It’s happened a million times before. You’re walking along, feeling just fine, when suddenly an interaction with a friend or a stranger, or even an idle thought, leads you to what feels like a pit of despair. Or maybe you’re hanging out with friends, and an innocent comment leads you to feel enraged. If you’re frequently finding yourself dealing with mood swings that are difficult to control, then it’s time to take action. If you want to know how to get started, see Step 1 to be on your way.
Changing Your Perspective
Get help with your mood swings if you need it. If you deal with mood swings every once in a while and find it frustrating, that’s one thing. But if you feel like you are controlled by your moods and fluctuate from very high to very low for little to no reason and feel like you can’t make it better on your own, then it may be time to seek professional help. Mood swings are a symptom of everything from stress and anxiety to bipolar disorder and depression, and you should see a doctor to talk about your problems to find the best course of action.
You may also have trouble controlling your anger, which is something that can be addressed by a professional.
This is not to say that a doctor or medication is always the right answer when it comes to mood swings. But if your mood swings are moderate or severe, then it’s best to explore all of your options before trying to tackle it yourself.
Stop assuming the worst. If you have frequent mood swings, then you may be the kind of person who always assumes that the worst possible thing will happen in a given situation. You may be waiting to hear back from a job and assume you didn’t get it after a day has passed. Your mother may say that she has something to tell you and you assume this means that she’s deathly ill. Well, this kind of thinking is likely to lead you to feeling very angry and upset for little reason.
Instead of assuming the worst that can happen, think about all of the scenarios that are possible. This will help you realize that the worst is not likely to happen, and there’s no point in getting all upset until you know more.
You can think about the worst that can happen and prepare for it, just in case, but avoid dwelling on it or letting it ruin your mood.
Stop overgeneralizing. Overgeneralizing is another way that you may lead yourself into a dark mood. Maybe you had a bad interaction on a date or with a co-worker. So what? You may think this means that you’ll never find love or that you’re going to be fired, but you shouldn’t let one situation or conversation make you feel like it’s indicative of other trends in your life. This kind of thinking is bound to make you moody and upset, but there is a way to counteract it.
Instead of assuming the worst from any situation, you should tell yourself that it’s an isolated incident. Remind yourself of all the success you have had in this realm, whether it’s dating or work, and you’ll see that there’s no need to get all worked up about it.
Stop seeing the world in black and white. This kind of thinking also leads people to instantly bad or changed moods. If you look at everything in black and white, then you’ll only see the world two ways: happy or unhappy, successful or a failure, beautiful or hideous. You need to remember that the world is more nuanced than this, and that there are lots of outcomes between being a complete success and a total failure. Don’t let yourself feel like an ugly, miserable loser just because of one setback.
Okay, so your latest business deal fell through. Does this make you a failure when it comes to business? Absolutely not. You’ve had plenty of successes and a few setbacks, which makes you a well-rounded person.
If something doesn’t go your way, chalk it up to experience. If you didn’t get the job you wanted, it doesn’t mean that you have no skills, but that you will find a better opportunity out there. Don’t let one rejection — or even many — tell you who you are and drive you into a dark mood.
Learn to laugh at yourself. One of the most important things you can do to control your mood swings is to learn to take a step back and to laugh at yourself. People who are prone to mood swings often take themselves pretty seriously, which makes it difficult to be able to poke fun at yourself, make a joke at your own expense, or even to be able to laugh at a debacle you’ve found yourself in. But if you want to control your mood swings, then you have to be able to sit back and laugh sometimes instead of letting every little thing that life throws at you rile you up or get you down.
For example, you’re walking to pick up your date and a bird poops on your head. Okay, so you can be enraged, upset, or frustrated, or you can take a step back and think, “Wow, what are the chances of that happening?” Or, “At least that will make a good story…” Of course, some situations really can’t be laughed at, but for all the rest, some levity can help you stay strong and in control of your moods in the middle of challenging situations.
