I work with people from all walks of life who have been saying the same thing lately…
"I have completely lost my patience."
"I am at the end of my rope."
"I'm irritable and always snapping at people, especially my own family."
Being irritable is no trivial matter; it can lead to actions that are permanent and irreversible. If we lack the ability to manage our irritability, we become emotional time-bombs, ready to blow at the next spark of injustice. Irritability does not exist on its own; it swims with other negative emotions such as anxiety and low self-esteem.
Here are 4 things to be aware of that can cause irritability:
1. Lack of restorative (Yin) activities in your schedule.
Many people live their lives according to the "work-hard/play-hard" matrix. Pushing your body, mind, and spirit without proper rest will eventually result in exhaustion and adrenal fatigue. People who are exhausted are often irritable since everyday activities feel like taxing chores. I am constantly advocating for the addition of "rest hard" into my patients' schedules.
2. Hormones and Neurochemicals.
Irritability may be caused by abnormal levels of sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. These hormones have an interesting influence over serotonin (our feel good neurochemical) which explains why PMS or low testosterone can result in moodiness.
Bonus - fluctuating thyroid hormone levels can also lead to irritability.
Those candy bar commercials got it right - low blood sugar can lead to irritability. Fasting can influence the release of adrenaline, and when fasting is combined with caffeine (a popular appetite suppressant), it can needlessly create a stress response in your body. If you are someone who misses meals or practices various forms of fasting: be aware of your mood while on an empty stomach.
4. Procrastination and Resistance.
There have been some new developments in our understanding of procrastination. Procrastination is likely related to negative emotions such as fear (of failure) rather than low willpower.
The next time you find yourself procrastinating, be curious about which negative emotions are bogging you down. Identify and overcome these emotions with the support of a health professional.
Before ending this blog, it's worthwhile to mention other factors like poor sleep and chronic pain. In truth, there are a myriad of reasons why somebody might be irritable. The key is to uncover the root cause and to heal at your own pace.
-Dr. Riley, ND
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