Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Balancing acceptance of low moods with efforts to feel better
I had an experience in the weekend that gave me insight into how I balance simply accepting my low moods with actively attempts to feel better. Saturday brought with it a few disappointments and frustrations, like my dog arriving home from the dog sitter when I was still in the bath with conditioner in my hair, then jumping the fence immediately while I stood there helplessly in my dressing gown shouting at him. Next I locked myself out of the bathroom so I couldn’t rinse my hair, then once that was sorted found that despite double checking all my measurements for the new fence I’d got them the wrong way round so the fence didn’t fit the posts, then just missed a friend for coffee then …you get the picture!
As the day progressed I focused on experiencing and accepting my feelings of irritation, panic, anxiety, anger, disappointment and sadness. At first this stopped them getting any worse. But after negative event # 5 or 6, I found that sadness was starting to morph into depression. All I could remember from the day was the long list of things that hadn’t gone right. That alerted me to the fact that my thinking had become distorted. ‘What good things also happened?’ I asked myself. I remembered that we had finished nailing the fence together. I also realised my mistake was not a catastrophe because the fence could be put up the opposite way round. This new perspective lifted my spirits.
Next I looked for on one thing I could control. I decided to head off to a lovely reserve and give the dog a good run. We had a wonderful time there and I went home feeling a lot better, looking forward to having a nice dinner and watching a funny video.
When I analysed what had happened (as I so love to do!) I realised that the steps had been:
• Accepting my moods and feeling them, just letting them flow rather than trying to feel ‘up’ all the time
• Becoming aware that this was not enough and my feelings where moving beyond a fleeting sadness to become mild depression
• Examining my thinking for my most common errors and correcting them – shifting my focus from the negative to positive events and de-catastrophising,
• Looking for one thing I could control
• Doing something pleasurable, and
• Planning some small enjoyable things to look forward to.
That’s how I manage when a good mood starts to slip into a low one. In a future post I’ll talk about how I balance accepting my feelings with taking action when I’m feeling low already.