Understanding and Dealing with Bad Moods

Eye rolling. Door slamming. Loud sighing. Unexplained yelling. If you have a teenager in your house, you have more than likely experienced the “famous” adolescent bad mood.

Everyone gets in bad moods sometimes – they are a part of life. Feeling cranky and irritable for no real reason can happen to the best of us, but teens are particularly prone to these feelings. Persistent bad moods are not healthy – not for your teen or for their relationships. And unfortunately, sometimes, once you get used to being in a bad mood, it becomes a habit that is hard to break. Today’s blog will look at why bad moods happen, when these moods might be something more serious, and ways your teen can shake the blues off.

What Causes Bad Moods?

Why is the feeling of being on an emotional roller coaster so common among teens?

Pressure. Teens are under a lot of pressure. They are trying to get good grades, perform well in sports or other extracurricular activities, and fit in socially. They may feel as though there just isn’t enough time to do everything, or they might feel exhausted from always trying to be perfect in so many different areas. Trying to excel and grow while being judged by peers, teachers and parents is a recipe for bad moods.

Change. Teens are in a transition between childhood and adulthood, and all the changes and new responsibilities are often overwhelming. Being a teen means struggling with identity and self-image. Most teens want to be independent while still feeling a certain sense of dependence on their family. They want to be treated like adults, but sometimes they still feel like kids. Adolescence is an exciting time, but also a bit lonely and frightening.

Hormones. Biologically, puberty brings an influx of new hormones that make your mood swing. The emotional ups and downs brought on by these hormones are normal, but vary in their intensity in different people.

When Is It More Than a Bad Mood?

Nearly everyone goes through mood swings during the teen years. But, it’s important to understand whether a bad mood is temporary irritability, or something more serious. Long periods of feeling irritable, short-tempered, angry, excessively bored, or apathy (just not caring about anything anymore) are signs of depression. Depression is not just being sad. When the moodiness gets in the way of enjoying life or dealing with others, or if you believe your teen may hurt himself or herself, it is time to seek out a medical professional. (You can learn more about depression in one of our previous blogs.)

How Can Bad Moods be Relieved?

Assuming your teen’s bad moods are not depression, then it is helpful to offer them some tips on how to shake off the blues. Remind your teen that a bad mood can ruin their day, and potentially hurt their relationships. Then offer your child some simple, effective methods for improving their state of mind:

  • Recognize you are not alone. Understanding that almost everyone goes through mood swings during their teen years might make them easier to handle. Talk to your peers and you will be amazed at how similar your experiences are to theirs.
  • Be grateful. Consider all the things and people in your life that you appreciate.
  • Random acts of kindness. It is hard to stay in a bad mood when you are helping someone else.
  • Get your groove on. Listen to your favorite music, a natural mood enhancer.
  • Get moving. Getting active releases natural feel-good hormones. Go for a walk, play a favorite sport, swim or ride your bike – exercise will make you feel better.
  • Get enough sleep. Though it can be hard to find enough time, getting adequate rest is very important. Being tired can lead to more sadness and irritability, and it greatly decreases your ability to cope with your moods. Studies show that teens need at least 8 1/2 hours of sleep a night, but teens average only 7 hours a night. As their hours of sleep per night dropped, youth report reduced self-esteem and more symptoms of depression.
  • Reduce stress. Do not overcommit, or if you are already overcommitted, drop some activities. Determine what makes you stressed, and actively seek to avoid those triggers.
  • Talk! Friends, parents, teachers and counselors are all good listeners. Keeping your feelings to yourself can make them feel worse than they are, so talk them out.
  • Cry! Sometimes crying is an excellent way to release tension.

Final Thoughts…

Moodiness is just a normal part of the teen experience, but that doesn’t mean that you should let your teen’s emotional roller coaster run you ragged. Offer your teen understanding and empathy, but also encourage them to find ways to manage their moods in a positive way.

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