Thursday, July 21, 2011

Waking up in a foul mood

I have yet to meet a human being who's in a good mood 100% of the time... at least not one who isn't full of shit. I do often describe myself as a "happy person", and that's no lie. I've managed to get to a point where I am appreciative for the things I have, and have grown as a person to the point where I don't take the little things for granted. On a side note, I get really annoyed when I look through people's Twitter posts or Facebook/Google+ status updates, and it's a steady stream of doom and gloom (often in regard to things that are incredibly trite). I mean, in a world where people die of famine and get jailed and tortured based on political beliefs, is it really justifiable having a fit over a package not arriving when you expected, or a software update not functioning as advertised?

But I digress. I awoke today in what many people would call a shitty mood. I mean, right from the start. Alarm went off, and maybe three milliseconds later, I was unhappy. Why? I have no idea. You would think that it had something to do with some event that happened the day before, and it carried over into the next day. Nope. Yesterday was just fine. Got a lot of work done, had some laughs, played with the new cat. All fine. You might think it was inspired by something that happened overnight, but no; I slept soundly for a solid 7-1/2 hours, and what dreams I could remember in the AM seemed my normal mishmash of imagery. I do have a slight headache and the weather outside is deeply overcast, gray and miserable, but neither of those facts would generally inspire me to snarl at people as I'm tempted to do today.

What To Do?
I tried to shake it off in the shower, which often works. Tried some music, which is sometimes helpful. Tried some coffee, because... well, it's fucking coffee, and I need it regardless. Currently, I'm trying to pressure it out with potassium, in the form of a delicious banana. But nothing, it seems, is working. And now, I have a whole day still ahead of me, and no desire to really do anything, or see anyone, or... well, you get the idea. It's not the best way to spend one of your 29,000 days on the planet.

Everyone, to the best of my knowledge, has days like that. Unexplained and unfocused feelings of gloom. In terms of being grateful for what I have, the huge saving grace is that unlike periods of my life where I've gone through situational depression, I am positive that this won't last long. For people who have to live like that day after day with chronic severe depression, well... it's no wonder what the outcome often is.

It Gets Better
Back in the late '90s, I also used to struggle with anxiety, but the main thing that helped me beat that is the awareness that while it may rear its ugly head now and then, it doesn't last long and then it's gone. I'd start to feel an attack coming on, but instead of letting it spiral out of control, I'd just remind myself that in 10-15 minutes or so, provided that I didn't feed it with negative emotions, it would just dissipate. All I needed to do was to wait it out. Gradually, they stopped coming altogether.

A moody, depressive day is like that, but it usually lasts a little longer. But the result is the same; it eventually goes away. Sometimes you do need to force the process a little, and there are a number of ways to do that (I'm doing one now, as you'll see below):

- Exercise: It usually the last thing you feel like doing when you're down, but guess what? It works on two levels. First, the physical aspect of getting blood flowing, oxygen pumping, and possibly endorphins kicking in will magically make you at least a little better. By the way, I'm the world's biggest hypocrite at this moment, since I couldn't muster the energy to workout yet today. Maybe later.

- Do... something: Doesn't really matter what it is. Write a blog post (hint hint). Do your laundry. Go grocery shopping. Play with a pet. Read an article about something scientific. Play a guitar. Watch a silly video on YouTube. Walk through a park. Even doing something for work that you don't ordinarily equate with being joy-inspiring can help you refocus your thoughts in a more positive direction. In any case, sitting there wallowing about your pitiful self is probably the last thing that will help make it go away.

- Talk to people: This is a double-edged sword, since often, you're not in emotional sync with people around you, and though I hate to say it, sometimes having interaction with someone who is chipper and happy when you're anything but is more annoying than helpful. However, it can be a reminder to you that your current mood is an aberration and that eventually, you get to be the annoyingly happy person again.

- Give yourself a break: You're not perfect. You're a human being who might just get run down every so often. I don't know about you, but I work hard and have a lot of responsibilities and commitments, and I often bite off more than I can actually chew. I handle that well most of the time, but even when I'm not directly aware of it, it tends to build up to the point where my mind and body say, "Okay dude, we've had enough, and we're going to close the gate for awhile." If you can't fight off a moody day using your normal set of tools, perhaps it's time to stop fighting and just let it flow until it goes away.

No Easy Answers
As I said above, I am one lucky bastard: due to whatever combination of brain chemistry and environmental factors I have, I don't suffer from depression very often. In fact, during the time it took me to write this, I'm already coming around a little bit. Not everyone has that ability. Each person is an individual, and it's going to be easier or harder for different people to fight the bad moods that will undoubtedly hit you now and then. I really don't claim to have answers for everyone, and what works for me might not do jack shit for you.

However, the one thing I think I can say universally is that it's better to be proactive about fighting off bad moods, temporary depression, or whatever you want to call it. If you can summon the will and the energy to do something about it, you'll probably feel better than being a passive participant to your mood swings. Easier said than done for some folks, I know. But it's what works for me, most of the time. Hopefully, it'll work for you too.

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