Ever see a child play with a cherished toy, then decimate it — hurl it, smash it, laugh, and pull it apart piece by piece? If you have a pulse, you’ve felt like that toy at some point in the parenting process. And similar to a child, life can be fun before it becomes furious and fickle, too. It’s important, however, that we as parents strive to keep our cool, remembering we, ultimately, are the ones in control of our moods.
After all, how can our kids keep calm amid chaos if we cannot?
Studies have found that positive moods stabilized over time contribute to our overall emotional health (Gruber, J., et al., 2013).
Three Tips for Healthy Mood Stability
1. Accept responsibility for your own feelings and reactions.
Your feelings are your own. How you choose to react to them is your choice. The same goes for others’ words and behavior towards you. No one can cause your mood to change by their actions. They can act, and you make the choice how and if you will react. Once you own this, you remember you’re in control of your mood, not others, not circumstances.
Application: Your child refuses to sleep and is cranky and refractory, causing major distractions for you and the work you have planned for the day. You miss a deadline and are frustrated, naturally. The feeling of frustration is your feeling, so feel it (never repress). But you have a choice how to react to the circumstances and frustration. You can allow your child’s crankiness to influence your own mood, or you can choose to acknowledge the fact that your child’s behavior is a result of not getting enough rest; seek out the best solution; and do what you need to do to stay centered.
2. Don’t give away your self-control.
Ask yourself: Would I give a child, a spouse, neighbor, co-worker, or rude motorist a remote device that controls me? Unless you’re into that, your answer would be “NO.” Then don’t. Once you accept responsibility for your own moods and reactions, you’re faced with the question above on a constant basis. It’s a good thing. Write it down, put it on your fridge if you have to. Remembering to ask yourself this question makes it that much easier to employ self-control.
Application: Someone cuts you off in traffic, and you feel annoyed. They do it again, and you feel infuriated. Again, feelings are cool, and processing them is necessary. Now, your child is in the back seat. What do you do? If you’re like me and live in a city clogged with cars driven by people who got their licenses from a vending machine, then 7 times out of 10 you probably slip up and have to apologize to your kid shaking her head at you. However, those other three times you take deep breaths, refusing to let the rude motorist endanger your family on the road and push your buttons, then keep a safe distance.
3. Be GOOD to Yourself.
Know that your thoughts, opinions, feelings, needs are just as valid as anyone’s. Take care of yourself properly (not just with whatever residual time and energy you can scrape together after caring for everyone else). Engage in positive self-talk, and do it out loud from time to time so your child can hear you and learn how it’s done. How we talk to ourselves directly influences our mood, emotional health, and our general outlook on life.
Application: When you don’t recognize your own value; when you’re tired, neglecting yourself; don’t prioritize socializing and doing things you enjoy; and you’re framing your self-talk with negative language, of course you’ll be prone to bad and volatile moods. You’ll also be more susceptible to outside manipulation. On the flip-side, when you know your worth; prioritize sleep, healthy eating, grooming yourself to boost confidence; make an effort to connect with supportive people; make time to do the things you love; and give yourself constructive criticism and encouragement, you’re reinforcing an overall feeling of self-control, emotional stability, and even happiness.
Keep in mind, repetitive behavior forms habits — whether they’re good or bad is up to you. Commit to positive change, and you will positively change. Even when your mood escapes you, stick to positive self-talk to encourage yourself to stay the course. Repeatedly strive to self-regulate and stabilize your mood, and before you realize it, you’ll be a calmer, happier you!
Reference: Gruber, June; Kogan, Aleksandr; Quoidbach, Jordi; Mauss, Iris B. (2013).
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