David Ludwig, MD, PhD
Remember when Alexander had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day? Even if you didn't read that book, chances are you know about bad days.
Maybe your friend doesn't want to hang out with you after school. Maybe you got a bad grade on your math test. Maybe you tripped on the sidewalk. Or maybe you just woke up feeling cranky. Everyone has bad days every now and then.
"It'd be great if we could laugh and be happy all the time. But in real life, you feel a wide range of emotions and sometimes those emotions make you feel bad," says Karla Harmon, a mental health counselor in Sioux Falls, S.D.
The important thing to know about bad days and bad moods is that there are lots of things that you can do to destroy bad moods.
Figure out your feelings. Not feeling like yourself today? Try to figure out what's going on. Place your hand over your heart. Is it beating really fast? Is your breathing fast and not very deep? Does your belly hurt? Take a look in the mirror. Are your lips shut tight? Is your forehead wrinkled? Are your cheeks pinker (or maybe paler) than usual? Are there tears in your eyes? If so, you may be feeling angry, mad, frustrated, or sad.
Think about how you're acting. "Kids your age are more likely to act out their feelings than to talk about them," says Sheryl Gonzalez-Ziegler, a child psychologist in Denver. Slamming doors, yelling at your family or friends, not looking people in the eyes, refusing to do things you normally consider fun -- probably signs you're having a bad day.
Take charge of your emotions. When things aren't going your way, you may get so angry that you want to yell, pout, or eat junk food. But doing things like that can make you feel worse and hurt others. Those actions cause your body to produce more adrenaline (the stuff that makes you want to fight) than usual. And your body also makes more cortisol (the stuff that can cause obesity and other diseases). "Once these mad juices start flowing, it's harder to keep control," says Harmon.
The good news is that you can take charge of your emotions.
Take a deep breath. Try this deep belly-breathing exercise when your feelings start getting the best of you. Place your hands on your stomach. Inhale deeply through your nose as you count to 5 in your head. Picture a balloon in your belly filling up with air. Keep that balloon filled for a count of 3. Then slowly exhale through your mouth as you count to 7 until the balloon is little again.
Move your body. Being physically active -- moving around and playing -- is a great way to get rid of anger and frustration. You could whack tennis balls off the side of the house or a wall where you won't break anything, race across the yard, or crank up the tunes and sing and dance until you feel better.
Escape the situation. It's not always easy to snap out of a bad mood. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to get away from what's upsetting you before the feelings take over. Little brother driving you nuts? Go to another room. Frustrated at football practice? Give yourself a time-out. A friend hurt your feelings? Spend 30 minutes apart so you can talk to her about it later.
Get creative. Pour out your emotions into a journal. Draw a picture that shows how you're feeling. Make a list of things you're thankful for. Pound away on the piano, or act out your feelings in front of a mirror.
Be your own friend. If your friend were feeling bad, what would you say to make him feel better? Once you've figured that out, have a pep talk with yourself and then plan to do something fun that will make you feel better.
Get positive. Negative thoughts like "I'm stupid," "I stink at baseball," and "No one likes me" make your bad mood worse. Instead, think about and write down all of your good qualities. Stumped? Go ask your mom or dad. They're sure to name several things they love about you.
Put on a happy face. "The act of smiling actually tells the brain that you're happy -- so you start to feel happy," says Gonzalez-Ziegler. Hang out with friends and family who make you laugh. Or watch a laugh-out-loud TV show or YouTube video.
Ask for help. If you feel like you're having more gloomy days than sunshine-filled ones, or you have thoughts like, "I wish I'd never been born," please talk to an adult, such as a parent, teacher, coach, clergy person, or school counselor. "You should always ask for help when you feel overwhelmed or like the world's against you," says David Ermer, MD, in Sioux Falls, S.D. "Sometimes, emotions are just too big for 1 person to manage. With help from someone you trust, you'll feel better."
IMAGE PROVIDED BY:Jay Reilly / Workbook StockREFERENCES:Karla Harmon, MSW, mental health counselor, Sanford Health, Sioux Falls, S.D.Sheryl Gonzalez-Ziegler, PsyD, child psychologist, Child and Family Therapy Center, Denver.David Ermer, MD, child and adolescent psychiatrist, Sanford Health, Sioux Falls, S.D.CDC: “Bam: Guide to getting along.”The University of New Mexico: “Cortisol Connection: Tips on Managing Stress and Weight.”
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