As you go about your day, have you noticed that every little thing someone does makes you mad? Whether it’s a family member, friend, or coworker, suddenly their very mundane traits have started getting on your nerves. You’re not alone! The challenges of the past couple of years have frayed our patience and left us feeling more irritable than ever. Here, find simple ways to discover genuine serenity.
Listen to you.
“Name what you’re feeling, such as frustration, anxiety, anger,” urges expert Sarah A. Schnitker, PhD. Identifying your emotions helps you put them in a larger context—are they coming from outside yourself or within? Most of us assume that external stresses are the cause of our irritability, but they can easily be closer to home: “Negative self-talk, for example, may be gnawing at you. Just listening to yourself helps you see what’s really upsetting you.”
Give yourself a pass.
“How can I learn to never yell? What can I do so I never get annoyed?” Expert Sharon Salzberg often hears these questions from folks looking to tame that irritable feeling. “The answer is: It’s not going to happen!” she declares. “We’re all going to be overwhelmed at times, and the key is to forgive yourself. Acknowledging you’re human helps negative thoughts pass.”
Take a ‘time leap.’
Whether it’s a traffic jam or a comment from your mother-in-law, there is one proven strategy for every type of frustration: reframing, says Schnitker. That often means “time traveling” in your mind: “If you’re stuck in traffic, you might say, ‘Well, 100 years ago, it took months to get anywhere.’ Or, ‘Five years from now, will this really matter?’ This strategy requires an imaginative leap — and you can’t be irritated when you’re being creative.”
Breathe away tension.
“Whoever or whatever it is that’s getting to us, we need to create space for ourselves to prevent us from rushing into action,” says Salzberg. “And breathing deeply lets us do that.” Indeed, paced breathing—inhaling for a count of 4, holding for 4, and exhaling for 8—calms us instantly by slowing our heart rate, adds expert Julie Catalano. “A lot of my clients also distract themselves with a crossword or podcast—anything that slows us down makes us feel better.”
Pierce the veil.
A sense of spirituality is linked with greater patience. That’s because having a “transcendent identity,” or feeling part of a larger world, helps us put frustrations into perspective. “If someone is rude, for example, we’re able to say, ‘They must be going through something,’” notes Salzberg. “It helps us pierce the veil of others’ behavior to understand them better so instead of being reactive, we can think about how to respond.”
Make a plan.
Once you’re able to cue calm in the moment, create an easy plan for the future, urges Salzberg. “Picture your trigger, and envision what you can do to stay in control.” If, say, someone gets on your nerves by asking too much of you, imagine excusing yourself to leave the room or telling them that you have to think about their request. “Learning to trust yourself takes time, but it’s the key to lasting peace.”
While feeling irritable and frustrated is always unpleasant, we don’t have to stay in those feelings. Trust yourself and use these tips to fall into a better mood!