Time together during the Covid quarantine has really amped up my level of annoyance and irritation. I have found myself griping under my breath and out loud about everything from too much noise in the kitchen to too much clutter on the counters. At this point, it does not take much to set me off.
Sensitive to everything
What I recently re-discovered is that irritation is not all that unusual for people with highly sensitive nervous systems (15-30% of all species). Our nervous systems are continuously primed for quick and large reactions. We process all stimuli more deeply.
This makes sense. We are more aware of details. Therefore, little things get to us more.
According to Hannah Brooks, creator and coach behind the podcast, Highly Sensitive, Happily Married, there are ways to minimize this irritation and annoyance.
First of all, I was relieved just to find out there is a reason for this hyper-annoyed state. Second of all, hallelujah there are ways to mitigate it.
Stop before we give it too much meaning
One way to lessen the feeling of irritation and its subsequent bad mood, is to catch your brain as it begins to feel annoyed before it creates a bigger meaning out of the situation. It is very easy for me to turn an annoying (to me) behavior of someone else into a direct insult or rejection of me. For example, my husband and stepson both get up very early in order to have a long relaxing breakfast. Their early breakfast means noise out in the kitchen at least an hour before I wake up. The kitchen is right off of our bedroom.
What my brain does is turns this early noise making into disrespect and disregard for my sleep and me. Even worse, I start seeing infractions as proof there is something wrong with our relationship. So now, not only am I frustrated and annoyed but I am hurt and fearful as well.
The key is to stop this runaway train before it gets to the next station. We must question our fear-driven thoughts. I could ask myself, “Does this mean I will never enjoy time again with my husband?” Of course not. His behavior just irritates me sometimes. That’s it.
Which brings us to another tactic Ms. Brooks recommends for minimizing irritation: accepting annoyance as part of the human experience. Things are wearisome, tedious and annoying sometimes. The pandemic has increased the number of opportunities for irritation to occur. It has forced us together for longer periods of time without other distractions.
We need to notice the annoyance and move on. It does not mean anything is majorly wrong. It just means we are put out a little. Accept that this feeling is normal and keep on living.
The final way to lower our level of annoyance is my favorite and the one that was the most insightful to me. Here it is — Our level of annoyance is in direct proportion to the level of self care we give ourselves.
As highly sensitive people, we get depleted, over-stimulated and over-whelmed easier than those less sensitive. We are the most grouchy when we are the most depleted. The secret is to see the annoyance as a signal to give ourselves more play time and more rest.
Spending days on end with our family, no matter how much we love and enjoy them, is going to wear thin eventually. We need time to ourselves to recharge. We need some autonomy to come back to ourselves. We need the grace of a good night’s sleep. We may even need the company of others in our friend circle so that we can be seen as someone other than a spouse or parent. Laughter with a friend goes a long way to smooth out irritation.
The next time you find yourself feeling grumpy, annoyed and maybe even emotionally down: remember as a sensitive person you feel things more intensely, stop your brain before it gives too much meaning to a small irritant, consider that annoyance is a normal part of the human experience and give yourself a chance to play and rest.
What’s your current level of annoyance? Do you find yourself getting irritated more often? How has Covid tested your patience?