Q: I’ve been getting more and more irritable at work. There’s nothing specific going wrong, but things just get on my nerves. Any suggestions for getting my attitude back on track?
Martin, 42, marketing manager
A: Taken a vacation lately?
That’s a serious question. Statistics show that Americans tend to underuse their vacation time, even losing it when too much accrues or it isn’t used by year-end.
Moreover, many people compromise their time off, bringing their work with them or logging on to check e-mail. This prevents the true mental break that keeps you refreshed.
Failure to rest also can lead to simmering resentment. Even if you are making the choice to forgo time off, you could end up angry and frustrated, which shows up in other situations.
Apart from this, there could be any number of root causes to your mood.
Has anything changed at work? Changes in organization strategy, new colleagues, etc. can be destabilizing. Also, consider whether your moodiness is extending into other aspects of your life.
Take a look at your overall health. Are you eating well, getting enough sleep and exercising? Rule out physical or mental-health issues, or take steps to address them.
Now let’s get down to looking at your job. Do you like what you do? Consider how well it matches with your interests, strengths and values. Keep in mind that what you are looking for in life will evolve, and you may have grown out of a role that once suited you.
Perhaps you are too busy. If you have too many items on your plate, it can be hard to do justice to them all. Then, when people come to you, rather than being happy to engage with them, they may seem like a burden.
Interestingly, you might have a similar reaction if you don’t have enough to do. If you are bored or underused, it can be hard to overcome inertia and engage in a positive way.
Move on now to focusing on ways to manage your feelings and reactions. After all, your response is the only thing you truly control.
Can you catch yourself tensing up? Maybe your shoulders tighten or your fists clench. It’s useful to know your signals, because relaxing your muscles can help ease your emotional reaction. Then take some slow deep breaths to further relax.
Identify triggers from past incidents so that you can try to anticipate your responses.
Treat your irritation as a habit you would like to break. Reflect back at the end of your day, noting successes and thinking about what you could have done differently. Go a little easy on yourself.
Seek out people who model positivity and avoid people who feed the reactions you’re trying to change. You don’t want to become part of a toxic vortex.
And if you have determined that there are legitimate underlying issues, take action to keep them from corroding your day-to-day life.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, coach and owner of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.