Five Ways to Help Manage Your Moods
We all experience fluctuations in mood on a daily basis that are healthy and part of being human. From anxiety prior to an important meeting, to irritation sitting in traffic, followed by happiness having lunch with friends before feeling sad while reflecting on the end of a romantic relationship; these are all normal emotions to feel given the situation.
While some individuals experience more severe and impairing fluctuations in mood in the form of Bipolar Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder, many people don’t but still want to develop strategies to manage their mood states more effectively. Maybe this means feeling your emotions less intensely or becoming less reactive to certain situations.
Regardless of which category you fall in, there are several ways to manage your moods better aside from, or in addition to, psychiatric medication and therapy. Let’s take a look!
Mood charts essentially keep track of your daily mood states, with dates indicating when such moods start and stop with additional information regarding sleep, any medications/supplements taken, life stressors, and your menstrual cycle if you are female.
I have worked with many clients who come in and say their mood drastically changes without any noticeable trigger. However, when we examine the days prior in more detail, we find out there is often a build up of emotions and a number of factors contributing to their mood that they initially believed were inconsequential.
If you have been diagnosed with a major mood disorder (ie: Bipolar Disorder, Depression, etc.), catching the subtle changes in mood early on can help you know when to implement various coping skills to prevent a full mood episode from developing. Outside of a mood disorder, increasing your insight into the fluctuating emotions you experience throughout the day and common triggers can help you be more mindful and intentional with your behavior rather than reactionary.
Here are a few of my favorite mood charts:
Mood Fit (free app with options to upgrade)
eMoods Bipolar Tracker (free app with options to upgrade)
Schedules and Routines:
Sticking to schedules and routines is paramount for those who have been diagnosed with a major mood disorder, as actively maintaining daily and nightly routines is one of the most effective strategies to maximize periods of emotional wellness. More extensive than mood charting, the Social Rhythm Metric is a chart that keeps track of your daily routines, such as when you eat, sleep, exercise, and socialize with corresponding mood ratings.
Planning your regular daily activities at predictable times of the day as much as possible can help individuals stabilize their mood by discovering the impact of changes in routines, levels of socialization, and sleep-wake cycles on mood. The link below provides an example of the activities you would track according to the Social Rhythm Metric.
Even outside of a diagnosable mood disorder, adhering to schedules and routines to a certain degree helps manage stress (which is often a trigger for mood shifts) by improving organization, time management, and feelings of control and predictability.
Try using a planner or calendar system that breaks down each day into hours so you can schedule accordingly and make the most of the time you have each day. We all have been guilty of saying there’s not enough time in the day but an hour-by-hour scheduler helps us find those hidden pockets of time.
Avoiding Alcohol and Drugs:
At the risk of having you stop reading here thinking this is going to be another lecture for having a glass of wine or occasional joint, it would be remiss of me not to note the objective findings of substances on mood. Ultimately, the decision to use or not use is yours to make and I support my clients no matter which choice they make but part of my job is to ensure they are making the most informed decision they can, weighing all the pro’s and con’s.
Research repeatedly shows the negative impact alcohol and drug use can have on mood stability, with some substances lowering mood right upon ingestion while others provide an initial boost in mood but are followed by lows the following day(s). If you are taking prescribed medication, alcohol and drugs can make your medication less effective and interrupt the consistency with which you take them, in turn exacerbating mood instability.
With the rise of legalization of medical marijuana among states, many clients start questioning whether it is right for them. The answer is, it depends. Research is mixed regarding which mental health conditions benefit most but because medical marijuana centers list a wide variety of psychiatric conditions that could qualify for such use, many people develop a false sense of comfort in seeking out this treatment option without questioning the contraindications.
One of my biggest qualms, some of the clinics my clients mention, take an overwhelmingly lax approach to assessing individuals, diagnosing appropriately, and exploring multiple treatment options before handing over a prescription. I fully support exploring alternative treatment options for mental health conditions aside from the traditional psychotropic medications commonly prescribed; however, just because a substance has been legalized, it does not mean it is good for you.
The FDA has not approved cannabis for any mental health conditions and the American Psychiatric Association doesn’t recommend it, either. Bottom line, it is a complex issue and there are many factors to consider.
Social support is often instrumental in helping individuals through difficult times and the negative emotions they experience as a result. While people vary in their level of sociability, the experience of feeling heard, validated, supported, and valued is universal and has a notable impact on our mood.
Our social support network is likely to be in flux throughout our lifetime given our own growth and development that influences the boundaries we set with others and qualities we come to expect in both ourselves and others within the relationship. It is not about quantity when it comes to social support, but quality, such as feeling good about yourself when you are with them and regularity of contact.
Diet and Exercise:
There is now no denying the connection between physical health and mental health, with more and more research showing their interplay. In her book, The Anatomy of Anxiety, Dr. Ellen Vora (a psychiatrist) notes the paradigm shift in viewing anxiety as a mental problem (e.g., our negative thoughts lead to physical symptoms) and more of a condition that starts in the body, as our stress response is activated and communicated to our brains.
She argues that many experiences of anxiety today are actually the result of imbalances within our bodies, such as blood sugar crashes, sleep deprivation, and/or caffeine highs. Staying away from foods that irritate our gut (e.g., gluten, dairy, artificial sweeteners) and incorporating more foods that soothe it (e.g., bone broth, ghee, or fermented foods) can help reduce the inflammatory response in our body that in turn impacts regions of the brain involved in fear and threat detection, resulting in symptoms of anxiety.
With regard to exercise, even small amounts of movement can noticeably reduce anxiety and improve overall energy levels. For those out of the exercise game, finding a regimen that feels good for you and can realistically fit into your schedule is possible when we challenge unrealistic expectations about running marathons or competing in Ironman. I highly recommend Dr. Vora’s book for more information on how adjustments to our diet and lifestyle can significantly decrease anxiety.
If you’re struggling to manage your mood and would like to develop strategies to help achieve more balance with your emotions, or if you have questions about whether your mood states meet criteria for a mood disorder, contact us to schedule a session with Dr. Taylor Phillips.
Give us a call today at 954-391-5305 to schedule your complimentary consultation to see how Dr. Phillips can help you live your best life!