Have you noticed that perhaps now, more than ever, our annoyance sensors are on high alert? The frustrations, inconveniences, isolation, and fears associated with the pandemic messed with our patience levels and honed our triggers – making us prone to an immediate, and sometimes harsh response to almost anything.
So, in today’s world, it doesn’t take much to set someone off. It can be as simple as a house-mate who forgets to replace the toilet paper roll or the spouse who neglects to swap the dishwasher when it’s their turn. The size or nature of the offense is irrelevant, but the size of the reaction it draws can be enormous!
It is as if we think we’ve earned the right to overreact and spew our emotions in an unbridled fashion. On Facebook, it is called the “Rant”. Occasionally, posters will even offer a “Rant Alert” to let others know that their over-the-top reaction to some life-stressor is about to take center stage, so reader beware!
Sometimes I can understand what’s taken the person to their position of upset – what has pushed them to their limit of polite response and sent them over-the-edge and into their rant. At other times, it is hard to relate to their level of upset with common inconveniences or the everyday issues of living with other humans – we are a messy tribe!
Today, for me it is the unruly smoke detector – the main unit that’s hard-wired so if I attempt to disable it, all the other units throughout the house scream out in its defense and the house will be suddenly filled with the overwhelming noise of alarms even when no emergency is present – it’s just a broken unit! But the machinery, like we humans, is programmed to overreact when it believes a life-threatening insult is imminent.
I’ve carefully chosen my response to this code-required protection device that insists on chirping away and announcing that its battery supply is low (just changed batteries last week, try to do it every year around October 1st). I’ve retreated to the sunroom where I can close the door and run a small heater/fan to offer a bit of white-noise that may distract me from the repeated announcement my smoke detector insists on making, “Battery Low!!” – even though it has no batteries at the moment!
Oh well, until my handyman can come and replace the entire unit, later today or tomorrow, I’m stuck with this wonder of technology, designed to protect me and my loved ones from going up in smoke, yelling out its warning signal.
Where do you overreact?
What are the everyday irritations that drive you to the brink of your sanity and push you to lose your temper, spew your feelings or worse yet, hurt someone else’s feelings in the process? We all have our tendencies for overreaction, we’re most vulnerable when we’re tired, hungry, lonely, or otherwise anxious. Then, life throws one more minor irritation at us, and we blow. It’s sad but true.
Sometimes, the overreaction is because the issues we’re dealing with are cumulative, we may have larger, more overwhelming difficulties to deal with like illness, financial distress, caregiving stress, job challenges—all of which may factor in and trigger emotions, influencing how we view and respond to even minor irritants. But remember, with determination you can moderate your responses.
When we’re able to take a breath – see the little irritation for what it is, LITTLE – then we’re in a place where we can choose the response we want to have, even in the face of irritation. Even with a nervous system that’s already “on edge” from bigger issues, when the minor difficulty strikes, we can recognize that HOW we respond is a choice in itself. Then, we can imagine a range of responses, from modest to over-the-top that are available to us, and choose the one that will not make the situation worse.
I invite you to explore some choices available to you when you’re caught up in your next encounter with a minor irritation, you might:
- Take a walk (escape the situation for a breather!).
- Fix the dilemma (replace the toilet paper, put a back-up roll nearby!).
- Examine your own hair-trigger for overreaction (What’s that about??).
- Find something soothing that will calm you while you wait for help (Tea, until the handyman comes!).
We always have choices. Sometimes it is harder to see them or to find them in the face of the current circumstances, but if we look carefully, we can avoid the overreactive rant and identify something more soothing, more rational, and more healthy as our next course of action. Wishing you calm.