Controlling Your Mood Swings in the Moment
Know when to walk away. One important thing to keep in mind when it comes to controlling your mood swings is to know when your emotions are taking over so much that your best move is to leave the situation. If you’re getting heated, incredibly angry, or filled with resentment or another negative emotion and you feel like you don’t have control over what you’re doing or saying, then you should excuse yourself and walk away or even just leave the situation without saying anything. Though this may not give you the resolution you wanted, this will keep you from saying or doing something you’ll regret later.
When you walk away and your breathing and thinking return to normal, you’ll be able to have a more rational perspective on the situation.
If you’re in the middle of an argument and are getting heated, you can just say something like, “Excuse me, but I need a few minutes to gather my thoughts.” Then, go somewhere quiet and try to think about what happened as rationally as possible. You can come back to the situation if you feel calm enough, or save it for another day.
Take a five minute break. Sometimes, all you need is to take five minutes to calm down to yourself. When you feel yourself getting heated, whether it’s over an email exchange or an annoying situation at the supermarket, just take five minutes to be still, focus on getting your breathing back to normal, and wait until you stop feeling angry before you return to the situation. Remember that there’s no shame in taking a break and returning to a situation with a more even mind.
Sometimes all you need is a change in environment. Maybe you’ve been cooped up too long at work and need to go outside to get some fresh air. Maybe you’ve been driving from place to place all day and just need to sit down. Whatever it is, taking a break from what you’re doing can impact your mood in a positive way.
Talk to a friend about it. If you’re in a really bad mood or just a funk and you can’t get out of it, then sometimes the best thing you can do is call and talk to a trusted friend and confidante about it. You’ll feel better about getting your anger, sadness, or frustration off your chest and you’ll feel less alone in the process. Your friend should be able to give you some sound advice and to calm you down. Knowing that you have someone to turn to in a time of crisis can help you control your mood swings, because you’ll be comforted by the fact that you can get some help and advice easily. However, just keep in mind that if you always call someone when you’re upset, talking and talking about it can actually get you more fired up and may make you feel worse. Talking to someone can be especially helpful if you feel lonely and need advice, but if you just feel like venting, then talking about the annoying thing that happened to you can actually make you feel worse. Get to know yourself and see if talking to someone is always the best route for you.
Find a calming routine. Everyone does something different to get to his or her “calm place.” You should experiment and find what works for you. Some people just need to take a walk to clear their minds. Other people love sitting back with a warm cup of peppermint or chamomile tea. Some like to listen to jazz or classical music, or to spend a few minutes with their beloved dog or cat. Find whatever makes you feel the most calm and the most in control of your emotions, and find a way to go to your “happy place” whenever you’re in one of your moods.
When you feel a mood coming on, try to complete your calming routine, or to do as much of it as you can. Unfortunately, you may not always have access to the things that make you feel calm or happy, but you should try to do your best. If herbal tea is your thing, then keep a packet of tea bags in your desk at work. If your cat makes you feel at peace, keep a photo of your cat on your phone so you can make yourself smile no matter where you are.
Think before you speak. This is another important rule for controlling your mood swings. You may feel a mood coming on and may say something that will make everyone involved feel worse, and which will be something you would regret later. When you feel yourself getting heated, take a moment to ask yourself if the thing you want to say will really be the most helpful and productive for you, or if there are other ways of expressing yourself or achieving your goals. Even pausing for a few seconds can help you gather yourself and feel more in control of yourself.
Saying something that you don’t really mean can cause reactions that will only escalate the situation — and make you feel even worse in the process.
Take a step back and think about your situation objectively. Sometimes, you may feel a mood coming on because of something insignificant, such as having to spend 15 minutes circling around the Trader Joe’s parking lot to look for a spot. Though you may feel like it’s the end of the world right then and there, take a moment to think about what is really upsetting you. Are you mad about something silly like having to find a parking spot or because of a rude coworker’s pointless comment? Ask yourself if it’s really a big deal, in the scheme of things. Maybe it is, but it’s likely that you’re letting something small blow out of proportion.
