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Destressing

| 10 Comments

Some days are the kind of day where you're grumpy and irritable, and you know that some of the things you're grumpy about are partly due to your own bad behavior, which somehow doesn't make things any better.

Some days are the kind of day where you're grumpy about things that have been resolved and are no longer an issue, but you've got so much invested in being grumpy about them that it's hard to let go of them, so you keep on manufacturing unnecessary drama in your head. (Or maybe that's just me.)

Some days are the kind of day where there are so many tension-inducing things on your to-do list that you have a hard time getting yourself to do any of them.

Some days are the kind of day where, even though you realize all your problems are priveleged-person problems, you have a hard time getting over yourself.

Some days are the kind of day where you receive so many emails about potentially tense subjects that you just don't read any of them.

Some days are the kind of day where an author attempts to argue with you about issues relating to magazine guidelines, and you're in such a bad mood that you rise to the bait and send them an unnecessarily snippy response.

Some days are the kind of day where you didn't get enough sleep the night before and you fall asleep in the middle of the afternoon for an hour or two (for the nth day in a row), which is making it hard to get work done.

Some days are the kind of day where you attempt to cheer yourself up by watching a silly movie (like, say, the 2005 made-for-TV version of Once Upon a Mattress), and it works really well at first, but then the second half of the movie isn't as funny, and then when you go back to email there's another note from a different author arguing about a different part of the guidelines.

Some days are the kind of day where you wish you had a copy of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day so you could cheer yourself up by reading it. (I hear some days are like that. Even in Australia.)

Some days are the kind of day where you start thinking about the kinds of things that cheer you up when you've got the mullygrubs, like doing something nice for someone, or listening to the Talisman A Cappella rendition of “Hombe” (link is to a different group performing what I think is a similar version, though the basses may not be as good), or reading Jennifer Crusie, or watching Gilmore Girls. And you start wondering what other people do to cheer themselves up.

So: what do y'all do to cheer yourselves up when you've got the mullygrubs? What do you do to relax yourself when you're stressed or tense?

P.S.: Anyone awaiting email responses from me, apologies for delay but you'll have to wait a bit longer.

10 Comments

1. Face time or unhurried phone/skype time with a compassionate and sensibly optimistic friend. Choose the friend wisely.

2. Strenuous exercise

3. Temporarily stop the caffeine, sugar, or other chemical feel-better solutions that make me feel worse.

4. Step away from the computer games, compulsive Sudoku-playing, RockBand or TV that's distracting me but only postponing the problem

5. Identify the thing that's bugging me the most and address it through techniques in David D. Burns' "Feeling Good Handbook" (lousy title, lousy cover, but effective)

6. Push myself to action, rather than waiting for the motivation to act. If you can't summon the energy to tackle the big stuff, do little things to start. An example is the "21 Fling Boogie" if my house is a mess. Force the action, and the motivation often will kick in later.

7. Make a list or a plan of action steps for the big bad stuff that festers on my list. For each item, recognize the unhelpful emotions and thoughts that are making the problem seem even bigger. Then write down a step (or two or three) I'll take toward getting the job done, along with a timeframe. If I need to focus on just a few things, make a conscious decision to revisit other items in the future (e.g., "decide on this by Sunday").

8. If the mullygrubs persist 2-3 days or more, phone my shrink and therapist. Whee.


Aside from some of the things on Lane's list, I like to go for a walk somewhere that's got lots of plants and preferably some water. I also like making things; there's something about having created something tangible that makes me feel better.


For crankiness, I suggest movies that you have already seen and liked, rather than taking a chance on something new that you don't have mood associations with other than current crankiness. Recently The Tall Guy did the trick for us, and we have used Cold Comfort Farm, His Girl Friday and Duck Soup.

For my own bad moods, I often feel better after a hot bath with a comfort book. Comfort books sometimes break the mood where comfort foods only make me feel better while I'm actually eating them, which is a problem. Also, sometimes lack of sleep contributes to the whole mood problem, and a hot bath before bed helps me sleep. I don't know that I recommend that in general, but it can work for me.

I have had a few of those days recently (tho' not today, thank the Divine), and I find that one of the problems is that the bad mood effectively prevents my actually doing any of the things that would be likely to break the mood. Hard work, for instance, either physical (a long walk or vigorous yard work or even—gasp—cleaning house) or mental (not a computer game, but working out a database problem or doing a puzzle of some kind) seems like far too much effort, and being in a bad mood, I resent the effort and refuse to do it. Which doesn't help.

Thanks,
-V.


Aside from the suggestions already listed, I sometimes sing rounds, or put on my chorus music really loudly and sing along with it. I know a lot of people have luck with guided meditation exercises or tapes, although, for me, that usually doesn't work. Calm, soothing voices can grate on my nerves when I'm tense.

Massages and hugs are always good, if available.

