9 Mental-Health Experts on the Strategies They Use to Get Over Bad Moods

Psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists explain how they cope with emotional rough spots

Photo: Roy Hsu/Getty Images

Create some emotional distance.

I try to think about why I am so bothered by the day. Was there some particular trigger? Have I done whatever problem-solving I can around the issues of the day? Once I have done that problem-solving, can I acknowledge that any further angst is just my mind staying stuck? Can I try to let it go and realize that life will go on? Accepting that sometimes life is tough — but that worrying about that doesn’t change it, and just adds to our misery — helps me to move on.

Take care of someone or something.

After work, I head home and get out in my garden. I pull weeds, water plants, and care for what needs attention. In this way, I am offering and receiving uncomplicated love. I love the plant, and then the plant grows beautifully and does its plant thing, which is how I receive love back. With all of the distractions and complications in life, this simple practice is meaningful and healing for me.

Do whatever feels good.

Different days and different circumstances call for different coping strategies. There are days that I come home and need to numb. I put the kids to bed and immediately turn on Netflix to zone out for a while because I need to press pause and completely shut off my brain. On other days, the drumming of my adrenaline calls for more action if I want to unwind and let go. On those days, I hit the trail for a run or walk, take a bike ride with my kids, or catch a yoga class. The movement really helps shift my perspective and my mood.

Spend some time processing your feelings.

When I’m hurt, overwhelmed, or stressed, the first thing I do is recognize that feelings are always there for a reason. This means that I take some time to assess and self-soothe. Sometimes, this means reminding myself that I can only do the best that I can, and that things can be unpredictable. After taking some time to be self-compassionate, I translate what I’m feeling into actions I can take.

Choose your support person strategically.

When I’m having an emotionally challenging moment, I like to be home. My go-to person when I’m coping is usually my husband, but sometimes I go to friends. The person who typically has the best insight is my daughter.

Look up (literally).

I look at the treetops and the clouds. Look around and enjoy the newness of what you see. Try looking down at your shoes and saying, “I feel great,” then looking up at the ceiling or the clouds and saying the same. You’ll notice that one is flat and one has a little more energy. It’s pretty cool.

Take pictures.

One of the things I find really helpful when I am stressed or need to recharge is mindful photography. This practice uses photography as a meditative medium and requires me to slow down as I take things in. It also serves as a great creative outlet and gets me out into nature, which I find is really important for me, as it clears my head and boosts my energy.

Find a more fulfilling replacement for a bad habit.

I love that Apple has given us visibility to our screen time, but I’ve noticed that just knowing I spend too much time on my phone each day hasn’t made me stop. So I challenged myself to make one small switch that will help feed my desire for connection because we have to replace old habits with new ones we enjoy. At the end of the day, instead of spending 20 minutes scrolling through social media, I choose to call a friend, a substitution that satisfies my curiosity and gives me a sense of belonging.

Challenge your internal monologue.

I start paying attention to what I tell myself. In a world that depends on multitasking, we are constantly running a million thoughts through our head each day. I try to identify what these thoughts are for me and determine if I’m bullying myself. If I am, I challenge the negative thoughts by asking myself what evidence I have to support them. This helps me reality-test the nature of my thinking. My larger goal is always to develop a more balanced view of myself and the situations I’m involved in.

Alli Hoff Kosik is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn, NY. A voracious reader, she channeled her love of books into launching The SSR Podcast in June 2018.

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