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Why Am I So Irritable? Simple Steps to Reduce Irritability


Do you often feel irritable? Are you easily annoyed by things?

Irritability often comes with feeling annoyed, frustrated or getting upset.

What causes irritability?

Irritability can be caused by many things.

These can be physical:

  • Certain illnesses
  • Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Hormonal changes
  • Lack of sleep
  • Medication
  • Alcohol or drug/substance abuse
  • Diet

Or they can be psychological:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Two of the main reasons for feeling irritable are when we are either tired or hungry. We all feel grumpy when we have not slept enough or when we have not eaten for a while. So, tending to our most basic needs of being fed and sleeping is often all there is to be done to feel better.

What symptoms are linked to irritability?

Irritability can be accompanied by other symptoms such as accelerated breathing, sweating, racing heart, confusion or anger. If caused by hormonal changes, you can also find yourself with irregular periods, hot flushes, headaches, low libido or fever.

How to deal with irritability?

Tackling your irritability will depend on its underlying cause: stress, lack of sleep, hunger, mental health issue, alcohol or drug/substance abuse, hormonal imbalance, illness…

The first thing to check is if your irritability is caused by a mental health issue or some possible hormonal imbalances. Book an appointment with your doctor as there are a number of standard tests that can be done to clarify the situation.

In the meantime, there is a number of everyday things that can be done as well such as

  • Diet changes
  • Exercise routine
  • Sleep management
  • Stress management

How can I reduce my irritability?

  • Practice deep breathing

When we feel irritable, our body responds by releasing cortisol, our stress hormone. This leads to physiological changes such as increased heart rate, sweating, rise in blood pressure and tighter breathing. Taking a few deep breaths can help calm your body. This, in turn, helps calm your mind and lower your irritability.

So if you feel stressed or irritable, inhale slowly through your nose for five seconds, hold for 5 seconds and exhale slowly through your mouth for another 5 seconds. Do a set of three and you should feel better.

  • Have a daily exercise routine

Numerous studies have shown the benefits exercise can have on both our physical body and our mental health. Exercise stimulates the release of “feel good” hormones such as endorphins and can therefore be a good way to relieve irritability. It does not have to be strenuous: in fact, it shouldn’t as too much exercise can cause stress and lead to irritability. So, find a few activities that you enjoy and mix and match them through the week: go for a walk, do stretching exercises, have a swim, take a yoga class…

  • Switch off from technology

Our constant connectivity means we rarely switch off. This leads to increased stress levels and can cause irritability. So, you may want to try – even if only for 1 night a week to start with – to turn off your electronic devices: shut down your computer, switch your phone to airplane mode or turn it off completely and opt for an activity that will calm you down instead.

  • Have some fun

Try looking at life a little less seriously. Have more fun and laughter. Watch a funny film. Listen to upbeat music and, why not, dance in your living room! Read something fun. Have a laugh with a friend. Look at things with a sense of humour. Practice taking things more lightly.

  • Spend quality time with those you love

Often, when we feel irritable, we retreat into ourselves and disconnect from others. This often feeds into a loop of even more frustration and irritability. So, shake yourself up and get out: call your friends or your darling sister/brother and meet up for some time together. Exchange, chat, remake the world together. It will lift your mood!

  • Practice mindfulness

In the same way that deep breathing can calm the mind, the practice of a daily meditation routine – even if only for 10 minutes – can help you to reach a sense of stillness. There are lots of free app or meditations online so give it a try, it could be life-changing!

  • Eat well

In today’s world, there is increased availability of foods that disrupt our mood. Food exerts a direct influence on our brain chemistry and therefore has an important impact on how we feel and behave.

There are foods that can improve our mood and make us feel better and we discussed these in our blog The link between gut issues and low mood – and why food matters

On the opposite, there are foods that disrupt our blood sugar levels: they spike rapidly and then crash as rapidly, making us feel tired and irritable. You have heard of them already, they are the usual suspects:

  • Processed food such as processed carbohydrates in the form of white bread, white pasta, pastries…
  • Junk food, usually high in sugar and/or salt such as cakes, biscuits, fast foods (burgers, pizzas…), snacks (crisps, crackers..), sugary drinks….
  • Excessive coffee intake
  • Excessive alcohol consumption

In addition, people suffering with allergy to specific ingredients such as gluten, peanuts, dairy, etc should stay clear of these foods.

So, as you can see, there are many things we can put in place to help us go through these periods when we are feeling grumpy and irritable. Try them, see how it goes and let me know what has worked or not! I would love to hear from you!

If you find yourself struggling with persistent irritability and cannot manage to shift it away, I recommend you seek advice from your personal doctor.

However, for most people, a little irritability is to be expected in life and implementing a few simple things into your daily routine can be all you need to feel better. If you would like to explore this further, feel free to check my services as a Nutritional Therapist, get in touch with me here or call me on 07788 444 199.