Feeling agitated can be unpleasant and disruptive. Agitation is characterized by feelings of restlessness, irritability, anxiety and an inability to relax. While agitation is a common experience for many, severe or chronic agitation may be a sign of an underlying condition that needs treatment. There are many effective strategies to help relieve agitation and calm your mind and body.
Identify the Source
The first step in reducing agitation is to identify potential sources. Temporary agitation may arise from situations like conflicts with others, excessive caffeine intake, lack of sleep, hunger or physical discomfort. If the agitation persists beyond the situation or seems excessive, there may be a medical reason like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, drug withdrawal or a health condition. Pinpointing the root cause will allow you to take appropriate action.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Using relaxation techniques helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system to initiate the body’s natural relaxation response. Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and releasing muscle groups to reduce tension. Mindful breathing exercises, visualization, meditation and yoga can quiet the mind from its turbulent thoughts. Listening to soothing music, spending time in nature and concentrating on a pleasant scene are other effective ways to induce calm.
Exercise and Move Your Body
Physical movement is a constructive way to channel nervous energy. Exercise releases endorphins to improve mood while simultaneously tiring the body. Activities like walking, jogging, swimming, dance and sports allow you to burn off adrenaline and agitated feelings. If you’re irritable, get the frustration out with something active or vigorous. Just be sure to pick an exercise you enjoy so it remains a positive outlet.
Limit Caffeine, Alcohol, Nicotine
Stimulants like caffeine, alcohol and nicotine can heighten feelings of restlessness. Caffeine triggers the release of cortisol and adrenaline, the stress hormones that increase heart rate, blood pressure and agitation. Alcohol may seem to calm nerves initially but can worsen anxiety as it metabolizes in the body. Nicotine also produces short-term stress relief followed by rebound anxiety and nervousness. Limit intake of these substances to reduce fueled agitation.
Get Enough Sleep
Lack of quality sleep disrupts circadian rhythms and impairs emotional regulation in the brain. Build a healthy sleep routine by limiting electronics before bed, eliminating distractions in your room, avoiding large meals near bedtime and going to sleep and waking up at consistent times. To help relax your nervous system before bed, take a warm bath, read a book, listen to soft music or try a light stretch.
Talk It Out
Verbalizing your thoughts and feelings can help defuse agitation. Speaking with a trusted friend or family member allows you to gain perspective, feel understood and work through concerns. Consider counseling if anxiety or depression underlies your restlessness. Therapists provide tools to better manage emotions, stress and behaviors that fuel agitation.
Pursue Enjoyable Activities
When you’re agitated, it’s important to take a break and give your mind a rest from whatever is stressing you. Make time each day for hobbies, leisure or social activities that you find positive and fulfilling. Read a good book, paint, garden or cook. Spend time with loved ones or pets. These pleasurable outlets boost mood and offer a sense of calm.
Look at your environment and routine for factors that may exacerbate your agitation. Loud, hectic or crowded settings, overly warm rooms and uncomfortable clothing can heighten nerves. News, social media and captivating dramas also overstimulate. Eliminate or minimize irritants in your surroundings and daily life as much as possible.
Overall, agitation arises for different reasons among different individuals. Finding the source of your restlessness and frustration is key. Relaxation techniques, adequate sleep, exercise, social support, enjoyable activities and avoiding stimulants and irritants can help settle feelings of agitation. If agitation persists or worns, consult your doctor to address potential medical causes. With the right coping strategies, you can manage agitation and maintain a sense of calm.