Working Through a Bad Mood

People pay me to get them out of a bad mood. After twenty years of doing just that, here’s my most common advice:

1) Don’t fight it. Fighting a bad mood is like panicking in quicksand—it can make things worse. If you can give yourself the space and permission to just let it be, it will pass on its own. Most people try to bury a bad mood because it means they’re imperfect or will hurt others. Neither are true and burying it just prolongs it.

2) Look for the reason.What caused the bad mood? Did someone mistreat you? Did you over-extend yourself? Your bad mood may be your signal that something needs your attention ASAP.

3) Launch yourself with it. Can your negative mood work to your advantage? Bad moods can be very motivating. For example, how many Olympic gold medal stories have you heard that start with a sad story?

5) Reverse roles: All moods are normal. If you are having trouble believing it, picture your friend telling you about the same mood and situation. Would you really beat her up the way you are beating up yourself?

6) Stay present. Don’t exacerbate your bad mood by adding fuel to the fire. This is not the time to go over past gripes or future worries. Try to concentrate on the current mood and situation only. Compounding it just distracts you from what you need to attend to now.

8) Take a time out: A bad mood is a good time to take a walk around the block or shut your office door to have a few quiet moments. It’s not a good time to initiate important work decisions or socialize. Be kind to yourself, the world will carry on for a bit without you. Take the time out.

9) Distract yourself. When you’ve given the feeling some time to resolve or you just can’t take that mental break, it’s perfectly okay to distract yourself. A good cup of coffee, a trip to the library, some busy work. Indulge in some distracting self-TLC. Just be sure to get back to that bad mood when you can, otherwise that distraction is called a compulsion.

10) Tell people what you need. Don’t expect others to be mind-readers. People will resent you for it. Simply explain you aren’t in the best of moods and ask for some space or a shoulder. You don’t have to give a lot of detail, and in fact shouldn’t. Most people are glad to help you, just as you are glad to help them.

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Laura F. Dabney , M.D.

Laura F. Dabney, M.D., trained at Eastern Virginia Medical School and practiced emergency, in-patient and consult-liaison psychiatry at all the area hospitals including Sentara Norfolk General and the Veteran’s Hospital in Hampton. As a doctor of psychiatry, she treats patients with medication as well as all of today’s popular therapy techniques. As a physician, she can figure out if your symptoms are due to a medical or an emotional problem. Many medical problems, such as hypothyroidism, can cause emotional symptoms and thus be mistaken for a psychiatric problem. A medical background provides Dr. Dabney with the ability to give you an accurate, safe diagnosis. Dr. Dabney keeps up to date with her medical training as a member of various professional organizations. For more information, visit www.drldabney.com, call 757-340-0800, or email dabneyoffice@gmail.com.

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