Temper my Temperament
October 31, 2007 4:47 AM   Subscribe

What causes people, like myself and my wife, to become moody, impatient, and cranky? As much as I would like to be chipper and happy throughout the day, sometimes I am just cranky. Other times, I am in a great mood and have time for everyone. For whatever reason, I occasionally wake up on the wrong side of the bed ( With what seems like enough sleep ), and need to stay away from people. Or during the day, I am ready to attack my co-workers for no reason. Is this some type of chemical or nutritional imbalance? Am I dehydrated? Is my body just on the down swing of its adrenal cycle? Am I just a temperamental a$$hole? What can I do to remove the crankiness and be one of those annoying 'happy all the time' people? Help me find my balance.
posted by kaizen to Human Relations (24 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Are you eating regularly throughout the day? I know a few people who go apeshit should their blood sugar levels drop, or at least who use that as an excuse to go apeshit. They're not diabetic (although one is borderline).

You might also just be a human being with a temper.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 4:58 AM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

Hit 'post' too early. This does not mean that you should encourage your temper.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 4:59 AM on October 31, 2007

I get cranky if I'm getting sick, or if I'm really thirsty, or if I haven't eaten many vegetables in the last few days.
posted by flabdablet at 5:02 AM on October 31, 2007

Oh yeah: also if I've spent days on end doing not much but staring at a computer into the wee small hours. That does it too. Makes me a bit obsessive-compulsive, as well. A few good long walks or swims clears that kind right up.
posted by flabdablet at 5:03 AM on October 31, 2007 [2 favorites]

Is your crankiness interfering with your ability to function? Are people pissed at you all the time? I am also a cranky person (I joke that not even my friends actually *like* me), but I know it and everyone I know knows it. We've all just sort of learned to stay out of each others' way when necessary. I have actually more or less arranged my life around my need to stay out of people's way when I get like that (I work from my home).

That said, recognizing the warning signs can help; I do alpha-wave exercises, which at least gives me space (your basic "count to 10" strategy) so I suspect that it's some body chemistry thing with me.

Sometimes I do go off on innocent civilians, but I figure it just gives them dinner conversation (man, you wouldn't believe the nutcase I met up with today...)
posted by nax at 5:18 AM on October 31, 2007

My temper gets harder and harder to control with the less sleep I get and the less food I've had during the day.

This is not to say that accumulated annoyances won't raise my hackles, even on a normal basis. A consistantly annoying coworker, for example, who constantly interrupts, nags or demands attention every twenty minutes will provoke my temper. But it's easier to shrug off if I'm actually feeling half decent.

The point being, feeling moody, impatient and cranky is natural in some circumstances. No-one should be chipper 100% of the time.
posted by LN at 5:20 AM on October 31, 2007

Get enough sleep, drink enough water and keep the junk food / takeaways to a minimum. I can't advocate the taking of plenty of exercise, because I'm the worst offender when it comes to not exercising enough!

If you're in a cranky mood, try and avoid the situations than you know make you feel like flipping out. What job do you do? Could stress be another factor affecting your mood?

I have days like this too, and can agree with flabdablet that burning the midnight oil and not taking care of yourself will definitely have an impact on your mental health.
posted by monkeyforest at 5:21 AM on October 31, 2007

Crankiness can be a sign of depression. If there are others (mood swings appear to be a possibility; also, things like trouble concentrating, general fatigue, thoughts of suicide, lower interest in sex, etc.), you might want to discuss it with your doctor. If there are no obvious depression-causing factors in your life, it can simply be a chemical imbalance of some kind (as nax said), for which one of the various happy pills on the market can be an excellent remedy.
posted by beagle at 5:31 AM on October 31, 2007

I find that not eating refined carbs (no need to eat constantly to keep your blood sugar up if you get used to it being down) and not overdoing caffeine keeps my crankiness in check.
posted by backupjesus at 5:32 AM on October 31, 2007

I once asked this question about the effect of food on mood. You might try keeping a food/mood journal.

