One common reaction to a steady diet of stress is an increase in irritability. Even the most mild-mannered of us can develop a short temper under the strain of current events. Between home-schooling and furloughs, families are cooped up together at home for weeks. It is only natural for siblings and spouses to be “getting in each other’s hair.” Add health and money worries to the mix, and it’s no wonder people may start snapping at each other.
Psychotherapist Judy Beck, LCSW-R, at Saratoga Community Health Center offers several suggestions for keeping your temper in check.
“First, it’s important to recognize that your temper may be getting out of hand,” Judy says. “You can’t fix something if you are either not aware or denying that it’s there. Anger can be a pretty sensitive topic for some people, which is why we make sure to offer our services without judgement. These are tough times, so believe me, you are not alone.”
Judy says you can get a pretty good idea about whether or not your temper is becoming a problem by the impact you have on the people around you—your coworkers, kids, significant other, roommate and others you interact with regularly. If the natural rhythm of that interaction is no longer there, something might be wrong. If you feel comfortable doing so, reach out to someone you trust and ask them whether they’ve noticed an increase in your irritability.
The answer is likely to be “yes,” because everyone is feeling the strain of the times, but Judy says to consider the level of intensity. If you are expressing mild frustration a couple times a day more than usual, but without incident, that’s likely not an issue. If your temper flares twice a week, but in a big way, then that’s a problem.
“That’s why it is really good to talk with a professional,” Judy says. “It’s all about context.”
Here are some tips for managing stress-related frustration or irritability:
- Walk away for a moment.
- Get some fresh air.
- Count to ten before you speak.
- Repeat a mantra to yourself, such as “this, too, shall pass.”
“When you are fuming with steam coming out of your ears, you may need a little more than fresh air,” Judy says. “Going for a run or some other exercise will help you shed that excess energy. Doing a mindless chore can help, too. Washing dishes, picking weeds out of the garden—as long as it’s something physical, it can keep your anger directed away from doing anyone unintentional harm.”
Like any health concern, Judy says, it’s a good idea to check in with your primary care provider, who can give you a referral to a mental health provider. Other resources include an Employee Assistance Program, if your employer offers one, or call your county mental health department for a referral. Many providers offer a sliding scale if you don’t have health insurance.
Here at Saratoga Hospital, we offer behavioral health services through our Primary Care practices, including medication management and counseling at Saratoga Community Health Center, or Inpatient Mental Health services (for those at risk of harming themselves or others), as well as substance abuse and behavioral health counseling through our Addiction Medicine services. Learn more at SaratogaHospital.org.
If the anger in your home is serious to the point you do not feel safe, and you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.
Other resources for family violence include Wellspring (formerly the Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services of Saratoga County), the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, the NYS Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment.
Wellspring is available 24-hours a day, 7 days a week through their hotline at 518-584-8188. NYSCADV’s 24-hour
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Wellspring is available 24-hours a day, 7 days a week through their hotline at 518-584-8188. NYSCADV’s 24-hour hotline is 1-800-942-6906 (English) or 1-800-942-6908 (Spanish). The State’s Child Abuse hotline is 1-800-342-3720.
- Suicide Prevention Coalition of Saratoga County: 1-800-273-8255
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8225
- Saratoga County Crisis Line Hot Line: 1-518-584-9030
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)