Friday, March 17, 2017

How to Manage Your Moods




Happy St. Patrick's Day, Besties!  I hope you are all donning shades of green and celebrating with your loved ones!  This girl is SUPER Irish, and SUPER proud of it, so may I just say Erin Go Bragh ("Ireland Forever" in Gaelic, in case some of my Besties aren't as hardcore about St. Patrick's Day as I)!

Today we're tackling the topic of managing our moods.  For the sake of this post, I'm going to stick with some basic principles - ways to increase our awareness of what we are experiencing and feeling.  The goal is to gain better control of our emotions, allowing us to decide what to do with them, rather than being controlled by them.  

First, it's important to be specific about exactly what you are thinking, feeling, and experiencing.  Most of the time, it's not enough to say "I'm feeling depressed" or "I am anxious about this." It's not specific enough.  That doesn't tell you how depressed or anxious you are feeling, nor does it allow you to compare how you are feeling today with yesterday or last week.  Using a tool such as a depression scale or an anxiety inventory can be very helpful.  These measures aren't meant as tools for you to self-diagnose; rather they clue you into the symptoms therapists commonly assess for.  I repeat: DIAGNOSING IS BEST LEFT TO PROFESSIONALS. However, these scales can give you an idea as to whether what you are experiencing is within a normal range or if it would be wise to see a therapist to get some additional support.  Also, doing an inventory every so often gives you an idea of how you are progressing over time. 

It is also important to test your thinking.  Taking the time to really understand why you are feeling a certain way is truly half the battle to feeling something different.  Whenever you have a strong mood (anger, sadness, guilt, anxiety, etc.), you can use a thought record to process through what made you feel that way as well as your underlying beliefs which may have contributed to that emotion.   Thought records are used by therapists all the time to help their clients gain insight into their moods, thoughts, and behaviors. You can find a printable thought record here and read more about how they can be helpful here.  

Once you have a better understanding of what you are feeling and why, you will want to take action to cope in healthier ways.  What is the problem you are trying to change?  Is it a mood, a repeated behavior pattern, a difficult relationship?  Write down a goal you would like to work toward related to what you want to change.  Then write down some simple actions you can take to make progress toward that goal.  If you get stuck, think of what advice you would give a friend who had the same goal.  Or ask your therapist or a Bestie to help you.  It is also helpful to try coping ahead by thinking of obstacles that could hinder your progress toward your goal.  Answer the question:  If ________ happens, I will cope by _______________.  

Finally, HAVE SOME FUN.  For the love.  If you want to feel something different, you have to do something different.  What makes you happy?  What makes you laugh?  What do you love to do?  Make a list and then do something on that list.  One thing I tell my clients to do is write something fun they like to do on each index card in a whole deck.  When they find themselves struggling to cope or if they are simply having a bad day, I tell them to shuffle up the deck and choose a card.  Then do whatever is on that card.  You are the author of that deck, therefore you should be perfectly willing to do whatever that card says.  Keep those cards handy and you will always be able to change your mood lickety split.  

I hope you find these suggestions helpful.  Feel free to let me know if you have any questions!  Your Self Care Bestie is here for you.  And if you are interested in FaceTime, Skype, or phone therapy, please don't hesitate to email me.  I would love to assist you in any way possible.  

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