In our daily lives, stress can trigger strong reactions. It's tough to ignore a steady stream of irritations and challenges.
Scientists agree that our bodies produce bad chemical reactions to stressful emotions. Some say we have some type of physiological response to every single thought we think -- without exception.
So, keeping our moods on a more even keel seems like a good idea in terms of our health.
Striving to do this isn't easy, but it helps to start by knowing what puts you in a good mood in the first place.
Controlling your mood at any given moment requires staying on guard. For example, if you know rush hour traffic is going to irritate you, try playing music that lightens your spirit.
"I protect my sanity by watching at least four funny movies every weekend," says an attorney we'll call Mark.
Mark told us he started noticing that he wins more cases in court when he is in a good mood. He believes there's power and influence in an upbeat frame of mind.
Dwelling on stressful thoughts, worries, and fears will cause us to feel somewhat shaky and vulnerable to everything around us.
We can protect our moods, and feel more harmony, if we work to control our thoughts and feelings before stress hits. We can react with less stress and also find a sense of humor.
A friend of ours we'll call Lily says she finds it humorous that Elvis used to get angry and shoot the TV. "These days, I find myself thinking that might not be so weird, after all," she laughs.
Lily watched an old movie about domestic violence a couple of weeks ago. She swears the movie affected her mood for three or four days.
"I'm a social worker, so I'm already keyed up about certain issues," she says. "I have to realize that watching comedy or listening to dance music feeds my brain the right stuff."
Another friend of ours says her in-laws tried her sanity throughout the holidays this year. They put her on stress overload, but she also finds them humorous.
"Next year, I may fake an illness to avoid them," our friend told us. "What is funny is that I was asked to write a scene about crazy relatives for our community theater group's December play. I used almost word-for-word scripting from my in-laws and it brought the house down!"
Bad things happening can rock your moods in many directions if you don't have coping techniques in place. These tips can help:
--Work on balancing your moods. Do take time out to relax, call a friend, or take a nap. Protect your inner peace at all costs.
--Help other people stay upbeat. The more you help others stay calm and centered, the better you'll feel yourself.
--Get over stress quickly. Take the high road and forgive people who get on your nerves. Don't dwell on bad news or chew on the shortcomings of those around you.
It's also easier to take control of your moods by figuring out appropriate actions to take.
You might, for instance, need to confront someone about an issue. Gently and intelligently talk to a co-worker about his mistakes with clients, or tell people "no" who keep borrowing money from you.
Protecting your moods requires learning what you do have control over. Learning to draw a line in the sand with over-giving and over-doing with family, friends, and business associates keeps you inside a safe zone.
(Judi Light Hopson is the Executive Director of the stress management website USA Wellness Cafe at www.usawellnesscafe.com. Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.)
Distributed by MCT Information Services