The blues, a funk or a bad mood – whatever you want to call it – it's not an uncommon feeling, but according to an expert at Baylor College of Medicine, it’s how you react to it that matters.
“It’s normal to feel stressed at work if you have a lot of emails waiting or if there are a lot of competing demands on your time – those can all be setups for stress and anxiety,” said Dr. Sanjay Mathew, associate professor in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor. “Everyone has difficult situations so it’s how you react to it that is important. Do you react with alarm and fear or are you able to cope and manage it?”
Mathew offers some tips to help improve your mood or get you out of your funk.
Make sure that you have sufficient light exposure. Working in an office without windows or a dark environment can impact your mood. According to Mathew, research shows exposure to light can be mood-elevating and can help you get your day off to a good start. Take advantage of situations where you can go outside for a walk or get fresh air – this can be an immediate way to elevate your mood.
Exercise has a very potent effect on mood and anxiety. Exercising on a daily, consistent basis is optimal but according to Mathew, even short bursts of exercise throughout the day can be beneficial. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
“If you’re feeling like you’re in a rut or feeling anxious and want to think things through, exercising in a systematic way is an important thing,” said Mathew.
Talk about it
If stress is the source of your bad mood, Mathew suggests talking to others and not trying to do everything on your own.
“Reach out to others to get social support. The act of talking to others about something can be helpful and can relieve stress,” he said.
Avoid damaging habits
Avoiding damaging things such as excessive alcohol consumption, sleep medications or even caffeine is important in improving your mood and stress level, Mathew said.
There are many ways to think about social interaction. Support groups or groups of like-minded individuals doing a hobby together can improve a person’s mood. The act of interacting with others also can decrease the aloneness that people feel.
“Meet for lunch or some type of activity,” suggests Mathew.
Write it down
Some people find that journaling their thoughts can be enormously helpful, Mathew said. Keep a diary – getting it down on paper can be therapeutic.
Learn something new
Learning something new and finding ways to keep your mind mentally sharp are great ways to improve your mood. Taking a yoga or cooking class or even learning a second language are some ideas Mathew suggests.
“It’s a good rule of thumb for mental health – continuously trying to learn new things that intrigue you. There’s less of a chance that you’ll stagnate or become bored,” he said.
If you’ve tried these tips but still find yourself decreasing your socializing and cutting yourself off from others, it can be a red flag to seek out help.
“If you stop returning phone calls or emails or are finding reasons not to engage with others, it can be an early sign that you’re not doing well,” said Mathew.
Mathew says that recognizing it is the first step. If you are not feeling confident about yourself or if there is something that is holding you back, think about what has changed. If a group activity feels overwhelming, try to do something on a one-on-one basis with a friend.
If there are continued problems with motivation, lack of interest or joy, sadness or despondency for a couple of weeks, consider speaking with your doctor or contacting a therapist.
If you are religious, consider pastoral counseling at your place of worship.