I feel cranky, oh so cranky
January 9, 2009 10:22 AM   Subscribe

I spend much more time feeling cranky than I would like to. When something makes me angry, I don't just get mad and then get over it. I brood on it, and at random times over the next few days, that cranky feeling will pop up and I'll relive the incident that made me cranky in the first place, and all of the original bad feeling comes back. Does anyone have some practical solutions to help me break out of these persistent crabby moods? I'm generally in a pretty good mood unless I feel crabby.

Normal relaxation techniques, which I use and love when I'm just feeling a little stressed, don't work here. This crabby mood is so strong that sometimes I even get broody in yoga class. A remembered insult will pop up, and even as I'm holding a pose and breathing deeply, I feel brooding and cranky.

Talk therapy didn't work, but maybe some other type will. I'm open to suggestions.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Vigorous physical exercise, maybe? Focus the crabbiness into running/cycling/swimming or somesuch.
posted by jquinby at 10:27 AM on January 9, 2009

This has been happening to me a lot too. I've found that I do best when I don't try to fight it. I let the playback happen, be crabby, but let it go. The crabby episodes have a shorter frequency now.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:42 AM on January 9, 2009

1) Get more sleep.

2) Get more exercise.

You'd be surprised what a difference that makes. A little more energy in your system can make all the difference in the world between a random incident affecting you not at all or bothering you all day. As most people, especially Americans, sleep and exercise far too little, it's not surprising that so many of us are cranky all the time.

As far as sleep, most people need 7-8 hours a night to be really rested. Some need less, some need more; you have to find what works for you. But do find that point, because if you aren't getting enough sleep, you'll be so much less productive--and more cranky--that the extra hours won't nearly make up for it.
posted by valkyryn at 10:55 AM on January 9, 2009

Seconding Light Fantastic. Invariably, I find that the way to prolong a mood is to talk myself out of it -- something happens that pisses me off, but if I start up with a cycle of "Oh, it's not a big deal, I should snap out of it"..."Jesus, why is this still bothering me? It shouldn't be, come on..." "Arg, why am I dwelling on this? I have to let go..." and other talking-myself-out-of-it language. Things will still pop up and I'll relive them, like you say, but if I deal with it by trying to talk myself out of it -- "arg, I shouldn't be letting that get to me, still" -- then it prolongs it.

The only thing that ever works is to give myself permission to go ahead and be angry -- "Okay, FINE, I admit it, I'm ANGRY about that shit, because it SUCKED," then....my mood lifts within an hour, invariably.

Sometimes the quickest way out of a mood is through it. If you're still getting crabby about an incident, maybe it's because you keep backing away from diving full-on into the crabby, and if you just went ahead and let yourself BE crabby, then whatever part of your brain is looking for validation would say, "THANK you, I just wanted my moment" and would leave.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:03 AM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I find "the four Rs" to be incredibly helpful in these situations.
posted by mothershock at 11:19 AM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

One thing I've noticed is that it's just not practical to go from being angry to being happy. It's too big of a leap. So what I've done is try and feel a little better at time. Like maybe going from "that shouldn't have happened!" to "But it did happen and it sucked" to "next time I'll do this" etc.

Focusing on just feeling better than I feel right now rather than going in the "I should feel better than this" cycle has helped me feel more in control and dwell less.
posted by Kimberly at 11:38 AM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Try letting yourself feel angry at whatever it was that annoyed you. If it's a person, picture that person's face, and rant and rave at it, and get all the bile out. Then, when you're feeling calmer, do something grounding. I do a crossword puzzle. It keeps my brain active, but it takes it away from the anger, and puts the energy somewhere useful.

This works well for me. I also sometimes use a visualisation technique, where I play the "video" through, and then let it fade to white. Sometimes I add transition effects, like in a powerpoint presentation. It all seems to help.
posted by Solomon at 12:00 PM on January 9, 2009

I agree with the exercise and sleep, and diet makes a huge difference for me, too.

Memail me if you want to hear what worked for me, but in general I've discovered I need to take more vitamins and supplements in the winter particularly. I don't know what hemisphere you're in so maybe the winter thing doesn't apply.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:00 PM on January 9, 2009

If the issue is relatively minor, I can often quickly reason my way out of it this way: "what will be fixed or improved by continuing to brood about it?" The answer is, of course, "nothing." At which point the idea of "so, quit brooding already" usually presents itself as the most attractive choice. Bigger issues require a little more mindfulness, a la mothershock's suggestion of the "Four R's."
posted by scody at 12:41 PM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

When I am crabby, I need to (a) avoid other people, and (b) do something distracting that gets me "out of my head." Read a book, watch TV, work on a project. Working out definitely does not work for me on this because my brain will still think about cranky things even while I exercise, so I definitely need a mental focus.

Sadly, there's nothing like me being cranky to get everyone to flock around me demanding that I be sweetness and light :P
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:53 PM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I very specifically get short-tempered if I don't get enough sleep (over at least multiple days, not just one night). For me it's a clear physical cause-and-effect.
posted by madmethods at 5:46 PM on January 9, 2009

If I allow myself to dwell for too long immediately after the incident, it becomes much more likely that the anger will pop up at unrelated moments later. I think this may have something to do with short-term and long-term memory.

If I spend the hour immediately after an argument replaying it in my head, every hurtful word winds up burned into my long term memory. (Which means that I can obsess over the details of who said what to whom and that chance associations will lead me to replay it in my head any time something tangentially related happens.)

If I spend the hour after an argument trying to survive a plague of zombies, my mind will be totally taken up with amassing weapons and saving my loved ones. (Which means that while I may remember the argument later it will not be in particularly vivid detail, since my short term memories will have been overwritten.)

Since the zombies annoyingly refuse to attack at my convenience, I distract myself in other ways. Anything works so long as it requires concentration and is totally removed from whatever was pissing me off. Reading Victorian children's books is my current strategy.

NB. This strategy also works for other emotions, like embarrassment.
posted by the latin mouse at 6:06 PM on January 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm amazed that no one has mentioned this yet, but you may be experiencing blood sugar lows and need to eat more regularly or this can trigger ongoing low level crankiness. Lots of people don't realize when they are hungry and they get really cranky. This may be exacerbated in the winter, by the low mood most people get from low light if you are in a relevant latitude.

Tip: don't eat candy on an empty stomach or you will just crash a few hours later and be lower than you were initially. eat a proper meal or eat a snack like nuts that has some protein, not just sugar or salt.

If you keep your blood sugar relatively balanced and avoid highs and lows, you can definitely reduce crankiness.
posted by Maias at 8:04 PM on January 9, 2009

Don't be surprised about feeling angry in a yoga class. The western version of yoga has developed this happy, stretchy, feminine image hardly taking into account that one can be really aggressive and demanding with it --as much, if not more than any sort of martial arts.

But anyhow, more generally --I get this ongoing crankiness as well. It's dangerous because I often feel like physically harming others. What I can do sometimes to counteract this is deliver some pseudo passive aggressive (aka f*ck you) smiles and greetings. That is, I don't entirely intend it as good cheer to begin with (even though it may be perceived that way), but what I get in return is often love and vulnerability which even in my worst mood lowers if not neutralizes the negative energy. In other words I can feel nasty on the inside (F*CK IT), but if I can fake my outside to appear cheerful the positive reciprocation penetrates deeply enough to change my mood entirely. This doesn't work in all cases, and it's still experimental for me.
posted by ezekieldas at 6:00 AM on January 10, 2009

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