How to Be Productive With a Bad Mood
Don’t let mood swings prevent you from getting things done
I swear something about writing guarantees that you’ll be down in the dumps like once a week. And the mood swing comes when it’s least convenient too. Like right before a deadline.
Most of my mood swings are definitely writing-related. Just the classic, relatable dilemmas like “Am I good enough? Am I on the right track? Did I make a mistake?” They’re harsh questions, but what self-respecting writer hasn’t asked them at some point?
It’s not easy to just get over your feelings, but you can keep them from interfering with your work. Writing with a bad mood sounds like an awful idea, but it could help you produce some good work. You just have to prevent it from conquering you first.
Put on a Good Playlist
Sometimes music is the only thing that can lift you out of a bad mood. A good song has the power to reduce stress, pain, and depression. And in this case, it can get you through a rough mental time.
If you have Spotify or just don’t care about YouTube ads then you can easily find a playlist that’s designed to boost moods. They’re usually packed with nice, happy songs that’ll make you all warm inside. It sounds dumb, but it’s more effective than you think.
Things get really interesting when you use music that you’re already familiar with. Your favorite songs will get the strongest response out of your brain. They don’t even have to be happy songs to cheer you up. Although, I don’t recommend working to your favorite lyrical songs unless you’d rather sing along than get anything done.
The best thing you can do is make a special playlist for mood improvement. Fill it up with whatever songs have resonated with you before. I call mine the “Mental Boost” playlist. It also functions as a “get out of bed in the morning” playlist.
Don’t Force Yourself to Do Anything
When your brain’s all fogged up, you can’t force yourself to do a good job. You can try all you want, but it’s not going to work out. You’ll end up with something you’re not proud of.
Instead of creating something that you’ll need to edit the heck out of just to get something legible, just do what you can and save the rest for later. There must be something you don’t mind doing in your current state.
Getting something done, no matter how small, will hopefully prevent you from beating yourself up. We’ve all done it for not getting enough work done in the past, but it’s not fair. Sometimes, we just can’t perform at our best. Beating ourselves up over it will only worsen the problem.
Don’t consider yourself lazy just because you won’t push yourself. There’s no shame in taking a break to recharge. Let the judgmental thoughts pass and take a load off whenever your brain needs it.
Use Breathing Exercises
If your mental issue isn’t major, you might be able to dispel it with a few calming exercises. In particular, the breathing exercises that are used for meditation.
- Take a deep breath for 4 seconds.
- Hold it for about 7 seconds.
- Release it for 8 seconds.
- Repeat until you feel like stopping.
Tracking the path that air takes through your body is more soothing than it sounds. Focus on that and nothing else. Eventually, you’ll forget all about your troubles. You’ll just become a person who is breathing, and you’ll find peace in that.
If that doesn’t work, just write down what’s making you feel sad. It’s called journaling, and it’s a good exercise to try even when you’re not sad. It’s important to record your thoughts and feelings so that you can examine and understand them better.
Take a Power Nap
This is a fun one that I’ve been doing a lot lately. Mostly because it’s hard to write when your room is blistering hot, but that’s a whole other article.
When your head isn’t cooperating, give your body a break. Lay down somewhere comfy if you can, and shut your eyes for a bit. Rest as much as you can for about 10–30 minutes.
This sounds like another case of being lazy, but it’s actually a certified method. All you’ve got to do is make sure the nap doesn’t turn into sleep. You’re taking a power nap, not going to bed early.
If you’re going to rest, do it early in the day. That’ll help prevent you from falling asleep. Maybe somewhere around 2 PM.
Initiating Flow State
This one’s risky. It won’t work for everyone, but it’ll work wonders if you can get it going for you.
Flow states (or getting in the zone, as everyone else calls it) is what happens when you hyper focus on what you’re doing. It’s the feeling of working along to music but getting so focused that you start tuning out the sound. Your work becomes subconscious and instinctual.
Initiating a flow state strips you of all worries, fears, and even thoughts. It’s just you and whatever you’re doing. That’s what makes it so calming.
If you can hyper focus on work, you’ll forget why you’re feeling down in the first place. You’ll be working too much to feel sad. It won’t always work, but it’s worth a try. Who could say no to working while feeling relaxed?
My only suggestion is that you don’t try this method while you’re experiencing burnout. Flow states might help, but working while you’re burnt out is never good. At that point, you’re better off listening to your special playlist.
Everyone struggles with mood swings, but they’re ten times worse when you have work to do. As difficult as they make things, you don’t have to surrender to them. You can work through your feelings, figuratively and literally.
Do whatever you need to in order to refresh your brain and get back to work better than ever. Whether that be working more or just taking a rest.
Kesten E. Harris is an author with four books and counting under his name. When he's not publishing those, he's writing self improvement articles.