by Melanie Greene

Managing your mood

You will have no inner peace as long as the controls of your life are located outside yourself.

Dr Wayne W Dyer

Have you noticed that often, when we ask someone how they are, they say things such as fine, Ok, tired or stressed, but this does not necessarily tell you the whole story? We often tell people about the emotion or mood that is on top, but we are all much more complex than that.

For many of us, our mood can change from day to day or even from moment to moment. Our mood then affects how we perceive the world, our behaviour and how effective we are. In terms of confidence, it is easier to stay upbeat and confident when we are in a positive mood. Therefore, if you can learn to manage your mood throughout your working day and week, this will have a positive impact on your levels of confidence.

How do you manage your mood?

Whether you are aware of it or not, you are probably doing quite a few things to manage your mood.

What actions do you take at the beginning, during and at the end of your day to manage your mood?

Mark out a piece of paper with the following headings and take time to think about these actions and write them down.

At the beginning of the day: During the day: At the end of the day:

When I do this exercise during workshops, people have a range of activities or simple things that they do to help support themselves and manage their mood throughout their working day, a few of which are listed below.

Beginning: During: End:

Walking the dog

Listening to certain music while travelling to work – to calm them down or energise them

Making a ‘To do’ list

Taking a few minutes to themselves before starting the day

Sitting down to breakfast

Taking time out to read the paper

Meditating, carrying out some kind of spiritual practice

Taking time out over lunch

Going for a short walk

Reading a book during a break

Chatting with colleagues about non-work things

Having a laugh

Stopping and having a good stretch

Exercising at lunchtime

Listening to the radio or certain music on the way home

Walking the dog

Going to the gym

Having a relaxing bath

Having a drink

Going out with friends

Talking to a good friend

Playing with the children

Writing a ‘To do’ list for the next day

Curling up with a good book

Watching TV

Being in the best possible mood

There are other things that you can do at the beginning, during and at the end of the day to manage your mood and help to maintain your confidence levels.

Additional actions to take at the beginning of the day

1. Check in with yourself

This might sound an obvious thing to do, but a lot of people lead such hectic lives and are so busy ‘doing’ that they lose touch with how they are and what they are feeling. If you are in a less-than-positive mood, do something to transform it so that you give yourself the best possible chance of having a good day. If you start off the day badly, it is going to be harder to retrieve the situation later on and this is likely to further undermine your confidence.

2. Create a ‘Well-Formed Outcome’ (WFO)

Writing down what you want to achieve in positive terms at the beginning of your day or before undertaking a particular activity means you focus on a positive outcome and are clear about what you expect to achieve in a particular situation. This will help you to feel more confident about what is ahead of you. Writing a WFO involves stating what you are seeking to achieve in positive terms, as well as writing down what you will see, hear and feel when you have achieved this outcome. (See Goal setting with NLP in the topic on NLP.)

3. Visualise success

If you are feeling under confident and low at the beginning of the day, look up and visualise how you are going to handle the day ahead. Use the visualisation exercise (see Visualising success in the Coaching Yourself topic) to assist you in this process. You will feel much more upbeat and confident if you have run through in your head how you are going to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.

4. Resource yourself

Life throws lots of challenges at us and our inner critic likes to do its best to undermine us, so sometimes we do feel not as confident and resourceful as we would like to be. Think of three inner resources that would help you in the situation that you are finding challenging: confidence, humour, courage and/or a sense of perspective, for example. Remember times when you have experienced these resources and used them in different situations. Remember how good you felt and bring that resource and feeling to the current situation you are facing.

5. Physical readiness

Consider what you do for yourself physically before work or at challenging times. Are you eating healthily? Are you drinking sensibly? Are you starting with a breakfast that sets you up for your day ahead? Are you doing everything possible to get a good night’s sleep? What can you do to make sure you are in the best possible state physically?

Additional actions to take during your day

1. Maintain rapport with self

Keep an eye on how you are feeling so you can spot when you go off centre. The quicker you can do this, the easier it will be to take action to bring yourself back into a positive state. This comes with practice: at first you might be completely overwhelmed by a negative emotion before you realise it and start to do something to transform it. In time, you will be able to spot when either something outside you has knocked you for six, or when your inner critic suddenly starts to undermine your confidence and your mood. Watch out for physical changes in your body that indicate a change in your thoughts and feelings. The change could be a tensing of your shoulders or your neck, a headache, a sinking feeling in your stomach or some other physical change that indicates you are no longer in a confident, positive mood. What physical signs do you notice in yourself when you are slipping into a less-than-positive state?

2. Look up

This is a quick way of getting out of a negative mood or state. When you look up, you are accessing your visual cortex, which has two benefits. Firstly, it is almost impossible to experience a negative emotion while looking up and therefore it forces you to feel more positive. Secondly, when you look up and access your visual cortex it is much easier to visualise how you are going to handle things. This is very useful if you are starting to feel anxious, stressed, angry or under confident in a particular situation.

3. Take time out

If it is possible, take time out and physically remove yourself from a situation that is making you feel negative or undermining your confidence, even if this means simply taking yourself off to the toilet. This can help you to disassociate and leave your negative emotions behind. If it is possible to go for a short walk, that will be even better.

4. Trigger your inner resources

If you have used the resourcing exercise in this topic, remember to bring your resources into play when you need to draw on them. This is a technique I have used on a number of occasions and I find it very effective for creating a more positive state.

Additional actions to take at the end of the day

1. Check in with yourself

Just as you have done at the beginning of the day and during it, check in with yourself and assess what mood you are in. Even after a good day, it is possible to feel flat or negative without any apparent cause. Rather than let this ruin your evening, do something to change your state so that you can end your day on a positive note, which will set you up for a good night’s sleep and the next day.

2. Debrief in a constructive way

If you are feeling negative about how you handled something and maybe your inner critic is giving you a hard time, make sure that you review what has happened in a constructive way (see Learning from feedback in the Learning topic).

3. If necessary, visualise how you would do it differently next time

This can act as a final convincer to yourself and your inner critic that you can handle the situation in the future. Do this by looking up and visualising how you will handle it successfully in the future.

4. Go ahead and celebrate

You might not want to celebrate every evening – on the other hand...!

But too many people wait until everything is done, dusted and achieved before celebrating. Celebrating does not necessarily mean cracking open the bottle of bubbly, it can be simply acknowledging your achievements and successes or even the challenges you have faced during the day.

So, make sure that you have a number of activities or processes you can draw on to help you to manage your mood, control your inner critic and boost your confidence throughout your day.

Your inner critic

You may have noticed that many of the suggestions listed above concern actions you can take to counteract the negative effect of your inner critic. This is the demeaning voice that so many of us have inside our head that says things like

  • You’ll never be good enough to do that job
  • Why did you say that in the meeting?
  • You have still not achieved X or Y
  • You are hopeless
  • You are useless

And so on... Often, this voice is in fact the voice of someone who said negative things to us when we were much younger – a teacher, perhaps, or a parent or sibling. It is a judgemental voice which, if you listen to it, can undermine your confidence. If you suffer from a particularly destructive inner critic, you might like to use the search facility. If you type in ‘inner critic’, you will find plenty of references to this destructive internal creature and ways to deal with him/her!