Irritability emergency!
August 13, 2014 7:43 AM   Subscribe

I'm feeling extremely irritable today and every person I'm in contact with is pissing me off. But I need to get in a good mood fast! I'm leading an important meeting this afternoon (3 hours from now) and I cannot be scowling or grumbling. But my chest feels tight and heavy like lead--basically, what feels like an acute and grouchy depression-ish thing. How can I quickly suppress (or deal with) this and power through an intense interpersonal time?

Other details:
- Have not had much coffee this morning (thinking it'd ramp up my anxiety)
- Did take my usual 150 mg Wellbutrin upon waking
- Have Xanax available if I need it (but I reserve it as a last resort)
- Have been exercising regularly, eating well, getting full nights' sleep
- Did take Ambien, the past two nights, if that is a factor in next-day grouchiness?

Any suggestions, mantras, or general "consider this point of view when dealing with other people" statements would be welcome. The meeting will be roughly two hours long and I cannot phone it in--I need to be present and cheerful and on top of my game. What can I do in the next three hours to fix or lessen this irritability? Thanks!!
posted by magdalemon to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Can you take a walk? I find that taking a walk can be a very good way to change my perspective. Go walk around outside for 15 or 30 minutes and come back and see how you feel.

Make some plans to do something lovely and decadent alone tonight - take a hot bath, watch a good movie, order pizza, etc. Give yourself something good to look forward to, something that involves no one but yourself.

Good luck in your meeting.
posted by sockermom at 7:47 AM on August 13, 2014 [9 favorites]

You may wanna take the "get it out of your system" approach and have a mini temper-tantrum for yourself. Listen to angry rock and play air drums, get to a room where you will be alone and shadow-box, that kind of thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:47 AM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would spend my lunch break (if you're already in the office) to take a walk, get some food that feels like a bit of a treat (whatever that is for you), and make sure to breathe.

When I get into these states, its normally my mind/body telling me that it needs short vacation from the grind, and as soon as I give it that, I feel a lot better. Listen to what your body wants.

Good luck!
posted by lownote at 7:49 AM on August 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

I find that running up and down stairs or going on a no-phone-no-camera walk out in nature can help me with this. Have a small amount of coffee and eat something that is basically good for you will give you a good footing. Otherwise remember that everyone is trying to be their best selves and you can always kill them with your mind later if that appears to not be true (hey, whatever works). Another super weird thing that helps me is to actually practice smiling. Put my face in the mold (this is better if you are out in the woods actually) so that you can fake it better in the meeting.
posted by jessamyn at 7:51 AM on August 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

A walk, music you like, comedy/funny videos to get yourself laughing or at least smiling a bit, do all three! People underestimate how much those things will help to improve mood so just do it. :)

Try to reframe the meeting: it is ok if people piss you off, it is ok if you're in a bad mood for the meeting, it is ok that you have this heavy feeling in your chest, fighting it may make you feel worse. What matters is that you are mindful that your mood is off and that you may be skewing things negatively or interpreting things differently than you would otherwise - so give yourself lots of space to respond (and try not to react), after doing some feel good things for yourself try a few minutes of silence and then focus on the meeting's agenda and the key points you need to focus on, make an outline and stick to it, go to the meeting room early and pace around and breath and practice your opening. Can you ask anyone else who will be at the meeting to speak to any of the meeting's points? Can you ask anyone to put their hand up during the meeting if things start to go off track?
posted by lafemma at 7:53 AM on August 13, 2014 [9 favorites]

Pray or meditate? Read or watch something humorous? Do something nice for someone else? Review your plans for the meeting and think through how youight respond to different scenarios so that you feel super prepared? Call a loved one and complain about all of the super annoying people?
posted by ASlackerPestersMums at 7:56 AM on August 13, 2014

What lafemma said, and

If it were me, I would treat myself to a froufy coffee or tea drink, take a short walk, or watch some youtube cat or cute animal videos or keep the panda cam running.
posted by gudrun at 7:56 AM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Make sure you have at least as much coffee as you usually do. Caffeine withdrawal will keep you crabby all day.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:00 AM on August 13, 2014 [9 favorites]

Yeah I second the young rope-rider, caffeine withdrawal can definitely make a person cranky. Especially if you drink a decent amount. I like to write down my feelings when they start to overwhelm me. It's doesn't always solve it, but it allows me to put it aside and be able to deal with it later.
posted by Aranquis at 8:05 AM on August 13, 2014

MUSIC. You need good, happy, high-energy music (be it workout music, guilty pleasures, or whatever). I discovered recently that listening to my go-to "happy" songs when I'm sad - even though my brain is usually SUPER-resistant to it! - immediately improves my mood.

Exercise (or any kind of physical exertion) is also a go-to mood-improver. A friend of mine always says, "You may not always feel BETTER at the end of a run, but you will almost never feel WORSE."

