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Understanding mood swings

You're up and down like a yo-yo but you don't really know why. TheSite.org looks at how to control your mood and be a more balanced person. And breathe...

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Mood swings can feel uncontrollable

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Stresses of everyday life

Mood swings are often associated with Bipolar Disorder. In this case, the ups and downs can be so severe that usually some sort of medical treatment will be needed, whether it’s through medication or Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). But when you look at all the stress in your day-to-day life, it’s not surprising you may be experiencing highs and lows. It’s normal to have fluctuations in mood from time to time; whether it’s juggling work and home life, feeling unmotivated, dealing with hormones, or stressful and upsetting situations.

Why am I feeling like this?

Irritability is closely related to mood swings and can often be caused by shifts in hormonal balance during puberty, Premenstrual Syndrome, pregnancy or post-natal depression. When you feel irritable, it basically means you feel angry or over react to something that’s happened. If you’re feeling tired because you’re not sleeping well, it’s likely that your mood is going to be affected. It could even be that you’re about to go through a big change in your life such as getting married, moving house or getting a new job.

Be honest about how you’re feeling

“The first thing you should do if you’re concerned about your mood is to be honest with yourself about how you’re feeling,” says Jeremy Bacon from MDF The Bipolar Organisation. “It’s sometimes easier to try and paper over the cracks if you feel there are problems and ignore them instead of trying to address the situation. It may be helpful to talk to other people around you and encourage friends and family to be frank about their about perceptions of you. Often it’s the people around you that notice changes in your moods, behaviour and attitude over a course of time.”

Try not to be too hard on yourself

Jeremy says one thing you can do is write a mood diary. Here’s how to do it:

  • Use a scale of one to ten – one for very low depression and 10 for severe depression;
  • Monitor your moods – this will give you an idea of whether your mood is staying constant or fluctuating over a period of time;
  • Put a plan in action – if your mood is a level three, have an idea of what to do to try and maintain it, or to make it even lower. If it gets up to a seven, give yourself another task to help get you back on track;
  • Be aware of triggers – write down things you may have noticed in your daily life that can affect your moods, such as partying hard or not getting enough sleep;
  • Look for warning signs – these are the sort of things that happen immediately before your dip or heightening of mood occurs. For example, you may find that before you get low you’re sleeping more than usual or when you’re about to go high you’re spending more money than usual, and on things you don’t need.

Breathing techniques

“If you’re fit and active and you get more oxygen in your lungs it can really help your mental wellbeing,” says Jason. If you have mood swings, it’s possible you’ll be feeling anxious, and the more anxious you get the more likely you are to have a panic attack. “You can do breathing exercises to slow your heart rate down and control mood swings,” says Jason. “Count to five in your head, breathe in for five seconds, hold your breath for 10 seconds and then breathe out for five seconds. Do that 10 times in a row.”

When is my mood more than just a mood?

If it gets to a point where your moods are having a big impact on your ability to get on with your daily life, work, or relationships, then there’s a possibility that it may be something more serious than the normal range of ups and downs of everyday life. If this is the case, make sure you talk to your doctor (GP).

Developing self awareness

One of the best things you can do to help your moods is to take care of yourself physically, as well as mentally, and find out what works for you. Make sure you stick to a healthy diet and try and eat foods rich in Magnesium and Vitamin C, such as bananas and oranges, as these have been found to lift moods and prevent depression. Make sure you get enough sleep, avoid drugs and alcohol, and try to reduce stress in your life.

Next Steps

  • Visit Madly in Love to discuss mental health and relationships, share stories and get support and advice.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Julia Pearlman

Updated on 07-Aug-2014

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