This guy has a theory about seeing faces in the morning having a positive effect on mood the next day.
posted by DarkForest at 5:36 AM on October 31, 2007

Consider that the "happy all the time" people have learned to fake it on the days they don't feel chipper.
posted by desjardins at 5:45 AM on October 31, 2007 [8 favorites]

I would watch for a correlation between hunger/space between meals and your mood. I think there is some genetic component to this because myself, my sister and my mother all can get pretty nasty when our blood sugar drops and then feel perfectly fine after a meal. I can literally feel the difference in my mood if its been too long since I last ate.

Also consider caffeine- I know a lot of people who are addicts and don't know it; they are super cranky until caffeine gets them back up to their baseline for the day.
posted by zennoshinjou at 5:53 AM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

Maybe you just aren't a "people person," and there is nothing wrong with that. I know several people (myself included) who feel incredibly drained and irritated after being around other people for lengthy amounts of time. To combat my crankiness, I make sure to give myself plenty of alone time during the day After spending, for example, my lunch break, by myself quietly reading, I am more refreshed and less likely to bit someone's head off.
posted by pluckysparrow at 6:30 AM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

Hunger can cause crankiness for sure, but there might be something more.

Is this new for you? Or have you always had cranky days where you feel on the "attack"?

Do you have a reputation of being cranky at work? Do you lash out at people? Or, can you conceal the crankiness and keep it professional on moody days?

Are you under large amounts of stress?

Are you unhappy or depressed? Do you dislike yourself, your job, your coworkers, or your wife?

It could be "unresolved anger".

A little moodiness is normal. Chronic moodiness and crankiness should be looked into.

Consider that the "happy all the time" people have learned to fake it on the days they don't feel chipper.

I think a little faking can be good. Most of us are inclined to fake pleasantness on moody days, especially at work. If not, we'd be canned. Fake it to you make it, I say.

On especially cranky, snappy days where I feel I may regret my actions, I use a little trick. I envision a video camera is taping me. Sometimes this trick doesn't work, but most of the time it does. I only use it when I feel out-of- control snippy. Do I need to lash out at my husband, or bark orders to hit the snooze button on cranky days? No, I remember the video camera and my maturity and hit the snooze myself. Most of the time my children are great motivators to behave in a half-way pleasant manner. There is nothing worse than a chronically cranky, moody parent. I've had one.

I also find that it helps to admit to your partner that you are feeling cranky. Tell your partner that you are feeling on-edge or moody in a non-threatening way. Owning what we are feeling is beneficial. By admitting that we are feeling moody, cranky, or anxious can decrease these negative feelings, and you'll be better prepared to deal with them.
posted by LoriFLA at 6:39 AM on October 31, 2007 [3 favorites]

I nth hunger. Or maybe not hunger per se, but the need for something sweet, like a piece of orange or chocolate. And if you're taking any type of medication that could be affecting your mood too. I am a "Happy All The Time" person to others and in reality, I'm pissed off half of the time, but I know that it doesn't help me or anyone else to know that. So, people always marvel that I'm so down to earth and low maintenance, and I smile in their face and wish them dead if i'm hungry/on low-carb diet/taking diet pills, i wish them maimed if i'm just hungry, or i just wish them away if i've eaten recently.
posted by citystalk at 6:46 AM on October 31, 2007

Are you working too hard? I read a story last night about a guy who was always blowing up at his co-workers over silly things. Management finally realized he was working 10-15 hours a day, and told him he had to cut back. Once he did, his mood greatly improved.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:31 AM on October 31, 2007 [2 favorites]

Could be hunger, or it could be that your sleep isn't as high-quality as it could be. I wouldn't rule out depression or dysthymia, either -- dysthymia, especially, if you don't feel "depressed" and this has been going on for a long time. It's common for dysthymics to feel like they're just "that way" rather than suffering from something treatable.

On the other hand, I have a bad habit of overanalyzing every variation in mood I experience. It's now a lot easier for me to think, "I'm in a bad mood because of hunger/sleep/work stress," but sometimes I just get in bad moods anyway, with no cause that I can figure out. You can be doing everything right and you will still probably get bad days. Even in Australia.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:33 AM on October 31, 2007

What can I do to remove the crankiness and be one of those annoying 'happy all the time' people? Help me find my balance.