So here's whatcha do: you suck down a bottle of water and pop a few Aleve (just in case any sub-clinical aches/pains are exacerbating your crankiness). You make yourself a playlist of your all-time HAPPIEST songs (mine are English Beat's "Save It For Later", Wilco's "Heavy Metal Drummer", and Magnetic Fields' "Strange Powers"). You put it on repeat, and then take a fast-paced walk for half an hour while blasting your tunes. I can almost guarantee that you will feel MUCH better.
posted by julthumbscrew at 8:07 AM on August 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

Deep breath. Take a moment and make a list of the three things you need to accomplish this day. Just three. Prioritize them. You are off the hook for the rest.

The meeting: I saw a keynote by Linda Stone recently and she had some wonderful advice for tuning in to people: Focus on one thing you like about each person you speak to and you will get more out of every contact with them. You could like the sound one coworker's voice, or how one coworker always keeps a picture of his kid on his desk, or how another colleague asks insightful questions, or this other colleague takes a short and thoughtful pause before answering, etc.

Try this during the meeting and you can't help but soften and relax a bit.
posted by mochapickle at 8:08 AM on August 13, 2014 [6 favorites]

This may seem a bit weird but when I have that heavy chest feeling I like to find something that will make me happy cry and that seems to let out everything. Heroic animal stories tend to be one of my go-tos.
posted by brilliantine at 8:10 AM on August 13, 2014

Just to give you a different take on things, instead of trying to suppress your annoyance at people, why not shift your focus onto actively trying to make them happy? When people are getting on my last nerve it helps to remember that I'm not the centre of the Universe and that maybe they're having a bad day too. I like the quote "Be kind for everyone is fighting a hard battle".

If I was hosting the meeting I would try and make it my goal to make every person feel good about themselves. Maybe they're having a crappy day and don't want to be at the meeting? Maybe they're having some rubbish personal stuff going on, maybe their dog is sick, maybe they're panicking about making the rent this month. So I would try and pay special attention to each person at least once - check they have a drink, ask them something about their day, try and make them laugh. It's kind of "fake it til you make it" - in trying to make other people feel good and forcing a smile if you have to, you'll actually start to feel better and happier yourself. You'll get a buzz out of seeing someone smile back or laugh, or get a little glow that you made someone feel that you really listened to them and gave them praise when they made a point, that kind of thing.

And yes to promising yourself a treat tonight when you get home as reward for getting through the day. Good luck!
posted by billiebee at 8:13 AM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

From *ahem* personal experience, if you think you may have to poop, poop. I'm serious...
posted by papayaninja at 8:15 AM on August 13, 2014

I once short-circuited what threatened to be an all-day anxiety attack at work with self-acupressure.

Here's an easy-to-follow handout. My favorites*:
Point in the Outer Wrist: Press point in the indentation on the outside of the crease of the wrist, down from the pinky.

Sore Spot: Locate a sore spot in the left side of the chest about 2-3 inches down from the collar bone and about 2 inches to the side of the sternum.
* Bonus: They're not terribly dramatic, so you can do them in a public setting without drawing attention.
posted by virago at 8:16 AM on August 13, 2014 [5 favorites]

I was having a really tough time concepting on a project at work and was feeling pent-up and angry and just sodden with irritabiity, so I told my project manager I'd be out of office for an hour. I took myself, a notebook, a pen and my phone (for music) to a local nice cafe and ordered a glass of rose and a plate of bread. I listened to a DJ Koze mix, ate the ENTIRE plate of bread and slowly sipped the wine, and just fucking cranked out that work.

I felt amazing when I came back - it was like I realized my bad mood was like a bad suit that I could just choose to take off, and once I took off that bad mood suit my goofy, creative, productive mind was there waiting.

So maybe you can do something similar, sans alcohol? Get out, go somewhere nice, order a delicious beverage and just write out your feelings?
posted by nerdfish at 8:18 AM on August 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

For the tight chest, I recommend going someplace you won't be distracted (outside is better, for me, but not necessary) and doing a breathing/meditation exercise. All your need is 5 or 10 minutes.

Sit comfortably (put your hands palms-down on your thighs), close your eyes... and just breathe, deeply and slowly. It may take a while before you feel you can even breathe deeply at all, past the tightness in your chest. That's totally okay. Don't count your breaths or try to think of anything specific right now; just get the air flowing.

Notice basic sensations: the sun on your face or the breeze in your hair (if you're outside), your feet flat and grounded, your hands resting lightly.

Roll your neck. Hunch your shoulders up, then let them go. Do this a few times. Okay, by now you've probably got the breath flowing.

Now, start to inhale slowly, counting to 4. Let it out just as slowly, for a count of 4. Do this a few times to get in the flow. Just think about the breath, and the slow count.

Now -- stay with me here -- envision your happy place. (Yes, I know; cheesy! I think so, too! I do it anyway.) For me, it's the place in the mountains where I used to go picnicking with my grandparents. For you, it's any place where you feel content, relaxed, and safe -- it can be a memory, it can be in your imagination, it's all good. Got it? Okay, go there.

Now, just hang out there for awhile, while doing the 4-count with your breaths. If you like, increase the count to 6. Happy place. Let yourself smile a little at the thought of it, if you like.

