The younger sibling of anger can be just as mysterious, just as damaging to relationships, and sometimes harder to shake than its big brother. How often have you woken up feeling irritable for no reason? Anything can set you off when you’re in a bad mood.

There are many possible causes of irritability – stress, fatigue, hormones, pain, or boredom. More serious causes include depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, chronic pain, or drug or alcohol withdrawal. Irritability can also be a side effect of some medications.

Everyone is irritable sometimes, but if you are often reacting with very little cause and your ability to function at home or at work is decreasing, it might be time to seek medical advice. Once you have been cleared of the more serious causes of irritability, try these strategies:

  1. Ride through a bad mood – Sometimes when you accept that you’re in a bad mood, it doesn’t last as long. Whereas looking around for who or what to blame can prolong the mood.
  2. Warn those around you – It’s helpful to everyone if you warn friends or family members that you are feeling out of sorts. They can hopefully show you some empathy and at least they won’t take your irritability personally.
  3. Don’t make important decisions when irritable – Beware of state dependent decision making. That’s when we quit a job or threaten to end a relationship when we’re feeling really irritable only to regret it later.
  4. Nurture yourself – If you’re feeling terrible, try not to make it worse by binge eating or drinking. Instead, run a bath, sit by the beach, get a massage, or go for a walk.
  5.  Look for a pattern – By keeping a diary for a month or so, you might notice that you’re more irritable on Mondays, or after a big night out, or when you haven’t been exercising. If you notice a pattern, look for ways to break the cycle by planning something pleasant on Monday nights or avoiding certain situations when you’re over-tired.

And finally, if you are living with an irritable partner, try not to take their mood personally. Instead, gently point out that you’re concerned about them and suggest they read Jo Lamble’s blog 🙂


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