It sneaks up on you. That feeling we all know too well. You’re trying to get the kids out of the door in the morning, you’re running late, your kid will not put their shoes on and then it happens. You snap. Yell. Threaten to take the iPad away and so on. Irritability, anger, and agitation are becoming a more common part of your personality. You start seeing it affect your relationship with the people you love the most. Your spouse and kids usually get the worst of it. Afterwards you always feel guilty and wished you would’ve handled that situation better.
Many people do not know that anger, agitation and irritability are common symptoms of anxiety. When we are stressed and overwhelmed we are more vulnerable to being triggered by little things. We have a hard time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel because it feels like the tunnel is slowly closing in on us.
It helps to start being more aware of days/times/situations that you find yourself getting angry and irritable. Is it always the morning? Or maybe it starts to set in on the commute home from work when dinner, homework and bedtime loom over you. Check-in with yourself and start keeping a note on your phone of days/times when you get irritable. You’ll probably start noticing a pattern with your behavior. The basic awareness will be helpful as you get ready to walk-in and face the particular situations that set you off.
If you find yourself in a situation where you are becoming angry and agitated, it may help to validate the way you are feeling. We have a tendency to race through the day having different thoughts and feeling different emotions. We usually experience the thought or feeling and never give it a second thought. Validating your feelings, while it may sound cheesy, is a great way to acknowledge something you are experiencing and give it a name. If you find yourself losing your temper with your kids, validate the irritation you are feeling. “I’m irritated because my kids aren’t listening to me and I’m running late for a meeting at work.” Saying this to yourself helps you pause in the moment and allows for you to choose a different interaction.
Finally, it’s important to communicate with the people important to you. If you find yourself always taking your anger out on your spouse, talk to them. Let them know that you’ve noticed (and are sure they also notice) that you’ve been on edge lately. Tell them how they can help you in the moment. Let them know you are more aware of how you are feeling and that you are working on making better choices with your actions and words.
Hillary Pilotto, MA, LCPC is a licensed clinical therapist with New Dawn Wellness Group. She is trained in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. She sees patients at both Oak Lawn and Orland Park location. www.NewDawnWellnessGroup.com