"Happy all the time" really isn't balance, is it? You're human. Don't worry about it.
posted by tristeza at 8:12 AM on October 31, 2007

Do you live on the East Coast? I can't really tell from your profile. Before I moved here, I felt more "balanced," to borrow tristeza's term above. I mean, I had good days, and I had bad days. To quote Lou Reed, "Sometimes [life] made me happy, and sometimes [life] made me sad."

Now that I've moved out to the East Coast (or the 'least coast,' or the 'yeast coast,' as I like to call it), well, "baby, it just makes me mad." This is not to say that folks out here are bigger assholes than folks in California, or the Midwest, or the Mountain West (and I've lived in all of these places), but it may just be that I see more of them, and more up close, so their assholeitude is more in my face, as it were.

The take-away for me? Friends, family, and co-workers have started to avoid me, and I've been known to go off on the random stranger in ways that I never have before. All of this has started to scare me, and I'm getting into counseling: but YMMV, IANAT, IANYT, etc.

Sorry if this is getting too deraily or tangential. But the thought I wanted to add, in addition to all the other fine advice above, is this: there are some places that may be better for your temperament than others.

Best of luck.
posted by deejay jaydee at 8:27 AM on October 31, 2007

Perpetually crotchety person here:

I have always had a rather serious disposition. My friends and family are usually not surprised if I am in something less than a celebratory mood.

The "problem" for me stems from a general social anxiety. Being around people can be really draining and irritating for me at times. I'm usually happiest when I'm left alone for a little while with my thoughts. It gets a lot worse when I don't eat or sleep right. And at times even if I do that right, I am still not exactly happy.

At school and work, I usually find it easier to fake it. I am lucky enough to have been gifted with a dry sense of humor, so I sometimes even make jokes about being the "resident grumpy bitch". It's worked like a charm to make people realize that I'm not miserable, just not naturally inclined to cheerfulness.

You're just being human. Don't sweat it.
posted by arishaun at 9:02 AM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

I find that my mood slips in and out during the day. I'm in a really transitional time where I have way too much time on my hands, and I find myself freaking out totally at times. And then, an hour later, no big deal. There is this budhist idea I've heard of, something like, you are the mountain and your moods can be clouds, and you can watch the clouds come in and they can encompass you but you are still the mountain, and then the clouds leave.

God I wish I could follow that. But sometimes it's good for me to remember that whatever mood I'm in will be different in a couple of hours.

Arishaun has it pretty well too.
posted by sully75 at 9:21 AM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

I don't sleep much more than 3-5 hrs a night. That's why I'm always cranky. NOW GET OFF MY BACK!
posted by any major dude at 10:39 AM on October 31, 2007

I nth more regular and healthy meals, exercise, and better sleep. But I add to the list more and better sex. I'm surprised it's not already on the list. That person who appears perpetually sunny might be wearing a shit-eating grin. Seriously.

I also have a little trick that I use when some random person really angers me: I put a hex on them. It's always something small, like, "May you lose bladder control the next time you're having an intimate moment," and although I've never followed up, I'd guess the hexes don't actually work. But it feels good to get back at someone so that I can actually move beyond what just happened. (No, I don't say this out loud to the person. It's part of my internal monologue, or what I say to the passenger in my car when someone cuts me off.)

Note that I also put good hexes on people, like, "May your nails grow strong, and not chip or break, and look fabulous for the whole month of October," or "May you get a nice personal letter in the mail box today instead of just crap you will only recycle." It makes me feel better to think that I've added joy to someone's life (even though, of course, I really haven't).
posted by Capri at 12:50 PM on October 31, 2007 [3 favorites]

Sounds like it's going to take some experimenting from multiple angles to see what might make it better. I've been doing some lab work in this area as well, and was surprised by:

1) just how much the consumption of carbohydrates and sugars affected my mood and energy level. I'm not getting all Atkins on you, but it might be worth a try to see if it stabilizes your mood and energy levels.

2) just how much vigorous cardiovascular exercise in the AM affected my mood and energy level. This advice is given so often it can begin to sound like just another cliche, but the effect can be quite dramatic. You may find yourself sleeping more soundly as well.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 4:35 AM on November 1, 2007

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