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Soothing for Anxious Time: Dealing with Irritability

April 15, 2020
Published in: COVID-19, Mental Health

Father with his two daughters who are drawing at a table

"Sheltering in Place" or staying at home day after day as we wait for the "All Clear" message to get back into the world is hard for most people. We are used to our freedom of movement. We enjoy going out and visiting, shopping, playing, hiking, exploring, etc. Though we love our families tremendously we also love our private time and our time away from home. And now we are isolating either alone (which has its own set of frustrations) or with our families.

All of the togetherness can make us irritable especially if one or more family members is trying to work or study from home. This can be hard for the children craving to go outside and play with their friends. This can be hard as food supplies dwindle as we intentionally delay the next grocery trip for a few more days to minimize exposure to others. It can just be hard. And out of that difficulty we can easily get irritable.

When we find ourselves getting irritable we can do something about it. We can start by recognizing that we are feeling irritable. We can then cognitively realize that what we are feeling is perfectly normal under these extraordinary circumstances. With that understanding we can have self-compassion and from that self-knowledge we can extend some compassion and grace to our fussy, irritating, complaining family members. Then we can take a small time out to slow our breathing and calm ourselves down.

Once we are a bit calmer we can begin to access our ability to think creatively. We can go online to get ideas for indoor activities that might satisfy the children while keeping them safe. In that calmer space we might be able to enlist our spouse or an older child to assist with a plan.

The practice of mindfulness can calm everybody down. By looking up mindfulness activities you can find many for children that they could use to calm down. The whole family could do a couple of deep cleansing breaths before each meal. The whole family could make a point of looking up at the night sky to observe the phase of the moon. With less people driving the air is clearer and you may be able to see more stars. When it gets warmer you could put a big blanket on the ground in your yard and look up at the night sky. Or during the day feel the warmth of the sun on your face and the cool breeze swooshing by. If you have a budding photographer in the family you could suggest that she take a picture of the same flowering tree or plant each day from the same spot to see how it changes day to day. The possibilities are endless but the time will be less stressful and the irritability will go down.

If the irritability becomes more difficult you can consult your PCP or someone in a Psychiatric Practice. Sometimes medication can really help when people are under additional stress. It is simply wise to get help when needed and it is a sign of self-care and a good example for other family members.

Be Mindful and be safe.