How to track your mood and understand what it is telling you.
Hello there! Welcome back to my blog. I love when I have the time to sit and write about things I'm passionate about within the counselling and mental health field, it's been so busy recently work wise and personal life wise that I haven't blogged as much as I would like to. But life will soon be quietening down again shortly, so stay tuned for more of my writing.
I wanted to share with you on my latest blog post a simple but helpful therapeutic exercise that you can use on your own - a mood tracker. The mood tracker does what it says on the tin - allows you to track your mood 4 periods throughout your day and then throughout your week, and beyond if you wish.
How to track your mood:
At the 4 points indicated throughout the day (below) ask yourself and answer the following questions. Write these down in a notebook or journal so you can keep track over longer periods of time to start to notice patterns:
In one sentence, how am I feeling right now?
At the next interval of the day again ask yourself the above question. Notice that as you move clockwise around the circle below there is space in between each point of the day. Write down what you think has happened in that time lapse which may have contributed towards a change in mood for you. Was someone rude to you? Did you hear some upsetting news? Did the weather turn miserable? These can be big or small events, nothing is wrong to add here.
Complete the above until you reach the end of your day.
Now complete the above for at least week.
Look back at your reflections. Are there any patterns you see? For example do you notice all your mornings and afternoons are met with positive mood but then your mood tends to worsen throughout the day? Or the opposite, you wake up feeling awful but manage to do certain tasks for yourself that improve your day as time passes?
From the patterns or reflections that have emerged what helps your mood? And what worsens your mood? And finally what do you need as a result of these patterns?
I did this exercise recently with a client who noticed she always felt good on Fridays. This was because on Fridays she gave herself permission to rest. And on the remaining days of the week often pushed herself to complete exhaustion. What we are now working on from noticing these patterns is how she can start to, over time, increase how much permission she gives herself to rest and take breaks, whilst exploring why that seems so tough in her life right now.
What this allows is so many things to be achieved. So it's great if you are someone who likes to tick a lot of boxes in a relatively short amount of time. The mood tracker can:
Allow you to see how your mood changes throughout the day - put very simply you woke up feeling okay, but noticed your anxiety crept up as the day progressed.
In turn this then allows you to see throughout the 4 points of your day what else was happening in between these points which have contributed towards your mood / changes in mood
This then allows the finger to be pointed back to ourselves less, meaning we are not always simply the reason why our mood changes. This allows us to be more passionate towards ourselves rather than blame ourselves for why we feel a certain way. For example perhaps your anxiety had increased throughout the day because you didn't manage to get your to do list shorter than you had hoped for, but this was because your boss asked you to complete an extra task. This wasn't your fault, your stress and anxiety was a natural reaction to having to do more in the same amount of time.
Slowing down and having awareness of how we feel is hugely important. It then allows us to see what do we need that day. This is a form of self-care - checking in with your feelings and what they are telling you that you need. For example you are noticing a feeling of extreme overwhelm, for me this would indicate that what I needed was to catch my breath, have a break and come back later.
The mood tracker also allows us to anticipate periods of time where we know our mood is going to worsen. We can then prepare things in advance which can then support us in this difficult mood. This can only be done by completing a mood tracker for a least a week and then we can notice when our mood peaks and when it troughs. For example you can then see over time that Sundays are often a difficult day as Sundays are times when you are normally alone. Because you are now aware of this and can anticipate feeling lonely and low, you can prepare for this by scheduling a call with a friend or two to help manage that loneliness.
I hope you give this a go for at least a week and see what you can take from this exercise to ultimately increase your self-awareness and to help yourself feel better.
Look after yourself today,