Today I ran into an old friend. Irritability. Perhaps you’ve heard of them?
I found myself at various points today running into this old friend. At various times today, I found myself letting things out of my control affect my mood. It happens to the best of us. With so many things going on in our lives, it’s natural for something out of our control to irritate us. Like the weather, or traffic, or maybe the internet going down. All of these are frustrating in their own rite, yet all completely out of our control. Yet they irritate us so much… why is this?
The great thing is we all have a choice in how we respond to these frustrating events. Initially, we have the choice to not let these uncontrollable events affect us. Great, but not usually the options we choose first. So what do we do when we let these irritating feelings get us then? Great question.
We can pause for a moment and observe our feelings. What the heck does this mean? Take a few deep breaths in and out. We reach the culmination of our irritation response in about 90 seconds, so pausing and breathing can help get us there. Using the breath as a focal point brings our attention from the irritating thought so something tangible. Something we can feel. This is so crucial for our minds.
Now what else does pausing do? It creates some much needed space between ourselves and our thoughts. Feelings of irritation can lead to restlessness and ruminating thoughts. And if we don’t take a second to pause, we can run with these ruminating thoughts and create an endless cycle of frustrating feelings. We can become irritated at ourselves for being irritated, or simply just irritated at the irritating thought to begin with.
In past years, I would beat myself up over feeling irritated and frustrated. I think a lot of us do. And I’ll be the first to admit that I’m still dealing with these feelings every day. I’m not perfect. And if I were, I’d be pretty bored. The difference now is that I accept these feelings for what they are, just feelings. If I were to reflect on my mindfulness journey as a whole, I would say this is probably the area I’ve grown the most. Accepting all feelings, knocking down those resistance walls, and reminding myself that I am not my feelings. And neither are you.
If these feelings manifest, look to it as an opportunity to check in with yourself. An opportunity to reflect and make progress. Reminding yourself that you will come across many things out of your control. And they are just that, out of your control. Not getting too caught up in them. But if you find yourself caught up, looking to the breath as your safety net. Pausing for a moment, observing your feelings as they are, and gently letting them go.