work. And my usual tricks – going for a walk in nature, meditating, calling a friend – only make me more pissed off.
It’s hell in my head.
But I’m not alone.
What the heck is irritation anxiety?
It appears that irritation, anger and anxiety are a mighty ménage à trois. If you feel one, you may also feel one or both of the others – and often at the same time. Because anxiety is fun like that.
So what’s the deal?
Well, anxiety causes stress. In fact, it triggers the stress response (the one that tells us to fight, flee or freeze in the face of danger). So when we’re anxious, all those lovely stress hormones are darting about inside us.
All the tension of the day builds and builds. Our irritability heightens. But because we’re responsible adults, we act like everything’s OK. We want to scream at our boss, or punch the wall, but we bury those feelings. And we do our darndest to suffocate and silence our stress.
But what happens when we get stressed? We get angry! RAAAAAAAH! Suddenly the boxing gloves are off, and you’re throwing your phone at the wall, falling on the floor in a fit of frustration and tears, and screaming at your sweet-natured colleague: “No JAN! I don’t want to put in money to buy Deborah in Accounts a bloody birthday present!”
No? Just me?
Oookay. Moving on…
What does irritation anxiety feel like?
Here’s a little snapshot of irritation anxiety in all its glory:
- You have a short fuse, and snap easily at others
- You find it hard to carry out or cope with ordinary tasks
- You’re easily irritated at everyday things, like spilled milk (literally. I HAVE cried over spilled milk.)
Hopefully, you don’t feel like this every day. Anxiety is exhausting enough, without adding constant irritation to the mix. It’s more likely you’ll feel irritated from time to time, with a peak every now and then (like with my glorious hormone cycle). That being said, some people do feel irritable all the time.
How can we put a pin in it?
We can’t. Sob.
I wish we could just pop our irritability like a balloon, and ease all that pressure.
But here are some things that may help:
- Stress strategies: Find ways to simmer down your stress, so you’re less stimulated by triggers and less likely to react emotionally.
- Pause: If you feel your anger or irritability rising, step away from the person or situation. Find a private place, close your eyes, breathe deeply and count to 10. This can give your rational brain a chance to catch up and choose a logical response.
- Get plenty of rest: I know it’s SO hard to sleep when you feel irritated. Check out my post on pre-sleep rituals for anxiety for a few tips to help you prepare for a restful night’s sleep.
- Speak up: Ask for space. Let your loved ones know you’re feeling highly anxious and need some time and space to clear your head. Apologise for not being able to meet their needs, and allow them to step in and provide support if you need it.
- Try your usual anxiety tricks: A walk in nature, a soothing bath with candles, climbing into bed with your favourite Netflix show and some dark chocolate…treat yourself to some soul-soothing, mind-chilling activities. This can really help take the edge off your irritability, and stop it from taking over.
- Get therapy: A confidential chat with a therapist can equip you with tools to lower your irritation over time – and deal with it when it arises.