Community & Current Events

5 ways to beat a bad mood

By: Cheryl Embrett

Photography by © Author: Canadian Living Credits: Photography by ©

Community & Current Events

5 ways to beat a bad mood

By: Cheryl Embrett
You wake up on the wrong side of the bed and spend the rest of the day in a downward spiral – slamming doors, blaring your car horn and snapping at everyone in sight. While we all feel cranky, irritable and angry sometimes, persistent bad moods aren’t healthy for you or anyone around you. Fortunately, it’s often not that hard to get out of a funk.

"While we may not be able to control bad-mood triggers, we can control how we respond to them," says Tanya Geisler, a life and business coach in Toronto. "It’s all a matter of intention. Once you choose to have a fun, easy or stress-free day, you can make it happen." Here’s how to give that bad mood the boot.

Trigger 1
Your alarm didn’t go off, you’re running late for work and there’s no milk for your coffee – grr! You know you shouldn’t be sweating the small stuff, but you’re too far into meltdown mode to care.

• Plan for a good morning
Think of something you can do to get your day off to a good start and try to incorporate it into your morning routine. For Carol Costello, a busy MRI technologist and mother of two, it’s her 5:30 a.m. fitness walk with a friend. "It’s my chance to blow off steam, have some girl time and still get in a workout before the business of the day begins," she says. "I don’t think I’d be as patient with everyone if I didn’t get that me time."

• Apply the rule of 10
Ask yourself whether all those little irritants and hassles that feel important right now are really going to matter in 10 minutes, 10 months or 10 years, advises Geisler. "It’s a really quick way to pull yourself out of the immediacy of the moment and gain some perspective."
Trigger 2
You had a fight with your partner (or mom, BFF, kid, fill in the blank) and you just can’t shake it. Everyone around you is feeling the fallout.

• Make like Buddha
"Rest in the moment and be a nonjudgmental observer of your feelings," advises Angie Birt, an assistant professor in the department of psychology at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, and a yoga instructor. Think, OK, I’ve had a fight with my spouse, and this is how I feel about it. But don’t try to fix it or think it through too much. By giving yourself some time and distance, you may realize, Wow, this isn’t as important as I thought it was or, I can see that I need to apologize.

You might even think, This relationship isn’t so healthy; maybe it’s best if I let it go. Be careful not to confuse quiet contemplation with rumination – persistently chewing over details of the argument. That just adds fuel to the fire and, before you know it, you’re remembering everything your spouse ever did to disappoint or annoy you, right back to the time he showed up late for your first date.

• Channel your inner toddler
"If you want a role model for letting go of anger, watch a little kid throw a temper tantrum and laugh five minutes later," says Dr. David Posen, a stress consultant in Oakville, Ont., and author of The Little Book of Stress Relief (Firefly Books, 2004). "Then see if you can match that – preferably without the tantrum."

You feel like your whole life is out of control. How do other women manage to make it to the gym, read their book club books and get perfect pedicures when you can barely find time for a morning shower?

• Adjust your expectations
Start with small goals and changes to your day or week that will help you regain a sense of control. If you never get to the gym, for example, don’t expect to fit in a daily hour-long workout. "It’s like telling yourself you need to lose 50 pounds," says Birt. "It’s overwhelming, and you end up not starting at all." Instead, your goal could be to work out for half an hour this week. And maybe next week you’ll find two days to squeeze in the time.

• Think positive thoughts
Instead of focusing on what you haven’t done or achieved, think of all the things that have gone well and what you have accomplished in other areas of your life. OK, you may not always finish your book club book, but you always find time to read your daughter a bedtime story.
Trigger 4
Your friends are all leading more exciting lives than you are. You know this because you read about their fabulous jobs, trips and kids on Facebook. Even though you have a lot to be thankful for, gratitude is not what you’re feeling right now.

• Look at the big picture
Keep reminding yourself that things aren’t always what they seem. Your Facebook friend who just landed that big promotion may be scoring a 10 in her career but only a two in her family life. "You’re only seeing everyone else’s highlight reels, not all the behind-the-scenes stuff," says Geisler.

• Get to the root of the matter
Ask yourself what it is that you’re missing in your life right now that’s making you feel so discontented. If you’re over-the-top envious of all the trips your friends are taking, for example, maybe you’re feeling tied down and need more freedom. "Recognizing it is the first step to making it happen," says Geisler.

• Take a hiatus
We all have a cacophony of niggling negative voices in our heads – saboteurs – that tell us we’re not smart enough, not good enough, not successful enough. "If looking at status updates on Facebook triggers those voices, it may be time to cut back on Facebook," says Geisler.

Trigger 5
You get a call from your doctor, who says the results of some tests weren’t clear so she wants to run a few more. You immediately think, I have cancer. Am I going to die? Five minutes later you’re looking up diseases on the Internet and getting all twisted up inside.

• Adopt a new motto
Some worrying is normal and inevitable, such as when your teenager is still out two hours after curfew. But some people worry weeks or months in advance. "It’s as if they’re trying to get a head start so they can be miserable for as long as possible," says Posen. Avoid ‘long-distance’ worrying, he adds. His motto? "Don’t worry until you know you have something to worry about. If there is a reason to worry, you’ll have all the time in the world to worry about it then."

• Put it in writing
Confront your fears with an exercise that Posen calls "creative worrying." Write out answers to these questions:

1. What is the absolute worst thing that can happen?
2. How likely is it to happen?
3. If it does happen, how would I deal with the problem?
4. What can I do now to either prevent it from happening or prepare for it?

"This exercise will give you a kind of road map for how you’ll handle the situation if the worst really does occur," says Posen. Having a game plan increases your feelings of control and reduces stress and anxiety.

• Stop surfing
A lot of health information on the Internet is unfiltered, inaccurate and downright scary, says Posen. "You’re not going to do anything until the tests come back anyway, so why go looking for trouble?

This story was originally titled "Bad Mood Boot Camp" in the September 2012 issue.

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Community & Current Events

5 ways to beat a bad mood