Mood Management 101

I used to know what I wanted. I had a dream. My assumptions about the future allowed me that freedom.

Now my world is probably similar to yours, a basic box with X number of rooms where we are told to remain, with only a few exceptions for intermittent escape. And like an animal that’s been in captivity for a long time, even if the gate opened I probably wouldn’t venture through it – not right away.

The uncertainty of the future sucks all potential out of dreams. Dreams need to anchor in something solid to feel achievable. Unless your dream exists within the rooms in your box, or the pixels in your computer, it has probably already evaporated.

Nothing in our prior experience prepared us for this un-reality. I’ve found the best way to successfully navigate uncharted waters is to manage that over which I still have control.


People spending so much time at home begin to notice things that have probably irritated them for years but they were too busy to address. My sister and her husband decided to redo the water system in their kitchen and move the sink.

A nearby neighbor fixed a leaky drain pipe. Then he dug a new septic tank. (This is Bali. You can do that here!)

Stuck in my studio apartment I suddenly needed more elbow-room. It took a day of grunting, groaning, and pushing furniture from side-to-side and back again, but I managed to creatively reconfigure the contents to my satisfaction.

MOOD MANAGEMENT PRINCIPLE #1 – Become industrious in your own space. It’s one place where you still have control. Whether it’s cleaning, organizing, painting, repairing, or rearranging furniture, it shifts attention off the computer, the phone, the news, and away from doom and gloom.


A Facebook friend began a Get-Healthy-and-Lose-Weight routine January 1st. She posted the other day that as of April 30th she’d lost 37.5 pounds (17 kg) and social distancing has made it easier.

Another acquaintance funneled his anger and feelings of helplessness into poetic verse. He said he never tried poetry before but it keeps him focused on the rhyme instead of the reason. His poems hold to strict anapestic meter with an AABBA rhyme scheme and they’re brilliant.

Then there’s the friend who left an abusive relationship after many years. In close quarters it finally became intolerable.

MOOD MANAGEMENT PRINCIPLE #2 – Practice extreme self-care. It’s another thing you can control. We have to become aware of how this pressure-cooker situation is affecting us personally. It impacts everyone differently. Individuals handle it according to their stress-management ability and it’s a challenge even for those who are stable, well-adjusted, and emotionally healthy.


My Airbnb host in Italy went into total lockdown with his family fifty-three days ago. His school-age children were sent home to learn online. All income for both him and his wife ceased. They are just now being allowed a brief walk outside. He messaged me: Can go nowhere, do nothing, not even sex. (Spoken like a true Italian!)

There are similar stories world-wide. How do people cope with a life turned up-side-down then put on hold? We aren’t used to moving so slowly, not in our bodies and not through time. It rubs the wrong way. We experience shifting emotions: anger, denial, rejection, alarm, resistance, anxiety, panic, and potentially, terror.

Our nervous systems must undergo re-calibration. This can occur consciously or unconsciously and it makes a difference. What happens in the mind manifests in the body for better or worse. Happiness boosts immunity and resists disease. Stress in all its various forms attacks the immune system and invites illness.

If we allow ourselves to get sucked into the downward spin of endless news reports…

If we let anxiety crawl under our skin until we’re so antsy we want to scream (and maybe we do)…

If we feel helpless without our familiar routines and fail to create new ones…

If we sit on the couch watching hours of TV, numbing-out with alcohol or drugs…

…we wont’ survive intact. Something will give, either mentally or physically.

MOOD MANAGEMENT PRINCIPLE #3 – Push the reset button. Your mind is the third thing over which you have control. Right now the definition of happiness doesn’t fit the situation: Happiness is that feeling that comes over you when you know life is good and you can’t help but smile. Yeah…no. Let’s change the word happiness to positivity.

It’s tough, but it IS a choice. We don’t have to dwell on the horror of death and disease even though that’s all anyone thinks or talks about. We can focus on the things we can control: home improvement or self-care projects, hobbies, culinary experiments, online classes or exercise routines. (I saw one on jump-roping. The guy was a machine.) Upon waking in the morning we can resist the urge to check the news and instead look at the sky and breathe a word of gratitude for another day of life.

It takes intention and willpower, but it is possible to observe our minds and manage our moods. If thoughts begin to slip into dark places, we can acknowledge that this is a crazy-making time and adopt a zero-tolerance attitude toward self-destructive energies.

And there’s one fall-back activity that never fails…

Take a nap.

Global Cooling Hits Bali

I had a Facebook chat with my friend, Komang, this morning. He was complaining. He said it is cold in Bali right now. I asked him, “How cold, Komang?” There was a pause then the message popped up, Komang is typing…I’m glad that little note appears. At least I know that the answer to my question is being thoughtfully prepared, that the other end of my correspondence hasn’t decided to walk the dog or take a shower. In a few minutes I was rewarded with his answer, “I don’t know…it is so cold I use shocks.” That stumped me. Shocks. Hmmm. Whatever shocks meant to him, I didn’t think it meant the same to me, so I typed my next question, “Are shocks blankets, Komang?” I needed to know. I watched the white blank space waiting for his answer and pretty soon the message popped up again, Komang is typing…He was apologizing,”I’m sorry, I mean socks…It is so cold I sleep with socks AND blankets.” Meanwhile I Googled temperature in Bali just to get a feel for how miserable it actually is. Daytime temperature 77 degrees Fahrenheit the website said, tonight, mid sixties.

Here in Minnesota, in the midst of a record-breaking heat wave, 77 degrees sounds like paradise. I’m guessing the rice paddies and bananas won’t freeze!

As I was zipping along the freeways today, from the skyscrapers downtown to lunch in the suburbs, I couldn’t help but think how radically my life will change in ten days. I am returning to Ubud for four months. In a country where, by law, no building can be higher than a palm tree, there’s a different code. The pace is slower. Everything I need is within a few minutes’ walk. I like seeing chickens on the side of the road, clucking and pecking. I like watching the motorbikes come early in the morning with huge crates of produce, fresh from the fields, strapped on the sides. I like the pageantry of the cremation procession that stops traffic for hours. And I know that I am viewing it all from my white, Anglo Saxon, privileged perspective. But there is an authenticity there that disappeared from our Western culture about the time plastic was invented. It calls to me.

I have always felt a deep relationship with antiquity. The ruins at Pompeii, the architecture of European cathedrals, Chichen Itza, all fascinate me and create a desire to know more about the people who lived during that time. In Bali the ruins are there but so are the people, living and believing much as they did hundreds of years ago.  And if Komang says it’s cold, who am I to disagree? In a land that rarely sees the thermometer dip below 83, a night in the mid 60’s would seem frightfully chilly.

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