During times of upheaval, change, and chaos (ahem, looking at you COVID-19), our moods can be all over the place with discomfort-causing emotions.
I’ve been shocked and then sad to see doors that were once wide open, close. The effects of isolating (and being with my family day in and day out) has taken a toll on my extrovert personality and left me unmotivated and irritable. I worry for my family, parents, businesses, the economy, and our country.
Each and every one of us is called to lead during these times: Lead our children, our families, our teams, our businesses and our communities. But how do we do that with strength and creativity when we are feeling all our feels?
Ineffective: Ignore + push away
Have you ever had someone tell you just 'calm down’ or ‘look on the bright side’. Maybe you said that to yourself this week. Was it helpful? Most likely not, since challenging times require something more than thinking happy thoughts. The truth is, if you try to go around, push away, or talk yourself out of how you're feeling, it doesn't really help. It can still control your actions, can come back stronger, or you can come off inauthentic or unfeeling to others.
Below are some steps I use for managing my mood rather than ignoring it. It doesn't make the discomfort go away, but it does give more choice.
Effective: Notice + Support = Choice
First, identify and acknowledge your mood (parenting tip: to tame it, name it). Use the chart to the right if you are having trouble finding a word for what you're feeling.
Then you can take it one step further - really notice how you experience it. For me, if I'm:
Anxious, my stomach begins to hurt and I try to do a 100 things at once.
Sad or disappointed, I get numb and zombie-like to the people around me.
Exhausted, my body feels heavy and I start procrastinating everything.
Irritated, my jaw tightens and I’m sharp with the people around me.
Each mood has a distinct way of showing up in my sensations. I’ve learned to know what mood is hanging around the moment I open my eyes in the morning.
Once you’re aware and have a basic understanding of your moods shows up, you can support them. This is not about pushing away your mood or changing the circumstances (because many times you can’t), but transforming it by supporting what it is telling you.
Our moods and the needs underlying them are unique. It takes some trial and error to learn what works. For me, when I’m:
Anxious, I try to connect to something larger by getting outside, seeing that the trees are still standing and the birds still singing.
Sad or Disappointed, I’ve learned to take time to mourn what is lost starting by sharing with a empathetic friend.
Exhausted, I try to conserve my energy. This may not mean resting because that's not alway possible (ahem, I feel you working parents), but slowing down and lowering my expectations. My favorite phrase from Richard Strozzi-Heckler sums this up - “take it easy, but take it”.
Irritated, is an outcome of a deeper mood left unsupported (see ones above). I try to uncover my deeper mood and support that.
After supporting your mood, it is highly likely that it will still be present (I know, I'm sorry, there are no easy fixes). But it's also likely that you will feel more choice and it won’t feel so in control of you. For me, I find I can:
feel anxious but not obsess about it.
be sad and disappointed but can still laugh and play with my daughter.
be exhausted but can still put one foot in front of the other.
be irritated but still kind and patient.
I can do these things, not because I ignored how I felt, but because I noticed and supported how I felt. This process takes time, isn't perfect and isn’t a straight line, but you will notice a difference and your mood will shift and evolve.
If you would like support for your mood, please reach out.
I wish you health in mind and body as you navigate this time.