I am very irritable and highly critical of people.” This confession shows that our hectic, everyday lives, leave us with little time to stop, think, and just enjoy the moment.
This state-of-mind contributes to constant stress, and leaves us with little or no respect for other people and self. This symptomatic moving away from respect and courtesy towards self-centred anger is common in today’s society and often affects our road behaviour.
When we are irritated, our brain and nervous system are triggered and we experience the so-called ‘fight or flight reaction’. This is a physiological reaction and it helps when we are knowledgeable and can identify this reaction to stress, as it influences the whole body.
Are your goals being hindered?
Do you find that you are filled with the fruit of the Spirit, especially love, patience and self-control as described in Galatians 5:22? Or are you irritable, critical and impatient? Usually our irritations start when we perceive people or situations preventing us from reaching our goals. When you are on the road and start to feel frustrated, identify the goals that are under threat and have a contingency plan ready. For example if you goal is to get to work early, but heavy traffic is blocking it, plan a different route, or time, to leave home.
Taking care of body, soul and spirit
Physical illness and exhaustion could be another cause for irritability as it contributes to low levels of tolerance and frustration. Sufficient rest is essential for calming your physiological and psychological system and prevent unnecessary exhaustion.
You need to deal with the everyday frustrations immediately because it has the potential to ruin your life. This is often rooted in feelings of rejection, un-forgiveness, bitterness, humiliation, failure, shame, fear, etc.
We are soul, spirit and body. The soul is the mind and emotions are the will; the body is the physical, anatomical and physiological component. It is important to be aware of your physiological reaction when you become stressed, anxious and irritable.
Thankfulness to God
Make time in your day to exercise, sleep and eat nutritiously. It is important to do self-care, take a long bubble bath, go for a walk, read a magazine, or spend time in prayer. Make it a habit of identifying your negative thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts. (Phil 4:8). Start a gratitude diary to God, identifying small incidents that you are appreciative for.
Thankfulness is the first step into the presence of God. To be thankful is a command, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” Col 3:15.
When we approach God with thanksgiving, it results in peace –the peace of God which guards our hearts and minds (Phil 4). Make time to talk to God, read His Word, listen to His voice and refill your spirit. It is important to be proactive in self-care for the mind, the heart and the body, cherish your friends, but more importantly, listen to the Lord’s instruction to “...be still and know that I am God.” Ps 46:10.
Addressing your stress
When you prolong addressing your stress, everything is affected, as well as everybody in your immediate family, friends and work colleagues. Depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, burnout or other mental health disorders and physical illnesses like chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune illnesses and even allergies may be the end result.
When you realise that you are experiencing increased stress, anxiety and irritability, when you are feeling overwhelmed or no longer have enjoyment for the everyday pleasures, you might need to seek professional help.
Healthy, God-honouring habits
Consistently renew your mind (Rom 12:2). For unruly emotions; you need to trade the spirit of heaviness for a garment of praise (Isaiah 61:3). Ephesians 4:23-24 states that we need to be constantly renewed in the spirit of our mind, for “...the spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6). Seek God’s help to handle irritable behaviour and frustration on all three of these levels.
MARIANNE KRUGER is a Psychologist and part time lecturer at the ICP. For counselling or more info, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org