Insulating for Irritability

Dr Bill Howatt from Howatt HR had some great insight on insulating for irritability this week.  He says irritability is a common emotion and there are many factors that cause or contribute to a person’s irritability.  For example, changes in hormone levels, blood sugar levels, lack of sleep, financial challenges, emotional strain, and life demands.  Probably, all of us have experienced one, some, if not all, of these causes during the COVID-19 pandemic.  For many farms, the financial and labour challenges alone with government-imposed restrictions have played a large role on how the farm will operate for the next 12-18 months at least, if not longer.

These contributing factors for irritability can influence our physiology, environment, and level of stress.  All of these factors can create an inability to “shrug-off” the little things which results in irritability.

Dr Bill Howatt mentioned there is a difference between anger and irritability.  Anger is an emotion that is usually triggered by a specific person or event where irritability is usually described as a mood but is not related to a particular event.

Often when we feel irritable, we don’t know what is going on.  It feels like stress and irritability can make a situation worse if an irritable person acts on their emotions instead of walking away and regrouping.

An increase in irritability can put strain in our community and on the farm.  With irritability comes a decrease in compassion, empathy, and social awareness.  Often people will feel on edge, grumpy, cranky, and sour.  This can result in being more aggressive than usual or short with people around us.

Signs we may becoming irritable:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Trembling
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Headaches
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Feeling like nothing in life is working
  • Dependency
  • More frequent outbursts

If the frequency, duration and intensity of being irritable begins to increase, it may be a sign of an underlying mental health issue.

Four micro-skills for preventing and moving through irritability include reducing caffeine and alcohol intake, acknowledging the source, compassion, and being able to burn nervous energy.

For reflection:

  • What’s your default behaviour when you become irritable?
  • How do you catch yourself?



  1. In The Know: Mental Health Literacy Training

    May 5 @ 9:30 am - 2:30 pm
  2. In The Know: Mental Health Literacy Training

    June 9 @ 9:30 am - 2:30 pm

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