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Sheltering-in-Place Making You Irritable?


You’re not alone.  Irritability is a by-product of anxiety, and we are all anxious….and disoriented.  Confinement also promotes aggression, both in people as well as in animals. Because of having to shelter-in-place to stay safe, irritability and aggression are on the rise, with higher rates of conflict ranging from bickering to domestic violence.  You don’t have to be victimized by your own anger or anyone else’s.  You can intervene.  If there is any emotional or physical abuse occurring in your family now, it is crucial to seek out help immediately.  Virtual Mental Health Services are available, and if you are unemployed you can find them for no cost, or low-cost.

For the majority of us who are not out of control, but overly stressed by dealing with confinement, how does that irritability manifest itself?  You might be getting angry at yourself for not exercising, or for eating too much, or staying up too late, or forgetting something…(like what day it is). You might also be getting angry at your roommate, spouse, or children, for the most trivial things.  Are you ready to go to the mat defending an opinion on something you usually wouldn’t care about?  Even though staying home is the best thing we can do right now, it can bring out the worst in us all.  So, what else can we do?

  1. Have empathy for yourself. Give yourself a break.  Take a minute – wait until the angry voice in your head has quieted down – and remember that you are going through something difficult and unfamiliar.  Try to forgive yourself for whatever you did or didn’t do, remembering that in the big picture it probably is not as important as feels.
  2. Have empathy for the people who live with you.  Everyone has a short fuse and it doesn’t take much to ignite.  Others are going through as much as you are, and need a break just like you do. When you have an outburst at someone over a small transgression, apologize.  And if someone apologizes to you, receive it graciously.  Start over every day with the ones you love – or if necessary, every hour.
  3. Exercise.  Talk a walk, a run, a bike ride.  If you can’t get outside try an exercise bike, a treadmill, or at least do some stretching.
  4.  Practice gratitude.  Gratitude can go a long way to calm us down and help us re-orient in an uncertain situation.  Here some people and things to be grateful for:

– The heroic medical professionals, who are risking their own health tending to the sick.

– Your own health, if you are lucky enough to be healthy.

– Scientists who are studying the statistics, and recommending guidelines for us.

– Journalists who bring us news from all around the world, 24/7, on television and in writing.

– The people who are still doing their jobs in grocery stores, pharmacies, making deliveries.

– The good will of volunteers who are helping out in so many ways.

– The Internet. In addition to reading and seeing limitless content, the opportunity we have to connect with family and friends virtually, even though we can’t see them in person, is a huge comfort.

– Creativity. Funny and touching videos, music, and anecdotes show up through email or text in abundance every day.  Enjoy those, and maybe even create one.

We hear about the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 and compare it to what we are going through now.  But – not only did they have no Internet, but no T.V. either.  We think we feel lonely and cut off?  Imagine what it was like for them!  So while we are in this difficult time, with all of our normal routines suspended, it will help to take a pause. If we can develop more gratitude for what we do have, as well as patience and kindness with ourselves and those close to us, this time of staying home might have a silver lining.