How to quell baseless anger and anxiety?
May 8, 2013 10:10 AM   Subscribe

I've been randomly angry and anxious lately and I don't want to be. What can I do?

Over the last few weeks and especially this week, I have been randomly anxious and angry. It does not make sense because my anxiety is under control (I am self-aware and comply with my medication and "graduated" from CBT) and anger is not an emotion I usually have or know what to do with. This has been interfering with my sleep and causing a vicious circle. I'd like to take care of this without either going back to therapy or upping my medication.

My life is better than it has ever been before. I have a lot of important stuff on my plate, but I have complete confidence in my and my partner's abilities to deal with it. I deal with problems by either dealing with them and knowing I did the best I can or letting them roll off me if they're not the sort of problems I can deal with. Lately I am angry as a baseline and it is making me angry at life's little jabs (someone saying something stupid, a commercial I do not like, being stuck in traffic) which isn't something I'm used to or comfortable with, or a productive way of living IMO.

I vaporize (not smoke, FYI) pot as a nightcap on weekdays (but only after getting done at home what needs to be done) and sometimes on weekends. It's never very much. I also occasionally use it instead of taking lorazepam. My diet is better than it has ever been, and I am eating healthy most of the time. I do not exercise as I have a ligament issue in my knee which makes many kinds of exercise very painful, which is not an excuse I know.

I am unhappy with this and the apparent baselessness of the anger and anxiety is contributing to the vicious circle. What can I do?
posted by A god with hooves, a god with horns to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
posted by oceanjesse at 10:16 AM on May 8, 2013

Not to pry, but what's your current medication, and how long have you been taking it? There are several antidepressants/ADHD meds that have irritability and anxiety as side effects.

One thing you can you do to treat this sort of thing in the moment is breathing exercises: take a very deep breath through your nose, breathing with your diaphragm (that is, so your stomach expands outwards when you breathe in rather than your chest), hold it briefly, and then relax your abdomen and let it out through your mouth. For the first few seconds it feels kind of dumb, but if you use your CBT training to try to put those thoughts aside and really just focus on the sensation of breathing it really does help. It's also worth doing even when you're just sitting around, since it has all sorts of good effects on your baseline mood and blood pressure (literally) if you do it regularly.
posted by invitapriore at 10:22 AM on May 8, 2013

Focus on the sleep. Sleep is everything. You can fix everything else and still be screwed if you're not sleeping.

Try without the weed for a couple of weeks, and see if you can find some kind of activity that you can comfortably do for a half hour a few nights a week. Devote some focus to your bedtime rituals, make sure your pillows haven't gotten too old to hold you up properly, flip/spin your mattress if you haven't lately, deal with any noise (or lack thereof) or light that might be disrupting you.

You may also need to mess with the timing of your medication if it's winding you up.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:24 AM on May 8, 2013

Lyn Never brings up a good point with the weed, it's probably fine but some people get kind of a hangover the next day which can manifest as this type of irritability. I definitely second doing an experiment to see whether that's contributing.
posted by invitapriore at 10:27 AM on May 8, 2013

Hello fellow anxious person. I know you said exercise isn't an option, but what about something low impact like swimming or walking? When my anxiety builds, I need to tire myself physically out to calm my head. Going to bed and getting up at the same time everyday is also a critical part of this process, as is reducing my sugar and caffeine intake.

I also started painting last year and it's a fantastic stress reliever. It allows me to focus my attention elsewhere and I end up with something tangible for my efforts.

I also smoke a bit too and quitting didn't help me, but the above things did.
posted by futureisunwritten at 10:29 AM on May 8, 2013

In all seriousness, could it be a side effect of seasonal allergies?

If you've successfully completed CBT then you're no doubt aware that sometimes our bodies can trigger those feelings without our conscious mind understanding why. And sometimes, there is no mental issue going on; it's physical stress.

Allergies can do that. Make you tired in the day, make it hard to sleep at night, you get into a cranky, sleep-deprived cycle and voila...anxiety and anger ramp up.

Speaking personally, if I don't keep up a regular dose of Allegra-D during hardcore tree pollen season, I get inexplicably weepy and/or short-tempered. I don't get sneezy and runny-nosed, I get anxious.
posted by kinetic at 10:31 AM on May 8, 2013

I find that if I'm anxious, any stray angry thought will immediately be brought to front and centre and stay right there, winding me up. Often it's over a perceived slight or injustice, and I rehearse how I'd handle the conversation now if I could, or what I'd do differently next time. The problem is that there's no self defined end-point to this - it just keeps looping round and round in my head and stewing.

I've found writing down what I'd do differently to be helpful. It forces me to create a specific plan of action, which also gives me the necessary end point. I work out what to do, then set a plan in place to do it.

I've also found meditation to be helpful when handling emotions. Sitting and breathing and feeling what my body is up to works, or I ask myself a question and wait for the answer to float up. Maybe try just sitting with the anger for a while. It sounds silly, but see it as a separate entity, and ask it what it's trying to tell you. Listen for the answer.

Regarding CBT, chapter 7 of Feeling Good is all about anger.
posted by Solomon at 10:40 AM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Lately I am angry as a baseline and it is making me angry at life's little jabs (someone saying something stupid, a commercial I do not like, being stuck in traffic) which isn't something I'm used to or comfortable with, or a productive way of living IMO.

I get this way as well. And when I read this I thought immediately of this new post about DFW on the Blue. When I viewed the video link, it made me think a lot about my baseline anger. And DFW addresses it in a way that I think will at least give me pause the next time I am stuck in traffic or feeling annoyed in a line at the grocery store. I encourage you to check it out.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 11:31 AM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

The best answer is exercise, which sucks, with your knee messed up. Is there anything you can do? Maybe swim? What about alternating sets of push ups and crunches - neither of those should impact your knee. Even 20 minutes of alternating sets upon waking and then again after work should help, especially if your current exercise rate is zero.

Bonus points if you can possibly do it outside. Something about fresh air and sunshine helps.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:18 PM on May 8, 2013

I'm amazed no one but Lyn mentioned sleep.

That would pretty much be the start and end of my advice. Sleep.

If i sleep crappy a couple days in a row, or a couple unconnected days in a week i'll have random flareups of this kind of odd, out of character annoying or ease of "getting a rise" out of minor things for a couple days afterwards.

Sometimes all it takes is a night or two of it, even just one night. Then one crappy minor situation and my entire day is a weird slush of this kind of thing.

I also have friends who I've noticed suddenly drop this type of random behavior when they quit smoking weed for a while, or cut way back. But if i had to chose one piece of advice it would be sleep.
posted by emptythought at 3:43 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Try paying attention to your dreams and daydreams to see if there's some stressor that has come to the surface. Get some extra sleep, sunshine, and be extra good to yourself with nutrition, and maybe some chocolate.
posted by theora55 at 4:17 PM on May 9, 2013

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