Now the mantra: in your gentlest, most loving voice, reassure yourself: "whatever happens, I can handle it."

Open your eyes. Keep breathing slowly. Stand up slowly. Stretch. "Whatever happens, I can handle it."
posted by scody at 8:20 AM on August 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Pandora comedy station is my go to for my I'm-cranky commute. Good luck on your meeting!
posted by Beti at 8:35 AM on August 13, 2014

When I get this way at work (regardless of whether the crankiness was caused by something at work or at home), I get some exercise by taking a walk around my building (weather permitting). N.B. my office is in a converted former major appliance factory/warehouse, so it's a huge building and a "walk around the building" takes 15-20 min depending on how quickly I walk.

Exercise helps -- More than you would think.

I'll also make a cup of tea (I do not drink coffee because I can't stand the taste), so make yourself some coffee or go out to get a cup locally.
posted by tckma at 8:38 AM on August 13, 2014

Oh, and one more thing about doing the slow breathing: inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth. This is especially helpful if you find you've been clenching your teeth, because it makes you relax your jaw.
posted by scody at 8:41 AM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Caffeine may not be the best choice here as it may make you more agitated. Instead, I'll nth going for a relaxing, meditative walk sometime before the meeting. It will get your energy levels up and help you to decompress. I would opt for a route with fewer people and more natural beauty (to the extent possible depending on where you work).

Also nthing rewarding yourself afterwards with some pampering self care. When I have to go in for a tough meeting, it helps to know that there will be a pleasant self care goal to look forward to afterwards. Depending on when the meeting is over, I usually go for a late lunch or early dinner. Booking massages are also good to, especially if that stress is forming into painful muscle tension.

Also nthing watching some kitten (or other cute animal) videos. Kitten videos always make me instantly more smiley. :D
posted by jazzbaby at 8:46 AM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Meditation on the breath: focus on the sensation of the breath at the nostrils as you inhale & exhale. Ignore any thought that is not the breath.

Eat something sweet and carby like a doughnut or a chocolate croissant.

Call up a funny empathetic bestie and vent.

Try this multivitamin.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:48 AM on August 13, 2014

A walk with music you like. A healthy lunch and then a little treat afterward (chocolate, nice coffee, a cookie, whatever floats your boat.)
posted by gaspode at 9:12 AM on August 13, 2014

I can be like this when I have a big presentation late in the day so that I have all day to dread it. I am Team YouTube - "[animal name] on trampoline" is a good one, but if you have headphones then listening to goats yell is actually physically cathartic for me, which means I laugh till I wheeze and need to pee.

You can also give yourself permission to be a little grumpy up until the meeting. You're tense, that's why you're grumpy, but consider it "buying" afternoon cheerfulness for the big show.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:25 AM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Retail here, dealing with horrible people is my life.

1) I might be the only person to talk to this jerk all day, and I might be the only nice person in their life. Maybe that's why they're a jerk! I don't want to make this worse.

2) If someone is a horrible person, they have to be themselves for the rest of their life. It's comforting to know that even working where I do, I haven't devolved to that level.

3) Maybe this asshole has some kind of medical problem. I would be a grouch if I were in pain, too.

4) My goal today is to (goal.) It is unfortunate that to do that, I have to interact with these people. Luckily, I am up to this challenge.

5) It's not about me. It's not about me. It's not about me.

6) Everyone around you carries around a knot of fear and pain that was built up over the course of their life. Sometimes this is more obvious than other times. I am not going to contribute to whatever pain is happening under the surface.

7) When all else fails and I really can't have compassion: first against the wall, bourgeois capitalist scum. Until then, I squish your head!
posted by blnkfrnk at 10:33 AM on August 13, 2014 [10 favorites]

Oh and do something nice for someone else. Buy coffee for the stranger behind you in line. Brighten someone else's day.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:40 AM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also, check out the Good Stuff Happened Today tumblr. (Can't give you the direct link, work blocks Tumblr comprehensively.) It will give you some optimism about the world.
posted by suelac at 11:39 AM on August 13, 2014

There must be something in the air, because I'm in the same irritable head space. Luckily, I don't need to be in a meeting.

Thanks for all of these ideas, guys.
posted by MsVader at 12:08 PM on August 13, 2014

Response by poster: Meeting over! Great success!! I followed so much of this advice (walking outside! pressure points! cute animal videos! remembering it's not about me!), which I'll remember for the next time too. Thank you all so much.
posted by magdalemon at 1:16 PM on August 13, 2014 [8 favorites]

- Have Xanax available if I need it (but I reserve it as a last resort)

I would readily take a tiny (half your usual) dose of Xanax under these circumstances. Or another appropriate tranquilizer.

On preview: Glad the meeting went well.
posted by JimN2TAW at 1:29 PM on August 13, 2014

Cute Overload!

(You did say emergency, right?)
posted by Lynsey at 4:34 PM on August 13, 2014

« Older Is it okay to accept a new job that I might leave...   |   Hardscaping a brick path Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.