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How to Deal with Both Anxiety and Irritability

Anxiety and Irritability often occur together thanks to automatic negative thought patterns. These techniques can help you reduce anxiety and irritability.

Anxiety and irritability are often connected. Ever have days when, in addition to feeling wired and anxious, you feel irritated and annoyed at almost everything—and everyone? Anxiety has a way of turning this into a growing problem. Rather than feeling irritable and moving on, anxiety makes people worry about the consequences of things they do or say when irritable and creates feelings of guilt. Guilt increases anxiety, and annoyance at the whole situation builds. This feels like an inescapable horror, but you can escape this cycle of anxiety and irritability.

The Connection Between Anxiety and Irritability

Anxiety involves, among other things, automatic negative thought patterns. Anxiety affects the way we interpret the world around us. Types of negative thoughts common in anxiety include:

  • Catastrophizing, or assuming the worst will happen
  • Black-and-white thinking, or all-or-nothing thinking where happy mediums don’t exist
  • “Should” statements, or imposing rules on yourself or the world
  • Mind-reading, or believing that you know what others are thinking about you
  • Harsh self-labels, or calling yourself nasty names
  • Dwelling on the negative, placing more importance on the “downs” than the “ups”

This thinking affects our interactions with those around us, and it influences our emotions. These thinking patterns cause and increase both anxiety and irritability. When you assume that the worst will happen, or when you tell yourself that you shouldn’t be such a bad partner, for example, it makes perfect sense that you feel anxious and irritated.

The connection between anxiety and irritability is logical, but you don’t have to be stuck in these thoughts and feelings. It’s possible to reduce both anxiety and irritability.

How to Deal with Anxiety and Irritability

When you’re frustrated by anxiety and irritability, try these techniques to improve your day.

Notice and accept: Tune into your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. Accept them as temporary byproducts of the irritability and anxiety, but don’t buy into them or let them make you think they’re a permanent part of your day.

Remember who you are: What about yourself makes you proud? How do you want to be in this moment?

Consider your choices: We can’t always control what’s going on around us, and we certainly can’t control other people, but we can control our own reactions to the world around us and within us. We’re never truly without choices. In your current situation, what are your choices?

Act: What can you do to purposefully turn your mood around? What one thing can you do to increase your sense of control now?

Connect: Connecting with others, especially if you can share a little laughter, goes a long way toward decreasing irritability.

We’re human, imperfect people living imperfect lives. We experience anxiety and irritability, but we’re not slaves to them. It’s possible to reduce both anxiety and irritability.

Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of four critically-acclaimed, award-winning novels about mental health challenges as well as a self-help book on acceptance and commitment therapy. She speaks nationally about mental health, and she has a curriculum for middle and high schools. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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