Footstep 6

Managing thoughts and mood

It is normal for human beings to notice ups and downs in their mood. Day-to-day life, the weather, what is going on in the world, whether we have slept well, diet, alcohol, relationships and our commitments as carers can all effect our emotions.

Managing our moods is something we have to do constantly. Being happy and bubbly when faced with a serious situation can be just as inappropriate as being down and grumpy at a party.

So how do we manage our moods? Let's find out...

What do we mean by ‘managing moods’?

We all go through periods of 'moodiness' when we feel irritable, sad, frustrated or worried. Carers can feel:

  • Angry and frustrated
  • Fearful and worried
  • Low and unmotivated

If you have these feelings, then you probably find that they get in the way of your day-to-day life and can be quite overwhelming at times. It is common to think that there is nothing you can do as these feelings just ‘take over’ and can go on for a long time.

This is not your fault. It is more about how our human minds work when they are stressed, we feel unwell or deal with difficult life events. The mind is trying to make sense of everything that is happening and cope with it all.

The good news is that you can do things to manage your moods better.

Ways to manage moods better

You may have thoughts like:

  • “I’m useless now”
  • “I’ll never do that again”
  • “Things are not going to work out”
  • “I can’t cope with everything”
  • “No-one seems to understand me or want to help”.

It can be like a tape recording in your head, which no one else hears.

It's easy to be self-critical and beat yourself up for not being perfect or not getting the job done. The more you do this, though, the more likely negative and unkind thoughts emerge. This pushes you into stress mode.

Realistic positive changes can come from learning to deal with unhelpful thoughts.

Being kind and compassionate to yourself is one of the best things that you can do to start with. This can be difficult though when you are used to being self-critical. You could try imagining that you are talking to a friend. If they said to you “I’m useless”, what might you reply? Perhaps you could even ask a friend to help you come up with some alternatives.

Below are nine hints and tips to help us manage our thoughts and moods.

The trick is to discover which ones work best for you and then use them often.

There is plenty of evidence showing that relaxation and mindfulness can help people to better manage their moods. For example, we know it can reduce stress and improve concentration.

Find out more about how to unwind your body and your mind in Footstep 7 - Moments for relaxation and mindfulness

Nine ways to help you manage moods

1. Noticing negative thoughts

Negative, unhelpful thoughts often quickly come into your mind and affect your mood without you even noticing them. This is what makes them so powerful and believable. If you can get into the habit of spotting your negative thoughts as you have them, then you can reframe them.

For example: “I can’t cope with everything” could be changed into “I’ll make a list of everything I need to do”.

Another idea is to recognise that this is just a thought, not reality and try doing something to distract you, so the thought goes.

2. Practice ‘balanced thinking’

Write down some of your negative thoughts and then imagine what a best friend would say if they knew you were thinking them. Make a note of what your friend would say and use this when they pop back into your mind. You will start to see that these negative thoughts are not always 100% true or believable.

3. Do things that unwind your mind

Do things that unwind and soothe your mind, like walking the dog, listening to music, doodling, breathing calmly or doing craft activities, knitting… anything that is calming.

4. Build a list of positive things you have done today, or this week

This will show you that you are coping or managing life, despite your responsibilities. Keeping a ‘Positive Facts Diary’ helps deal with thoughts like “I can’t do this”. You’ll find that you are actually doing positive things. It is just that your mind gets too distracted and focused on the negatives to realise it.

TIP: Using your mobile phone to take photos of your positive moments is a quick and easy way to collect the facts and keep a visible record to remind yourself!

5. Practice being kind to yourself

For instance, check you are balancing activities and effort (see Footsteps 4 and 5); and perhaps work towards some fun goals (see Footstep 4) like a meal out with a friend.

6. Connect with other carers for support

Find out what other people do to deal with negative thinking and moods through local support groups or useful websites (see the resource list below).

7. Get into helpful habits

Find what made a really useful change for you last week and then use it again this week. You might find some further ideas in Footstep 7.

8. Discover other ways to tackle negative thinking

You can find self-help resources to manage moods in most local libraries or explore the resources below.

9. Share your plans with people you trust and get their support

Remember that you are not alone. We all need support and encouragement from other people, so try not to feel bad about asking friends and family to help you (see Footstep 3).

Resources for managing moods

Five steps to mental wellbeing

Evidence suggests there are five steps you can take to improve your mental health and wellbeing. Trying these things could help you feel more positive and able to get the most out of life. Find out more on the NHS website.

A wide range of self help resources in all formats

Free leaflets, audio recordings and videos from the NHS, about all aspects of managing moods and emotions, including depression, anxiety, anger and many other areas

Mindfulness on Soundcloud

Listen to free mindfulness audio meditations on the Breathworks Soundcloud page.

Children and young people

Young Minds is the children and young people's mental health charity. Whether you want to understand more about how you're feeling and find ways to feel better, or you want to support someone who's struggling, Young Minds can help.

Mental health information

This NHS site will help you identify and manage mental health problems and disorders.

Depression and anxiety self assessment

If you're 16 or over, this depression and anxiety self-assessment quiz can help you better understand how you've been feeling recently.

Managing thoughts and mood: key ideas

  • It is normal for human beings to notice ups and downs in their mood
  • Carers can feel angry, frustrated, fearful, low and unmotivated
  • There are lots of skills you can learn to manage your moods better
  • Remember – we all need support and encouragement from other people, so try not to feel bad about asking friends and family to help you