5 Tips for Irritability

By Dr Alice Boyes |

1. Do some kind of mindfulness practice. Try this or any of these. Learn enough about the philosophy of mindfulness meditation that you know what you’re doing. Since most people won’t want to do formal practice everyday on a permanent basis, do it everyday initially until you feel confident with it, and then do it when you’re stressed and at least every now and then to stay familiar with it.

How it helps: You’ll be less prone to exploding when triggered. You’ll find it easier to let thoughts go. You’ll be able to recognize more easily when you’re reacting to a distressing thought that has been triggered by someone else’s behavior, not just the behavior per se.

2. If you’re going to respond when feeling irritable, “soften the start-up” (this phrase is from couples expert John Gottman). Try “Babe – I’m annoyed you didn’t take the rubbish out” instead of just “I’m annoyed you didn’t take the rubbish out.”

How it helps: Obvious

3. Don’t try to figure out your thoughts or problem solve when you’re really fired up. Don’t attempt to problem solve while ruminating. Problem solving quality is impaired while people are ruminating.

How it helps: You’ll make better decisions.

4. Think about the emotional experience of the person on the other end of your outbursts, sulking, or withdrawal. What’s it like for your partner, kids etc when you snap at them? If your irritability is directed at your partner, ask them what it’s like for them when you’re irritable. Does it make them feel nervous/alone/want to withdraw etc?

How it helps: Empathy and perspective taking.

5. If you’re good at containing your irritability sometimes but slip up other times, do some gentle exploration of that. Do you have any issues with sense of entitlement (you’re getting irritated because other people aren’t doing exactly what you want)? Are you leaving yourself vulnerable to irritable outbursts by not eating regularly etc?

How it helps: Less blaming others. More taking personal responsibility for not leaving yourself vulnerable to irritability due to poor self care, taking on too much etc.

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About The Author

is the author of an upcoming book about anxiety for PenguinRandomHouse. She writes for Psychology Today, GOOD magazine, and is the Emotions Expert for Women's Health Australia. She lives in NYC and is originally from New Zealand.

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