I hope your mood takes a turn for the better soon. ::hugs::

- Annie


I listen to Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton Mixtape and tell myself to be more like Alexander Hamilton.


I read a book last year called The How of Happiness, by Sonja Lyubomirsky, that discusses scientific research into what makes people happy and suggests techniques for increasing happiness. There's a list of about a dozen techniques, with the idea being that different things work for different people, and a quiz to help identify the ones that might work for you. A lot of the things people have already suggested fit into her categories (e.g. connecting with friends, exercise).

The one that works best for me is finding something to do that gets me into that 'flow' space, where I'm completely absorbed in whatever I'm doing and thus no longer thinking about whatever it is that's causing me stress. For me, as for others who posted above, doing puzzles or reading a favorite book, achieves that. One of the other things that works for me is accomplishing goals. Not necessarily the thing I'm supposed to do and avoiding because it's stressful, but something else on my to-do list. I think of this as productive procrastination and getting something, anything, accomplished tends to make me feel better about myself, less stressed and better able to face the actual problem.

Others of her categories: expressing gratitude (essentially 'counting your blessings', focusing on what's going right instead of what's not); practicing acts of kindness; savoring life's joys (for me this often takes the form of food, but you have to really actively focus on enjoying the experience in the moment, no mindless eating, for you this could be enjoying a hot tub or a massage); practicing religion or spirituality; meditation. (Interestingly, these last two, along with exercise are sub-categories of the more general 'taking care of your body and soul'.)


I agree with the suggestion of comfort reading. Pulling out a well-loved book is often exactly what I need. Also, a small amount of high-quality chocolate or coffee, but I go for the good stuff, not just whatever happens to be in the house. This has the important side effect of getting me out of the house (or office, depending on the cause of the crabby mood), which often in and of itself makes me feel better. A change of scenery, but without a lot of effort on my part. Sometimes it means just going to the store, but finding a comfortable and well-liked cafe is more often what I decide I need.

Petting or playing with cats (mine or someone else's) is always a mood-lifter for me. Sometimes other animals, too, but for me cats are a guaranteed winner.

I also highly endorse your suggestion of having a copy of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, for just this purpose. "There were lima beans for dinner, and I hate lima beans!"


Tea, a funny podcast or short story or TV show or blog, sunshine, seltzer water, doing a quick mindless yet productive task like cleaning a particular spill's stain residue off hardwood floor or organizing the t-shirt drawer, hugging, peppy music, exercise, making a list of things I've accomplished this day or week, talking to someone whom I impress, smiling, deep breathing for a minute, dark chocolate, helping someone.

(Shamelessly copied from when I listed those tactics in response to an Ask MetaFilter question -- lots of others' answers there.)


One symptom (or cause) for me of the mullygrubs can be feeling stupid (specific to a current bungle), so one technique is to accept but limit the response -- okay, that was stupid, but it's really only worth ten minutes of recrimination. Oh, this only justifies a 5-minute stupid.

Similarly, just recognizing that this is a temporary funk, acknowledging it, and telling those around me I'm in a bad mood, sorry, and I'll be better X (company, able to help with their problem, etc.) when it passes. Keeps me from doing more damage, and validates/emphasizes the temporary nature. Plus, articulating it often leads automatically into identifying the cause: "Sorry, I'm in a crappy mood because I'm overtired" (hey, maybe I should do something about that); "...because I have a mess at work" (oh, yeah, but that's not here, so maybe I don't need to carry the funk around with me).

Then to actively get out of it --
Walk around my garden, if possible. I'm finding plants more rewarding as I get older, esp. when I've planted them.
Cuddle with or watch animals (watching is increasingly more rewarding than touching, then again, it could be the critters available -- the cats are good to snuggle, the rabbits tend to be unreliable (tend to run away just when I need their softness), and the bees are fascinating to watch, but pose obvious cuddling difficulty.
Finding an achievable menial task, one that takes little coherent thought, and leaves a recognizable impact (eg, washing dishes).
Making something, esp. cooking or baking something like bread.
Calling a friend, but trying to not get sucked into telling them how awful everything is. That seems to just spread the misery. It may be the reason I called, but I don't want it to be the topic.

But I'd say you're off to a good start -- not only do you have a large crowd of friends right here to answer and care about you, but just starting off with the term mullygrubs is wonderful. I have to remember it. Describes, and at the same time weakens, the problem.


Belated thanks to all of you for the comments; good stuff.

I should have noted that I wasn't looking for advice for myself so much as just interested in what others do. Y'all gave great answers to that, and some of the things you said may turn out to be adaptable for my future purposes as well.

I only just now got around to watching the Hamilton Mixtapes video, and it's awesome; thanks especially for that. Way cool.

And yeah, just saying the word "mullygrubs" does tend to make it harder for me to maintain a sulk; thanks once again to Sarah P for that word.


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