Snap out of it.

I have been working with a wonderful time management/organizational (that doesn’t even cover it — she’s just frickin’ amazing, especially if you’re creative enough to be really messed up) person who has been helping me keep the many moving parts of my life from grinding me to powder.

One of the things I’ve appreciated the most is this exercise she does, where you come up with ten things that will help you shift your mood when you sense that all hell is about to break loose.

(She also has you write down “ten signs that all hell is about to break loose” — so you can recognize when you’re about to jump the tracks.  I now know that when I can no longer see my kitchen counter for the mounds of dirty dishes, or when I reach for a third cup of coffee, or when I start yelling about really small things, that I’m basically on the merry road to catastrophe.)

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about what little things instantly make me even a touch happier… and which ones can’t easily become abused. Chocolate can calm the beast somewhat — actually, anything sugary and indulgent can take the edge off.  TV can be a balm of sorts.  Video games that force me to concentrate (and thereby numb or block out anything that’s stressing me) have been helpful.

The only problem is, I don’t simply do something long enough to shift states: I tend to sink into it.  One square of chocolate is fine.  A whole bag of Oreos… not fine.  Especially when a sugar migraine follows.

There are the zen recommendations:  ten deep breaths, a tall glass of water, a walk in nature. These take a little effort and investment — they’re not sexy quick fixes.

Then, there are the sensual recommendations.  This was the most surprising for me.  I had fun thinking of songs that I love that make me happy.  When in a bad mood, I usually went straight for “I hate you world!” music, either hip-hop or punk, with a bass line that could give you a concussion. I’m starting to see that probably fed the problem more than alleviated it.  Goofy songs that made me smile (and made me want to dance) were infinitely preferable, and not as much of a stretch as doing the zen ten breath thing.

So far, I’ve got the Red Hot Chili Peppers “Skinny Sweaty Man” as a go-to.  The Chemical Brothers’ “Block Rockin’ Beats” and Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice” were others — especially the video for that last one.  I’d always thought of Christopher Walken as a highly entertaining psychopath until I saw that video, and I swear, I fell a little in love with him. (And then I saw the cowbell sketch on SNL, and fell the rest of the way.  Which reminds me, that clip will also go on my “emergency bad mood lifters.”)

As it turns out, the other secret weapon for shifting my mood came from a really unexpected sense:  smell.

Everyone always says smell is the key to memory.  The smell of a garage can remind you of your grandfather, fresh cut grass can remind you of summer camp.  Hell, apparently the smell of baking cookies can help sell a house.

For me, the smell of tube rose or jasmine is very evocative, lemon and mint are uplifting.  But the one go-to scent that never fails to make me happy?  Almond.  I kid you not.  When I’m gritting my teeth mad, I force myself to go to my kitchen, unscrew the cap to the almond extract, and just take a sniff.

And damned if I’m not feeling a little better… at least, enough to do the ten zen breath thing or go for a tromp in the woods or whatever’s next on the list.

So what about you?  What sort of things help snap you out of bad moods?  What songs, what scents, what actions?


  1. I’m like you were, I tend to make a bad mood worse with my music choices. I’m going to have to think of a new playlist. For some reason ‘Our House’ by Madness popped into my head 🙂

  2. Cooking does it for me. Something very soothing about chopping. I think smell is a part of it. I was stressing about revisions the other day and started chopping up salsa. I felt better. Cilantro is like the smell of summer to me (basil’s a good one too).

    I set almost all aspects of my life to a playlist. Check out Peter, Bjorn, and John’s Nothing to Worry About, if you want to smile. Nice post, and good luck! Hope you get lots of suggestions.

    1. Love me some cilantro. Baking’s better for me than cooking (it’s more precise — GOD, I’m a plotter!) but I adore cilantro. An ex boyfriend had a recipe for guacamole with insane amounts of cilantro, and I’m still angry I never got the recipe! Have not been able to recreate.

      I’ll check out the song, as well. 🙂 Thanks!

      1. Okay, people love my guac, and it’s pretty easy. Here’s my recipe: 4 ripe avacados, mashed (don’t overdo the mashing); about a half a bunch of cilantro, coarsely chopped (perhaps a half cup once chopped); one jalapeno, seeded and finely diced; 3-4 scallions, chopped; one large ripe tomato, skinned and seeded (try for fresh, but if canned, drain well); a clove of fresh garlic, minced; the juice of half a lime; teaspoon of ground cumin; teaspoon of sea salt; one tablespoon of sour cream (just for smoothness of texture, low fat works fine). Combine and get the chips. If you store overnight, cover it with citrus juice in an airtight container–keeps it from browning. Enjoy! 🙂

  3. Oooh, I’ll have to give this some thought. I got to the part about figuring out how you’re about to lose it and I felt the EXACT feeling I get inside…just need to pinpoint what it is that leads up to that. I love the idea of a happy playlist!

  4. Okay, the whole part of writing down a list that tells you when you’re about to lose it? Priceless thinking! I’m going to need to do that.
    Anything by the Barenaked Ladies is guaranteed to put me into a good mood. So does baking, or going for a swim. I find the more I exercise, the calmer I am overall. It’s a scare correlation, but accurate for my personality.

    1. I like baking, too, although 1) I tend to bake things like cookies, and 2) it’s been a bit hot to fire up the oven. I should exercise more, and I’m working on it. I do remember your need for exercise! 🙂

  5. Cathy,

    Great post, thanks! I love the smell of almond, too. It reminds me of the almond icing my grandmother always put on top of her shortbread cookies at Christmas time.


    1. I actually put it together when I used this almond scented soap and noticed I always felt better afterward. Works like a charm. But almond icing… *swoon* That sounds delish!

    2. "Yeah, because everyone knows those high IQ guys are that stuIpd."i've never thought of you as naive, Truth. When it comes to sex with a chick they normally couldn't get, yes, all men are that stupid. ;0)

  6. I really like what you had to say on this–not enough writers talk about it. I’ve found that going for a jog or a swim usually helps calm my overactive mind. Music helps too–Katy Perry is lighthearted enough that she’s able to drag me out of whatever mood I’ve put myself in.

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