We can often let moods come over us without thinking about their source. If you take a moment to do that, you’ll see that there’s no reason for you to be feeling a certain way. Though knowing that there’s no logic in your current mood may not help you change it, it can allow you to calm down a bit and realize that things aren’t as bad as they feel.
Think about your situation as if you were someone else. What would you tell yourself to do? Would you think that the situation you’re in is really that big of a deal?
Grab something to eat. You may think this is absolutely silly, but it’s true that many people suddenly find themselves feeling cranky, angry, and irritated just because their blood sugar is low and they need something to eat. Ask yourself when the last time was that you had a meal — you may find that you skipped a meal or haven’t had a bite in more than a few hours without realizing it. If you find yourself getting moody in the moment, have a healthy snack, like an apple, a handful of almonds, or a yogurt, and you may start to calm down.
It’s best to be prepared and to avoid the situation where you find yourself in a mood because of hunger. Carry around a banana, a granola bar, or a small bag of nuts to keep you sustained throughout the day.
Go for a walk. Going for a walk has been proven to help people beat a bout of bad moods. Just changing your scenery and getting some sunlight and fresh air can help you relieve stress, get your body moving, and to relax as you settle into a nice, even walking pace. You should make walking a part of your everyday routine while also taking a walk when you are starting to feel moody. Just focus on the rhythm of your body and the sound of your breathing, and you will soon feel yourself escaping one of your moods. You may be in a mood because you’ve been cooped up all day, worrying about your problems. Taking a walk will help you see other people going about their day, making you see that there’s a whole world out there aside from you and your problems.
Having a More Balanced Lifestyle
Get enough sleep. Another reason people may be prone to uncontrollable or difficult moods is lack of sleep. If you routinely don’t get enough sleep, then this will make you feel lethargic, irritated, and in less control of your mind and body. Though every person needs a different amount of sleep, most need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep. Once you find your sleep number, try to stick to it, and make sure to go to bed and wake up around the same time every night.
You may not even realize that you’re so sleep deprived because you’ve been drinking so much caffeine to counteract it. You’ll feel far better and less moody with more sleep and less caffeine.
Reduce your stress. Though many of the steps in this section can help you reduce your stress, it’s also important to be aware of your stress levels and to take concerted steps to lower them. Stress is one of the main causes of mood swings, and you should think about which things in your life are bringing you the most stress and how you can address them. There are many steps you can take to bring your stress levels down and your mood up. If your schedule is too packed, take a look at your calendar and see which social events or work obligations you can do without. Make more time for yourself and for hanging out with friends.
If a relationship in your life is causing you stress, then you need to address it. Whether it’s a fraught situation with your parents or your significant other, the sooner you talk about it, the better.
Make more time for relaxation. This can come in the form of yoga, laughter with friends, a warm bath, or mediation.
Avoid too much caffeine. If you’re the kind of person who drinks 3-4 cups of coffee a day, then it may be seriously contributing to your mood swings. However, some people are fine with 4 cups of coffee, while others feel different after just 1 cup. If you suspect that caffeine is responsible for some of your mood swings — for example, if you feel like you have the majority of your mood swings shortly after or while drinking caffeine — then you should make an effort to slowly wean yourself off this drink. You’ll be surprised by how much better and in control you’ll feel.
You can even try switching from coffee to tea, which can make you affected by caffeine less intensely.
You should also try drinking your coffee or tea more slowly. You’ll be more prone to mood swings if you gulp down your entire cup of coffee in less than ten minutes.
It goes without saying that you should avoid energy drinks. These drinks will make you feel jittery and can cause mood swings even in people who aren’t prone to them.
Avoid too much alcohol. Anything more than one glass of red wine a day can be contributing to your mood swings. Drinking alcohol, especially before bed, can make you have a restless sleep and to wake up feeling tired and cranky. Also, you may be more prone to mood swings while you’re drinking alcohol, since it’s a depressant. If you suffer from mood swings, then you should keep your alcohol intake to a minimum, or even eliminate it completely. Along with using alcohol too much, you should also completely avoid illegal drugs. They can exacerbate your mood swings, not to mention cause plenty of other physical problems.
