Nicola Morgan

Author, Speaker, Supporter

Understanding and Supporting Your Teenagers – few spaces left and I’m not doing it again!

#AskNicolaMorgan 9: “Bad moods and feeling like we can’t be bothered – help!”

As I’ve said, I’ll be announcing the winners of the Ask Nicola Morgan competition tomorrow but first I’m trying to answer as many questions as possible. (I’ll continue doing so after the results are announced. The deal is that every school will have at least one question answered.

Today I’m answer two similar questions from Ms Chadwick’s library crowd at Benfield School, Newcastle.

“I sometimes get into a really bad mood and can see myself being horrible to people. Any advice on how to get out of this and turn the day around?”

I so sympathise with this! I know this feeling: it’s like nettles in my veins. I feel agitated and just cross and anyone who gets in my way (especially family – I can usually hold it together with other people) will get the rough edge of my tongue.

Fundamentals of readaxation or reading for pleasure and wellbeingSome advice:

  1. Don’t beat yourself up. It’s a very unpleasant but physical feeling and it happens to some people more than others. It could be because of hormones – male and female hormones can make us feel like this. Or it could be stress, anxiety or upset about something.
  2. Try to get yourself somewhere where you can’t hurt other people with your words or actions. Find somewhere you can be on your own for a bit.
  3. Now that you’ve acknowledged that you’re in a bad mood, it’s time to find some distracting and/or relaxing activities. Find something to do that you like doing, so that you can switch the bad mood to a better one. Here are some ideas – choose one you like and which you are able/allowed to do (and if you can’t do it right now, look forward to it):
    • sport (watching or participating); going for a run or a walk or going to a gym or doing some yoga
    • watching funny YouTube videos
    • spending half an hour on a hobby; creating something – drawing, baking, music, writing?
    • listening to music
    • having a long bath
    • read an exciting book; do a puzzle
    • watch a TV programme or film
  4. To try to avoid it happening again, work out what your trigger was. Something someone said? Time of the month? Stress about exams or upset about something you “failed” at? Being with a particular person? If there’s nothing you can do to avoid this trigger again, at least be prepared, so that when the nettles in your veins start to kick in, you can quickly take yourself away to a place where you can safely vent your anger and find a distracting activity.
  5. Finally, when you say something you regret to someone, just say sorry afterwards. Explain that you felt in a really bad mood and you didn’t mean what you said. Saying sorry can be a really powerful thing – it makes you and the other person feel better and repairs friendships.

My mother used to tell me to “snap out of it”. It’s not a helpful thing for someone to say to us! BUT it is a helpful thing to say to ourselves. So say “snap out of it” to yourself and then find a distracting positive action to replace the feeling with – but, as I say, don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t work. Hormones – if that’s what it happens to be – are powerful chemicals and hard to ignore.

“Sometimes we feel like we can’t be bothered with anything and everything is a huge effort. What do you do when you feel like this?”

Why schools should spend time and funds on stress management and wellbeing skillsYou’re right to assume I sometimes feel like this! I think pretty much everyone does sometimes. There are all sorts of reasons. It can be hormones again, or tiredness/boredom, frustration, the weather, a temporary feeling of depression or low mood. And, before I say what I do, let me just say something about that: one of the symptoms of depression is a feeling of not being able to be bothered with anything, a real lack of energy and motivation. So, if you feel like this a lot and have done for a few weeks, please see a doctor, who can see whether you do have some kind of depression, in which case it can be treated. Don’t put up with it for too long or it can get worse and then become harder to treat.

What do I do when I feel like this?

  1. I let the feeling sit around for a little while while I gather my energy. During that time, I think to myself: “OK, you feel down today – it’s probably because you just had a really tough week. So, what are you going to do about it?”
  2. I then look at my list of things I need to do but haven’t got round to (I always have a list – but if you don’t have one, make one!) and I choose one easy one to do from it. And I do it.
  3. Then I find something I know will make me feel good, even if I might not feel like it at the time. And I say to myself, “If you do this, even though you don’t want to, you know you’ll feel better. So DO IT!”

That “something” is almost always physical exercise. There’s so much science to support the theory that exercise improves our mood. The problem is we usually don’t fancy doing it when we’re feeling low. But, as long as we aren’t physically unwell (when exercise can be a bad idea, although even then a walk outside would still usually be excellent) it is usually a very good Idea. So, I make myself go for a run or a cycle or a fast walk. Even in the rain! (Gardening is another one for me, but probably not so interesting or practical for you.)

In a way, that thing I said above about “snapping out of it” also applies, as long as we say it to ourselves and someone doesn’t say it to us! But the key is that if we know in our heads that exercise will help, even though we don’t feel like it in our hearts, we can use our heads to rule our hearts. We can tell ourselves, “Going for a walk/run/swim/gym session/kicking a ball in a park WILL make me feel better: trust me.” And then force ourselves to do it. It’s that effort to get started that’s the hardest bit.

But if you can get started, it works.

If exercise is something you can’t do or you’d rather do something else, then choose anything you enjoy and which takes your mind off yourself: TV/DVD, reading, a hobby. I’d recommend not using computer screens (gaming or social media) for this particular situation, as there is too high a chance you’ll end up doing it for too long and then feeling worse. But if you did some exercise and then used your screen, I think this would be OK.

As I say, if this feeling of no energy or motivation to do anything keeps happening, do see a doctor, just in case there’s something more to it. But if it’s just every now and then, as it is with me, push yourself into doing something physical if at all possible. Especially if you can go outdoors – there’s something uplifting about open spaces and greenery or natural surroundings. Even in bad weather – in fact, there’s something liberating about walking in heavy rain! Climbing a hill is a great idea, if you have one near you – the picture at the top of this page is a hill I used to have outside my back garden.

Great questions, Ms Chadwick’s library crowd!

Tomorrow, the announcement of the winners – which I still haven’t decided, though… Arghhhhh!

Do comment but please remember that this site is for all ages.

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