I recently took a research trip to test the hypothesis that we get crankier as we get older. It wasn't exactly a scientific outing, more like our annual family visit to the retirement community where my in-laws live. But everywhere we went, I found myself inadvertently gathering data on aging and ill temper. After a week of solid fact finding, including a watershed experience in the lounge of a packed Outback steakhouse, I am now prepared to share my findings, including causes and potential cures.
Why do we get more irritable as we age?
First, there is the obvious. Our personal runways aren't as long as they used to be, and we are pissed off about this.
Second, our bodies are doing things they have not been given permission to do, like generating random aches and strange brown spots.
Third, younger people tend to tell us how good we look for our age. (Note to self: Never, ever make this kind of comment again.)
Fourth, as we grapple with all of the above, we just feel more entitled than we used to. In other words, misery loves company.
So, what can we do about it?
Number four is the one we have the most control over, and I for one would like to hang a "No Vacancy" sign before chronic irritability unpacks its Tumi rollaway in the guest room of my cerebral cortex.
Here are some tips for dealing with your inner crank:
Analyze Yourself: Figure out what is causing your bad mood. Likely suspects of frequent irritability include being disappointed in yourself or others, feeling rushed, being hungry and not getting enough sleep. If you find that you are cranky all the time, you will need to dig deeper to get at the cause.
Fix What Ails You: Once you've identified the source of your irritation, take steps to cure it. Some of the issues, like puckishness, will be easy to resolve. For those that can't be fixed with a little dark chocolate (my silver bullet for crankiness), take measures geared to increase your overall sense of well-being. Exercise more or try other methods for boosting your endorphins, which are naturally-occurring chemicals that affect our moods. Listening to calming music might help, or try reading a book or watching a movie, activities that can distract you and preempt negative thoughts. If you feel like you are about to erupt, try to ward off your verbal lava by taking a few deep breaths and thinking of something that makes you happy (chocolate works here too).
Seek Advice: If you have chronic irritability you think is related to aging in general and can't solve it on your own, you might consider counseling to help you grapple with your feelings.
Trust me, you don't want to be the shrill 60-something making everyone around her in the restaurant miserable because her table was still being cleared. Before you lash out, decide if there is another way to go. You'll feel better and so will your friends and family.
What are your remedies for crankiness?
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