Mama Grow | How To Stay Positive On A Very Bad Day

Thursday 15 April 2021

How to change a bad mood how to overcome anxiety

Bad days - there’s no way to avoid them and they suck. 

Sometimes they’re obvious from the moment you open your eyes in the morning, as if storm clouds have gathered over your pillow during the night. Sometimes they creep up and ambush you when you’re least expecting it. 

But however they happen, they’re an unfortunate fact of life. 

And with the super challenging conditions over the past year and a half, you may have noticed them becoming a lot more frequent.

I know for me, it’s been a fraught balancing act at times. Coming to grips with work issues, pandemic childcare and thornier topics like bereavement and isolation - sometimes I’ve felt myself sinking. 

The signs are easy to spot. I feel withdrawn from life and want to avoid social contact. I start to panic about things that don’t normally affect me. And that familiar sensation of something heavy sitting on my chest starts to kick in.

So what do you do when this happens?

The key idea is to recognise you have a choice. Life happens - good and bad, and you can’t control that. 

What you can control is your own response. You are the one in charge of changing a negative mindset and a downward spiral into something more positive. Yes, it takes a bit of digging deep, but the returns are so worth it. That's the inspiration behind my 'Mama Grow' series of posts. I'm learning and developing all the time, and so are you -  so why don't we share what we've learned?

So here is how I plan to give a big, resounding ‘SOD OFF’ to that nagging little voice in my head that tells me all of the negative things - I’m worthless, I’m terrible, I’m bound to fail. Do one, voices.

Do More Of What Makes You Happy

How to change a bad mood how to be happy

When was the last little moment you felt truly content? 

Not the big, life-affirming ones. I’m not talking about your graduation or the birth of your first-born child here. Nope. More the little moments where you suddenly realise - do you know what, I’m really happy? 

Having a dinner party and looking around at your friends as you share a joke? Snuggling in bed on a lazy Sunday morning with your kids? Taking a long walk alone with a coffee and a podcast? 

Here’s the thing - life is almost entirely composed of these little moments. So if you can tip the balance towards having more of those, then you’re likely to feel happier. When you’re feeling bad, take the time to do something just for you. I know that sounds easier said than done sometimes. But a quick walk outside by the river or a half hour away from your desk to read a chapter of your book are not beyond your reach. You just have to know when to priroritise them.

Working from home I get caught up a lot and often don’t move from my desk. I’m learning that when I’m truly having a shitty day, and things are beginning to spiral, it's a lot more beneficial and productive to take half an hour out and do something just for myself.

Interrupt Anxiety With Gratitude

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One of the most important lessons I’ve learnt since developing anxiety and becoming interested in mind management is to stop your bad feelings in their tracks by forcing yourself to take stock and feel grateful. 

Often it starts feeling like there won’t be anything to record, because you’re so tightly focused on the current crisis and whatever bad thing is happening. But once you start to write down the smallest thing you can be grateful for - the sunshine outside your window, that delicious latte you’ve just polished off - the floodgates usually open and you realise that, actually? You have a lot to feel thankful for. 

Reminding yourself of simple things most of have and take for granted a lot of the time - the freedom to choose, a roof over our heads - the real basics that would make like unbearable if we didn’t have them -  can go an awful long way to flipping those negative feelings on their head and making you realise that, yes, the current situation might be bad, but the bigger picture is quite rosy.

Repeat Some Neutral Thoughts

how to get anxiety under control, how to beat a bad mood

What do you think of positive affirmations? If you’re anything like me, they come with a hefty dose of side eye. 

Telling myself I’m a powerful goddess and that the world’s wealth and opportunities are coming to me just doesn’t sit with my internal bullshit meter. But here’s the thing - you might have been doing affirmations wrong all this time. 

From the coaching that I’ve been taking in, affirmations that actually work to alter a negative thought pattern have to be demonstrably true. They have to be grounded in reality. 

Your brain is extremely good at weaving it's own narratives. It pays way more attention to the negative than the positive in order to protect you - it’s scanning for threats on the horizon. Over time, these neural pathways become worn in. They are literally the path of least resistance for your thoughts to go down. 

The good news is that we have a little thing called neuroplasticity - this means that over time, your thoughts can literally rewire your brain. But it takes practice, patience and repetition. 

Start off by finding a neutral statement that your brain can objectively accept as true. Rather than ‘I’m fat and ugly’ try ‘I have a functional body that hasn’t let me down’. Rather than ‘I’m awful at my job’ try ‘I have a track record of delivering projects well.’

My affirmations are things my brain can accept: 

I am one of a kind

I add value to the world

I am not my mistakes

I enjoy my own company

I focus on what I can control and let go of what I can’t

I have the power to control my thoughts and emotions

I survived this feeling before, and I can do it again

All of these I can accept as true, and focusing on them helps me to pack my anxiety back into the box where it belongs.

Yes, You Can Meditate

mind management, overcoming anxiety

Again, meditation is a concept that a lot of us - myself included - automatically dismiss. Maybe it seems a bit too out there for you, or perhaps you simply struggle with emptying your mind. 

But meditation doesn’t have to be some hour long marathon of sitting in the lotus position and attaining a higher Zen state. It can be taking three minutes to practice box breathing. This is a very real technique (used by the SAS no less!) to bring about a physiological state of calm. 

I like the app Breathly, which is very simple and just guides you through the breath work. That works really well for me when I feel anxious. 

Or simply just take a moment to sit in silence. How often do we do that, without music, or a podcast or something to distract us? Sit in the quiet and just take a moment to inhabit your body and notice how it feels. 

Rewrite Your Story

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Everyone has a story that they tell themselves. And when you’re in the grip of a negative mood, guess what? The story you tell yourself is likely to be pretty catastrophic. 

But you can literally rewrite the narrative. 

Just like with exam revision, the act of physically writing something out encodes that information into our brains. So take a moment to write the ‘story’ of what is happening to you. Then ‘rewrite’ the story, only in more neutral tones. No negatives allowed. Read it back and take a moment to think how it makes you feel. 

Reassured? More in control? Not so sad and desperate? Good. Now go with that. The story is what you make it.

The real point of this post is to emphasise that the reality we experience is never objective. It’s coloured by our moods, our feelings and our mindset. 

When you catch yourself teetering on the edge of a negative spiral, know that you do have the power to stop it

Know that there are hacks you can use to reprogram how you speak to yourself. It all starts in the mind. Now go kick the ass of that bad mood!

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