Get plenty of exercise. Making a habit of regularly exercising can help you burn off some of that excess energy and can help you find a more suitable outlet for your feelings. Though exercising for at least 30 minutes a day won’t help you completely control your mood swings, it can definitely help you feel more in control of your body as well as your mind. Exercising can also help you stop your mind from churning and to focus on something physical for a change.
Find a routine regimen that works for you. You can try running, yoga, dancing, swimming, or anything that allows you to spend some time getting physical.
Find an outlet. An outlet is anything that helps you channel your negative or your overwhelming emotions. Some of the best outlets can be found in fulfilling hobbies or passions, such as photography, poetry, or ceramics. Find whatever makes you feel at peace and away from your daily struggles. This doesn’t mean that you can “escape” your mood swings, but it does mean that you can minimize them by making time for yourself to do something you enjoy and love.
Your outlet doesn’t have to be something creative or talent-oriented. Your outlet can be a form of exercise. It can be volunteering or watching classic films. It’s all about finding whatever works for you.
Your outlet can also be something that you can turn to in a time of stress or mood swings. For example, if you feel a mood coming on, you should try to write poetry or do one of your other favorite things.
Spend time with your friends. Spending time socializing can help you control your mood swings and to feel more happy and fulfilled. Though certain social interactions can actually bring about mood swings, spending time with people you love who make you happy can help you feel more calm and at ease. You may also be suffering from depression or sadness because you feel isolated, and being around other people can help you feel more connected. Make a goal of seeing your friends at least a few times a week and you will feel happier and more stable.
That said, it’s also important to always make time for yourself. Mood swings can also come on when people feel like they don’t have any time to themselves and are overwhelmed by everything they have to get done. Make sure there’s time in your schedule to check in with yourself, whether you write in a journal, take a walk, or just sit in silence and think about your week.
Find a way to approach your triggers. Everyone has a trigger — something that sets them off and brings them into a mood. If you know what your triggers are, then you have to work on creating a plan to deal with them. It’s ideal if your triggers are something you can avoid, such as a friend who puts you down, or driving through a certain part of town; unfortunately, there are many cases where you’ll still have to deal with the things that are bothering you. This is why it’s important to find a way to tackle those triggers, so that you feel more in control of your moods the next time you encounter them.
If traffic always sets you off, play a relaying CD of classical music or jazz in the car. If a certain coworker drivers you nuts, learn to avoid this person
Maintain a well-balanced diet. Keeping a well-balanced diet will keep you feeling balanced in body and mind. Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, avoid excessive carbohydrates and processed food, and try not to indulge in too many sugary foods. Getting your healthy carbs, proteins, and fruits and veggies throughout your day can help you feel more balanced and less likely to have mood swings. Here are some other foods that can help your mood:
Omega 3 fatty acids. Foods such as salmon and soybean contain this valuable nutrient.
Folic acid. Get your weekly dose of folic acid, which can be found in leafy greens. Studies show that people who are depressed have a lower intake of folic acid.
Protein. Eat eggs, fish, lean turkey, tofu, and other proteins to keep your body from crashing. Make sure you have protein with a healthy dose of carbohydrates to create balance.
Keep a journal. Keeping a journal can help you keep track of your moods and to think about how you can avoid getting upset or overly emotional in certain situations. You can write about your day and even mention when you were feeling happy and when you were feeling upset, anxious, frustrated, or another emotion in order to better understand the patterns of your moods. You may find that you tend to get moody in the evenings, or when you find yourself around certain people. Keeping track of what you’re thinking and feeling can lead you to be more aware of your moods and to better control them.
Try to write in your journal at least every other day. This will help you develop a routine that allows you to sit back and think instead of just acting.
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Sources and Citations
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