Agitation and Mood: Hit the Ball!

Public domain image / PDPics

“Crosstown traffic, all you do is slow me down. And I’m trying to get to the other side of town.” – Jimi Hendrix

Lexington has added a few roundabouts in the last couple of years. Roundabouts are phenomenal. Ideally they allow for traffic that would normally have to stop at a stop sign or traffic light to flow more freely. Lexington drivers have, lamentably, failed to allow that ideal to become a reality. Instead of treating these roundabouts as what I like to call “four-way-goes” they treat them as rather confusing four-way stops.

Invariably the driver of the car in front of me can’t differentiate between the yield sign and a stop sign, doesn’t understand how to merge into the already existing traffic flow, and will just come to a stop, often abruptly, and sit there confused for what seems like ages. Meanwhile I am stuck fuming behind them. I can only sit there in my car, dumbfounded and delayed, with my blood pressure boiling.

When I start getting impatient and agitated like this I need to check myself. When I find myself constantly in a hurry, clenching my jaw, gritting my teeth, shaking my fists, and muttering (or screaming) profanities I know that I may be cycling towards hypomania or mania. Impatience, irritability, agitation, anger, and rage are huge symptoms for me. So when every little thing starts to enrage me I need to be mindful of that.

I know that I need to not let the little things like traffic and other drivers bother me. Those things can add up like water in a cup until they spill over and I am a frustrated, irritable, ragey, miserable human being.

But knowing something and being able to do it are two different things. Take baseball, for instance.

There are baseball parents who just can’t seem to help themselves from “coaching” from the stands. Their coaching isn’t complicated. It is pretty much limited to them yelling “Hit the ball!” at their son every time he has the audacity to swing and miss.

It’s not that they’re wrong. Hitting the ball is a very important part of baseball. It’s just that the kid already knew that he should do that, and telling him what he already knows doesn’t equip him with the ability to do it.

The mechanics of hitting need to be developed in practice; they need to be devolved in the batting cage. They need to be taught, drilled, and repeated so often that they become second nature. That way the player can apply them during the game. Practice equips the player with the tools to hit. A parent yelling that they should hit doesn’t do that. They already know they need to hit. This isn’t new information.

Knowing that I am becoming more elevated is good. But knowing my mood doesn’t necessarily help me navigate it. Being aware and mindful is good, but it can sometimes be just as ineffective as shouting “Hit the ball!” from the stands.

I have techniques that I can use to reduce the stress, irritability, and agitation that lead to anger and rage. I have intentional breathing that I can do. I can spend time alone to chill and listen to music; that is often very beneficial. I can avoid stressful situations and known triggers. I can practice the kind of self-care that lowers my baseline level of stress and irritability.

I have tools. But those tools, if not regularly put into practice, are useless.

Like a batter in the cage I need to work on using my tools before my next “at bat”. That way when I am in a situation that might enrage me I can effectively employ those tools rather than succumbing to my rage.

If I don’t do that I’m just swinging and missing while shouting “Hit the ball!” at myself. It is an exercise in futility and frustration and is no good for anyone.