People often describe anger as a red mist coming down over your eyes. Once the veil has come down, you can’t see anything clearly and will often act totally irrationally.
For me, feeling irritable is a toned down version of that.
I often think of the irritable mist as a kind of light pink, milder version; not enough to distort your point of view entirely, but enough to make it difficult for you to speak to anyone normally or behave in an entirely rational manner.
Sometimes, you can be so deep into it the mire that you don’t even recognize you’re in a bad mood or behaving strangely.
However, even when you are fully aware that you’re seeing things through a veil of irritability and you’re not acting like your normal, sensible self, it doesn’t make it any easier to shake it off.
It’s human nature to be irritable now and again, and we’re all guilty of it. There are all kinds of reasons that we can start feeling irritable and we often can’t predict when it’s going to take over.
Sometimes we’ll wake up that way, while other times it will slowly come over us as various seemingly insignificant things all pile up and overwhelm us.
Sometimes, one specific event or contact with a particular certain person can instantly turn a sunny mood into a cloudy one.
That’s why it is so important to first ask:
Why Am I So Irritable?
Two of the biggest reasons we can feel irritable is if we’re either tired or hungry. I don’t know about you, but if I haven’t had my full eight hours or have gone more than four hours without eating, I’m not much fun to be around.
A hangover can make me pretty irritable too, especially as I know it’s completely self-inflicted.
Stress can be another huge contributing factor. If you’ve got a million things rushing around inside your brain, it can be difficult to remain tolerant or to be truly present in the moment.
When you’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders, it’s easy to be snappy with those around you.
Lastly, being in a certain situation or around certain people can also trigger irritability. An email or a text might do it, or the lack of one you were expecting.
A comment made by a colleague or partner, a stroppy child having a temper tantrum of their own, having to fork out for an unexpected bill, or missing your train, even if the delay is minimal, can tip the balance of your mood.
But let’s face it, being irritable has never helped anyone.
When we’re seeing things through that pink mist, it’s hard to achieve anything constructive. All we often end up doing is annoying everyone around us. Being irritable can increase the risk of arguments and mean we miss out on things.
If only there were a way to snap out of it…
Luckily, although not all of these will work for everyone, we’ve figured out a few tried and tested strategies to break free from an irritable mindset and get back to your normal self.
Whether or not they work will depend on what made you irritable in the first place. We can’t guarantee that any of these will magically lift your mood, but if you find a trick for getting yourself back to normal, you’ll thank me for it.
…as I’m sure will your family, friends, and colleagues.
1. Take A Nap
First things first, it’s time to make sure your basic human needs are covered.
Could your current mood be anything to do with the terrible night’s sleep you had? Have you been burning the candle at both ends?
I appreciate that grabbing a quick 20 minutes of shut-eye might not be a viable option if you’re at the office, but if you’re at all able to sneak off for a power nap, make sure you do.
Stick to the power nap rather than letting yourself sleep for a few hours because, as I’m sure you know, if you sleep for too long during the day, you often wake up feeling groggy and probably in a worse mood than when you went to sleep.
A quick nap can give you the energy you need to get on with your day having shaken off your irritability.
2. Have A Bite To Eat
Basic need number two. This one’s a bit easier to do whilst you’re at the office.
Although you might not think you’re hungry, if you’re in a surly mood, do yourself a favor and have a meal or quick snack and see if that does the trick.
I often don’t realize that I’ve been short-tempered and not firing on all cylinders until someone gives me food and I return to planet earth.
Try not to go for anything that’s all quick-release sugars, though, as you’ll only peak and then quickly trough again.
Having said that, sometimes there’s nothing better for a bad mood than a chocolate bar, and if you’ve got a craving for something, just indulge it. Denying yourself the food you really want will only make you feel more irritable.
3. Spend Some Time On Your Own
This one’s especially true if you’re a natural introvert, but anyone who’s feeling irritable could probably do with a bit of alone time.
You might only be able to get away with a five minute walk around the block or a quick cup of tea, or you might be able to treat yourself to a whole evening just for you, preferably featuring a bath and some good food.
You’ll give your mind a chance to slow down and, even if you can’t shake your irritability, at least you won’t be annoying anyone else or saying anything you’ll regret.
Whilst you’re having an evening on your own and nourishing yourself, the last thing you need is to be constantly receiving texts and emails, especially if it’s your stress levels and a long to-do list that are putting you on edge.
Our modern state of constant connectivity means we never really have a chance to switch off. We can still be receiving work emails at 9pm at night.
When you’re trying to snap out of a mood, switching on airplane mode can be a big help to avoid running the risk of suddenly receiving an email that will irritate you even more.
Leave your phone in another room for a while and it might help you feel like some of the weight has been temporarily lifted.
5. Get It Off Your Chest
Whilst I always recommend alone time for those feeling irritable, it can also be very good to vent.
Whatever has triggered you, moaning to someone that you know will listen sympathetically can help you articulate your frustration and then put it behind you.
Try to talk to a partner, family member, or close friend. Choose someone who loves you and who will offer support, kind words, and, if you ask for it, an honest opinion.
6. Then Ban Complaining
Rant over. Once you’ve discussed the problem with someone and voiced your irritation, don’t keep coming back to it and dwelling on it.
Forbid yourself from complaining about it, or about anything else for that matter.
Repeatedly complaining about a situation isn’t constructive, as it will keep your focus on it. In order to stop feeling irritable, you need to be able to stop thinking about it.
It’s hard to put a frown back on your face once a giggle has cracked your stony exterior.
8. Do Some Exercise
As you may know, exercise leads to the release of dopamine in your brain. This happy hormone automatically boosts your mood.
If you’re short on time, even a quick walk to the shops and back (for that snack we mentioned earlier!) can help blow the cobwebs away.
If you can escape, a gym session or a run will get your blood pumping and should help put a smile back on your face.
9. Ask For A Hug
Skin to skin contact is another great way of getting a dopamine hit. Ask someone you love very nicely if they wouldn’t mind giving you a hug to make you feel better.
They’ll much prefer that to having you snap at them, and it might be just what you need to relax.
10. Take A Mental Break
Have you ever tried meditation?
Although it might be nearly impossible to empty your mind of all thought when you’re irritable (it’s hard enough when you’re feeling calm!), meditation allows you to notice the thoughts that come to mind and drift across your consciousness, before you bring your focus back to your breath or whatever the object of the meditation session is.
Observing your thoughts whilst being detached from them helps you to disengage from them and prevent them from governing you and your behavior.
Try one of the many apps for a great, free introduction to the world of meditation.
11. Zone Out
Sometimes you just need to take your mind off it. Listen to your favorite podcast, get stuck into an audiobook, or watch an episode of your favorite series.
Anything that can capture your whole attention and take your mind off things can help to reset your mindset.
12. Laugh At Yourself
When we see other people being irritable, we realize just how unreasonable we ourselves can be once we’re seeing everything through a moody veil.
If you can manage to take a step back and see yourself how others are seeing you when you’re in this state of mind, you can often jolt yourself out of it by appreciating that you look a bit like a petulant child.
Try to find the funny side of your own sulky behavior and laugh about it. Don’t be afraid to take the Mickey out of yourself now and again.
None of the above are rocket science, but any one of them could be the key to getting you back to feeling more like your true self.
Just a simple change of mindset, a bit of a distraction or a bit of love, whether self-love or love from those around you, could become your secret weapon for banishing irritability.
Katie splits her time between writing and translation. She writes about travel and self-care and never stays in one place for too long. She’s currently based in beautiful Cornwall, England, after long stints in Brazil and Mexico. She spends her free time trail running, exploring and devouring vegan food.