Monday, December 08, 2008

Banishing a Bad Mood

Have you ever just been overtaken by irritation, anger, snappishness and the like? I once walked into my friend Alec's office and noticed that he seemed like he was in a bad mood. I said "I sense an air of pissiness about you" and it sent him into a totally terrible mood. Today, I don't know what happened - I had a great weekend seeing my friend Dumiak at the Dusseldorf Christmas market and chatting with my friend Jen over dinner. It's Monday morning. I woke up late, I rushed to work, I couldn't get motivated to do anything and suddenly - I was in a bad mood. Every email is infuriating me. Every minute late people are to talk to me is a minute too much (coming from someone who is chronically late, this is rich).

I don't want to talk to anyone. I don't want to be bothered. I want to sit on the couch and knit or pet Simon. I want to lay in bed and sleep. I certainly don't want to struggle with my colleagues at work and attend meetings and push along my dreary work. It's an uphill struggle every day anyway, and it doesn't help when a bad mood has perched itself on my shoulders and is threatening to make me lose my temper and say or do something I might regret. I still have four hours left in the day and numerous minefields to avoid.

So - according to the internet, here are some ways to banish my bad mood. I would appreciate any readers sending suggestions of their own as well.

Step 1: Decode Your Mood
Sometimes you know exactly what’s upsetting you. Or do you? Figure out what’s wrong.

Step 2: Calm Down
Start by taking a few deep breaths to get your emotions under control. Then choose one or more of the following techniques to help clear your mind.

Focus on Breathing
Take 10 deep breaths. Breathing may help restore the balance between the parasympathetic (or restorative) and sympathetic (fight-or-flight) nervous systems, buffering your body’s natural reaction to stressful situations.

Make a Pie Chart
Draw a circle and create slices of a pie chart to represent all the things that are upsetting you. Include everything you can think of, even if it’s as mundane as the nonstop rain outside. The act of presenting your concerns visually clarifies things making the problems easier to identify and therefore to manage.

Find a Quiet Place
Ideally, go someplace where you can have privacy to shut down the stimulation to your brain. If you’re at a busy place, like your office or a restaurant, he suggests, head to the bathroom and take a few minutes for yourself. If you’re at home, go to your bedroom or a place that feels comforting.

Distract Yourself
Read a favorite funny website, play with your dog, fold laundry, or wash dishes for a few minutes. Diversions allow your emotions to calm down. And because your brain keeps processing the problem even when you’re not consciously thinking about it, you’ll be better able to deal with the issue once you return to it.

Get Some Exercise
If possible, go out for a brisk walk, or do some stretches or yoga poses. Just 10 minutes of an active and distracting activity breaks the flow of rumination and lifts people’s moods. This leads them to think more clearly.

Blow Off Steam
Call a patient friend. Be sure to tell her you’re not trying to fix anything — you just want a listener. Talking through your concerns makes them seem more manageable. But once you’ve vented, it’s important to let it go.

Step 3: Create a Strategy
Talk to a Problem-Solver
People often think they should be able to handle problems on their own, and they don’t want to burden others. But it’s easier to strategize with support. Discuss things you can do to feel better as well as fix the problem.

Make a List
It should include things that will make you feel better, like sending flowers to your husband, calling Dad’s doctor to discuss his progress, or going to the gym at lunchtime. Lists force you to structure your concerns and help you move into problem-solving mode. Number the items in the order that you want to accomplish them.

Visualize Your Ideal
Take a few minutes to close your eyes and picture what you want in the moment, as if it’s actually happening. This visualization technique is basically a form of rehearsal. For instance, after you and your sister argue, imagine the two of you having a great time over dinner at your favorite restaurant. The memories of the fight will be replaced by a positive picture of harmony and fun.


  1. This is more long term, but I would suggest RET (rational emotional training - or something like that. Google it). I did about about 5 or 6 sessions, and they really helped me to understand my emotional responses and then to relativize them. Otherwise, just accept that every once in a while you're going to have a bad mood, and spend your free time petting Simon and knitting!

  2. A shot of tequila and a hot bubble bath works wonders.

  3. Anonymous3:00 AM

    Exercise of some sort usually helps me. The more depressed/ pissed off I am, the further I run. By the time I'm done, I usually fell better. Mike