I have a set point for happiness. My natural mood tends to be positive and optimistic.
But there are days that’s not the norm.
Some mornings I wake up in a cloud of gray, swamped by sadness, or feeling a dull acceptance of the circumstances of my life that disappoint, drain my energy, kill my joy.
Where does it come from, this other side of my emotional self? And why does it show up, out of the blue?
The surprising thing, when I feel around within myself, is that really, nothing’s changed in my life. Nothing has happened to move me from happy to sad.
Why are some mornings glorious, sunny, full of life?
And others, not. The sad days don’t come often, but when they do, I’m always caught off guard.
Just yesterday I felt so good…what happened overnight?
No life is perfect, and there are pieces of mine I would change. Sometimes relationships get tricky, and there are situations I wish could be easier. But on the whole, I accept the mostly good with the sometimes not-so-good. I’m thankful for so much. I have so much.
With no obvious change to point to, I’ve learned to observe. To sit back and be patient with my mood.
To be clear, I’m not talking about true depression…that’s a different situation. I’m not speaking of debilitating distress.
But moods can damage, even if they’re not debilitating.
A down day can lead further, if I allow it to go unchallenged.
I can’t just flip a switch to turn on sunshine, but I can be aware of what’s happening, and keep a bad day from becoming more. These are the strategies I use, to stabilize and head back up.
- I take inventory: what feels out of sync, what’s troubling me?
- I confront: is there something I should do, or can do?
- I get up: doing anything to get moving is good therapy…exercise, work on a project, run errands.
- I count my blessings: even on a gray day, there are good things in my life.
- I wait: I’ve learned that moods are funny things, and a down day can happen even when I don’t really see a cause. Is it a result of environmental factors, something physical that’s out of balance, a bad night’s sleep, or a stressful week?
- I reach for comfort: I read something inspiring, listen to music that makes me want to sing; I talk to family or a friend.
- I nurture myself: this is a day to eat what feels right, and sometimes that’s comfort food, sometimes it might be more of a “de-tox” menu, but whatever sounds good is what I go with.
- I sleep: sometimes, the best remedy is really just getting more rest, and starting fresh the next day. Especially if I’ve been stressed with deadlines or sleeping poorly, going to bed early might be just the charm I need.
None of these things are cure-alls, and none address serious issues that come to every life. But for the occasional mood swings that seem inexplicable, these tools help; help me keep perspective, help me weather a down day, help me find the sun again.
I’ve learned that a lot of what I tell myself, I believe, and while it’s important that I not feed myself fairy tales, it’s also important that I stay focused on the positive. The messages that resonate and encourage are exactly what I need to hear on these days.
Feelings are much like waves, we can’t stop them from coming, but we can choose which ones to surf.
When I’m aware of my moods, and take control rather than let a mood roll over me, I feel empowered. I know I can’t control everything, but I can manage myself. It may take me a few hours, or a day or two, but I can do something, beginning with the list above.
What do you do when you’re down? What strategies work? Please share! I’d love to hear from others.