Irritation, Aggravation & Stress: How to keep them from getting to you

October Newsletter Picture

“Ignorance is bliss.”  When two people go camping and one gets covered in welts from mosquito bites and the other was passed over, what’s really going on?  Was the first one tastier to the mosquitos?  Thinner skin?  Sweeter blood?  Giving off a more seductive scent?  What if the two people were identical twins eating the same diet, doing the same amount of exercises and used the same laundry soap and hygiene products?  Could it be possible that both had the same number of mosquito bites, but each responded differently to the bites?  Perhaps the first person hates mosquito bites.  Upon feeling the prick, they feel compelled to scratch and scratch until the swelling grows huge.  Maybe the second person doesn’t notice the mosquito bites, leaves them alone, and the minimal swelling dissipates.

What just happened?  Was the first person hypersensitive or the second person insensitive to mosquito bites?  Was it mind over matter?  If the first person has a phobia about mosquito bites, and expected the worst, they could be on the alert for every little prick.  The second person could have been preoccupied with other things, didn’t notice the mosquito bite, maybe they didn’t care if they got bitten or not or is generally unaware of physical sensations.

It’s easy for someone to say, “don’t sweat the small stuff” when they’re life is under control and they can think rationally.  It’s a lot harder when you’re living from crisis-to-crisis and everything looks overwhelming, even the “small stuff.”  Actually, in a terrible situation (i.e., war), “small stuff,” like putting a family meal on the table, can be very comforting.  In postpartum depression, it’s often the inability to do the “small stuff,” like getting dinner on the table, that can be “the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

What determines if something is an irritation, aggravation or stress… or not?  You!  It’s a combination of what your expectations are, how agitated you are at that point in time, what your priorities are, and how supported you feel.  Let’s start with expectations.  When you expect or want one thing, but experience something less desirable, it’s disappointing.  The more you wanted or needed things to be a certain way, the bigger the frustration.  Take traffic.  Say it takes 20 minutes to get from Point A to B when there’s no traffic but 45 minutes during rush hour.  If, however, you only allot 25 minutes to get there and you hate being late, then every extra minute you spent in traffic is emotionally charged.

Your priorities play a role in your emotional response to stress, agitation, frustration, etc.  If you don’t mind showing up late, the above example wouldn’t bother you so much. If you’ve invested a lot of time, energy or resources to obtain a certain result, you’re bound to be more disappointed with an undesirable result.  A couple who devotes 2 years to making the “perfect wedding” has much higher expectations than a couple who has been together for 6 months and spontaneously decides to elope.

Repetition is another factor.  It’s easy to forgive and forget when it’s the first time you’ve been disappointed.  It’s another story when your game has been rained out 5 times in a row.  When you’re repeatedly disappointed, you can’t help but feel unsupported, or that something is actively trying to thwart your plans.  Everyone has their limit.  This goes for being disappointed by the same person multiple times, as well as for the number of things that seem to be going wrong in close succession.

A reasonable person may say that most of these sources of stress and irritation are avoidable.  You could change (or lower) your expectations, not care so much about things, prepare for disasters, or rely on nobody but yourself.  Hmmm… this sounds rather negative.  In reality, we want people to care, and at the same time be better able to handle the inevitable ups and downs that come with being human.

How do we do this?  First, we acknowledge that the immediate source of frustration (the trigger) is usually not the whole picture.  “The straw that broke the camel’s back” is harmless in and of itself.  It’s just the last of a string of disappointments that eroded the person’s patience and sanity.  The other sources of stress can be physical, like an ongoing crick in the neck, weak ankle, chilly workplace, or low-grade headache.  The stress could also be chemical, like indigestion from a poor diet, a noxious smell, side-effects from a medication, or an internal chemical imbalance causing bodily dysfunctions or pain (including PMS).  Mental stress can take its toll on you as well, like a heavy workload, juggling career and family, endless decision-making, thinking while tired, or having constant interruptions.  Emotional stresses can build up easily, whether it’s feeling left out, resentment, anger, doubts, jealousy, self-consciousness, fear, unrequited love, inadequacy, etc.  Some of these factors are easier to address than others.  Many are “easier said than done,” like lifestyle changes or relationships.

One very valuable way to improve your threshold for irritation and stress is chiropractic.  For every sensation you have, nerve impulses relay this information to the brain for awareness and interpretation.  You don’t feel anything until your brain perceives the nerve messages and makes sense of it all.  These nerve impulses travel from a particular sensory receptor in the body, through nerves to the spinal cord, and up to the brainstem and brain, where connections are made with other nerve cells to put things into context.  Then, the response also travels through the brainstem, spinal cord and nerves to that part of the body that needs to react.  What does this have to do with chiropractic?  Chiropractic care is about improving spinal alignment to remove interferences to nerve flow so you can have optimal health.  Subluxations are what chiropractors call the misalignments in the spine (mostly) that can irritate or damage nerves, thus making those nerves over-sensitive, or under-sensitive.  Hypersensitive nerves can make a person irrationally irritated by minor phenomenon (i.e., a clothing tag chafing the skin).  Hyposensitive nerves can slow down reaction times, or reduce awareness, which can be frustrating, as it can make you feel clumsy, have trouble thinking clearly, or become more easily overwhelmed.  In the long run, malfunctioning nerves can lead to hormone imbalances, organ dysfunctions, injuries, weakened immune function, poor self-image and possibly depression.

Would you like to find out if chiropractic can improve your health and mental state?  If so, please download our free Baseline Health Questionnaire to start a conversation.