We’ve all been there; the phone call, the conversation, the event that sends us into a tailspin of panic, anger or hurt. Something or someone triggers you and it all comes swimming up to the surface. Sometimes you can get back on track, sometimes you can’t. In this post I’ll go through a few techniques you can use to shift your mood when those troubling thoughts and feelings take hold.
- There is no “wrong” feeling
If you’ve ever said to yourself “it’s silly to feel this way,” or “I shouldn’t feel like this,” or “there are people worse off than me,” I would encourage you to let that thinking go. Someone else experiencing worse doesn’t diminish what you feel and someone else handling their troubles seemingly “better” may have more support around them than you. Let go of any guilt, comparison or self-judgement for how you feel and give yourself permission to feel it.
- Allow yourself time to think and feel, even if it’s unpleasant
Trying to brush over your feelings too quickly can end up with a delayed reaction later, at a totally unconnected event. Ever yelled at the kids because you’re stressed about work? Ever yelled at your partner because you’re stressed about the kids? Ever yelled at the dog because you’re stressed about everything? That’s displaced emotion. “Negative” feelings feel horrible and who wants to feel horrible? But those “negative” feelings are an alarm bell that something needs attention and are an opportunity to put it right and improve things in the future, so spend some time working out what you feel and where that comes from and save the dog from a telling off!
- Express it to make sense of it
The best way out is through. Sometimes you may not know what you’re feeling. It might not always be obvious what to do next, either. Journalling is great for this. Ten minutes of stream-of-consciousness writing, getting down every angry, unreasonable thought in your head, every anguished fearful concern, every swear word you know, does wonders. It can be cleansing to rip up the paper or even burn it afterwards, symbolically severing your connection to the situation. Alternatively, grab a pillow and scream into it, punch it or throw it as hard as you can. Or put some music on and dance wildly. Whatever you do, Get It Out and calm those thoughts down.
- Take Action
The worst way to handle a mood is to sit with it for too long, allowing it to consume your thoughts. If you find yourself going down the rabbit hole, MOVE. Find something to do: movement with purpose gets your blood pumping and disrupts the physical state that you are in, which then interrupts the flow of thoughts. You might still be thinking about the issue but you will be taking in new sensory stimuli and it will lessen the sense of being “stuck in your own head”. If you need distraction, put a podcast on or play some music. Don’t sit on the sofa watching TV; you need the movement. Get busy.
- Allot Time For Those Worrying Thoughts
It’s likely that you will replay the situation over in your mind repeatedly, trying to find a solution. If so, limit the time you spend ruminating. You can do this by setting alarms on your phone, perhaps five minutes every hour to think about the situation. That way your mind is reassured that you are working on it but you don’t become consumed by it. Or you can wear an elastic band around your wrist and every time you find yourself thinking about the issue you allow yourself a few minutes and then snap the band as your act of cutting off the thoughts, gradually reducing the amount of time you allow yourself to think about it until you stop. I have used this technique myself with success.
- Accept what you can and can’t control
As parents, we want to protect our children but we know that there are some battles they have to fight for themselves and part of your journey as a parent is learning how to handle watching them go through tough times and stay strong yourself. Do what you can to prepare them for life, put in place all the systems you can to help them and then have the courage to step back emotionally out of your child’s space to protect yourself. Worrying about them too often or too intensely doesn’t improve the situation and drains you, so put your energy to constructive use: what CAN you control? What CAN you affect? How can you improve the situation going forward? How can you build yourself up so that you can cope more easily with the challenges you face?
- Stick to the present
As tempting as it is, there is no benefit in looking backwards or too far into the unknown future. Stick with what you know, what you can do, what you want and how you’re going to get there. You can waste a lot of energy imagining conversations that never happen, fighting battles that never occur and preventing problems that never arise. Save your energy for what’s actually going on.
- Talk to someone and get support
If you find yourself going over the same ground again and again, stuck in a state that you can’t shift, talk to someone. When you feel low or vulnerable it can be tempting to hide away at home, alone, but that’s the time you need support the most. Dilute the power of your thoughts and get another perspective. If you can meet outside the house, even better; a change of scenery can shake off that mood.
- Affirm the truth
FEAR is at the heart of most troubling moods: fear of the unknown, fear that you won’t be able to cope, fear that you’re not good enough, fear that things will never get better. When you don’t know what to do or you’re tired or feeling overwhelmed, it’s tempting to give in to this kind of thinking. So remind yourself of what you know is true: you CAN cope, things are not ALWAYS awful, people DO care, you are NOT alone. Write out the phrases you need to hear the most and stick them up where you will see them regularly. Say them to yourself every day when you wake up and whenever you feel yourself wobbling. Type them into your phone and use them as your screen lock wallpaper. Affirm yourself and banish fear.
- Do something silly and indulgent
Eat the cake, buy the shoes, have that nap. The world won’t end! Taking the odd day off now and then to do something self-indulgent and even – gasp! – irresponsible is absolutely okay. When you’re carrying a lot of responsibility and stress, you need a bit of fun in your life. Take a few hours out and blow off steam, mama!
So there you go: ten ways to shift a mood or troubling thoughts. Allow it, don’t judge it or resist it, express it, get busy, limit your time thinking about it, focus on what you can control, focus on the present, get support, affirm yourself and have some fun.
Let me know if it works for you or what YOU do when those thoughts and feelings settle in and won’t go away.
Much love. x