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Hi there, I hope you’re doing well. Taking care of myself has always been a struggle for me, but I’ve been making an effort, and I hope you are too ❤
Do you ever find your mood swinging up and down based on the behavior of others? Your friend makes a joke about you and you become sad, dejected. Depression kicks in again and you disconnect from people for fear of what they might say next. Or maybe you and your partner are getting along really well right now, and you feel like you’re floating on air. Your mood is elevated, there’s a true smile on your face, and you feel like you can conquer anything that comes your way.
The problem with hinging your mood on the behavior of others is that, inevitably, people will fail you. I don’t say this to be cynical, or cruel, but just to be real. Humans are selfish by nature. We fail by nature. We say or do the wrong thing, despite our best intentions. Your friend will say something you don’t like one day. I guarantee it. You and your partner will inevitably have a disagreement.
This is normal.
The scary thing is when your mood sways up and down with them.
Sometimes, I felt like I wasn’t in control of my own body. I was a little boat and my emotions were the sea. I never knew what kind of waters I would encounter next. A still, turquoise sea, sunshine reflecting off its surface… or rough waves that threatened to swallow me whole.
I knew I needed to take back control, but how?
Well, emotions aren’t really something you can control. You can’t tell yourself to stop feeling upset when you and your partner have a fight any more than you can tell yourself to stop being happy when they bring you flowers or kiss your cheek.
Emotions are real, and they matter. They can be overwhelming, but like the sea, if you learn how to navigate them, they are a lot less daunting.
The first thing I did when learning to navigate my own emotions was to develop coping mechanisms that could help when the waters started to get choppy.
Argument with a friend? Do some deep breathing.
My partner says something that hurts my feelings? Use positive coping thoughts like “this feeling will pass”.
Work is stressful and my boss is a jerk? Imagine my thoughts and feelings are a balloon floating away on the breeze.
There are lots of ways to cope with stressful situations, these are just a few examples that work for me. I suggest seeking out some positive coping mechanisms that work for you. I found these and many more in the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Skills Workbook. Check it out if you’re needing some help in this area.
Once I had some coping mechanisms under my belt for in-the-moment feels, I brought the focus back to my whole self. I sought contentment within myself.
What makes me feel happy? Well, I like reading and writing. Also baking and watching Disney movies.
What are some things I can do to seek contentment when I feel down? I could read a book or watch a Disney movie. Sometimes I’ll even have a movie picked out for the next time my mood is down. I’ve found this really helpful because the times when I really need the mindless joy of a funny movie, I have no motivation or desire to pick one out. Up next is Tangled 😉
I also thought about some things that made me feel unhappy. Not just generals like “when me and my partner fight” or “when my friend says something mean” but specifics.
I need to feel validated by my partner. When I don’t, I feel sad and unimportant. How do I combat this? Well… I told my partner. Simple, right?
Actually no… not for me. I spent a lot of my life being invalidated by others and being punished when I shared my feelings. Opening up has never been an easy thing for me. But I forced myself to. I shook, I held back tears, I was ready to run.
And do you know what happend?
My partner said he would try harder to validate my feelings and gave me a hug.
I felt a little silly for being so scared.
And I’m so glad I told him, because not only did I gain something that I needed, but we grew closer because of my willingness to be vulnerable.
What’s another thing that makes me unhappy? Well, when people make negative comments about things I can’t really change (my body, my personality, etc.) I feel unloved and worthless.
How do I combat this? Just like with my partner, I told my friend who was doing this to me how I felt.
How did that work out?
Not well… they told me that what they said was perfectly reasonable and that I shouldn’t be so sensitive.
Not great, right?
But the thing is, now I know where I stand. That is not a person I can be vulnerable with. And their apologies may not bring me comfort in the future.
And later, when they realized I had pulled away, they actually came back and apologized. A true apology.
It may not always work out the way you hope it will, but it will always work out how it should.
That brings me to the third thing I did, which involved a technique called Radical Acceptance. I learned about it in the DBT Skills book and it has helped me SO MUCH.
I will do another post on this, but to make a long story short, radical acceptance is all about accepting situations for what they are, instead of what you wish they were.
Real life example:
I’m driving to work and I get stuck in traffic. It sucks. I’m feeling frustrated and stressed. I’m concerned about making it to work on time. My feelings of failure are cropping up. I’m starting to use phrases like “I’m such an idiot” and “Why do I always do this?”
But I’m not going to let myself go there. Why? Because I’m practicing Radical Acceptance. I’m stuck in traffic, yes. I’m late. Yes, it sucks. I feel frustrated, and that’s real. But that’s just where I’m at right now, and worrying won’t solve it. I breathe in, I breathe out. I think back to my coping mechanisms, I stuff my feelings of stress and frustration into a balloon, I open my car window, and I watch it fly away.
Let it go, Elsa.
It’s easier said than done, I know. But I can honestly say that I have used this technique time and time again. And you know what? It helps. I genuinely feel lighter when I watch those feelings float away.
So why do these techniques help me to control my own mood?
It helps me find peace. It’s that simple.
You can’t shake a tree whose roots are deep.
I find contentment inside myself. Other things can bring me happiness or sadness, but my soul finds contentment and peace of its own accord.
I set the temperature for my mood. I am in control.
Frankly, sometimes I still mess up. The threads slip, and I scramble to regain the control I had.
This does not make you a failure, it makes you a student of your mind.
The important thing is that we keep trying. That we keep reminding ourselves who is in charge.
I set the temperature.
The wind and the rain may come, but I steer this boat.
So, keep trying. Keep reminding yourself you are in charge. YOU set the temperature. The wind and the rain may come, but you steer your boat.
I hope that you find some peace within yourself. A warm spot inside your soul that you can call home.
I would love to hear your story. Let me know in the comments below what coping mechanisms you use, and how you find peace within yourself.
We’re all on the same team here, and I would love to lift you up.