I don’t have a mood tracker to post this week. Not sure why I haven’t bothered with it since the new year started.
I wonder if part of the reason I’ve been feeling the way I have been feeling is due to the fact I haven’t had the self accountability that the mood tracker provides. I feel restricted. I feel on hold. I’m not moving forward.
Normally what happens is I set up a template for the mood tracker and schedule it to go live a week later. Knowing that by not filling it out day by day means a blank template would go live is quite the motivator for me. I know this.
So I’d thought that today I would talk about what the purpose of a mood tracker is and how they help.
The best mood trackers are the ones that help you identify patterns in behavior/environment that influence/trigger your mood cycles. As I’ve said many times before, this system works incredibly well for migraines too.
I think those of us with Bipolar need to track more than whether we have depression/mania since it’s not always immediately obvious as to which state we’re in. As I said before in a previous post, my therapist said it’s completely okay to use the tracker to determine which mood state you’re in retroactively based upon behaviors and symptoms.
So the first thing you need to do is decide on which symptoms you want to focus on and track. Symptoms like irritability, anxiety, distractibility, insomnia (the inability to sleep as desired – I originally thought it was the inability to sleep at all, but I stand corrected), migraine auras, pain, energy levels, etc. The list goes on. The point is, you track the symptoms you want to manage and mitigate. Your mood tracker needs to be relevant to you if it’s going to be helpful at all.
Clinical scoring scales go from 1-10 (or 0-10) with the smallest number being non-existent symptom to the highest number being the worst its ever been. Personally, this is too many numbers for me to work with so I operate on a scale of 0-3. Doesn’t matter what system you use so long as it’s consistent and easily understood. Use colors if you’d like.
Now that you have the symptoms listed, you need to decide on which behaviors to track. Look up the individual symptoms and see what’s suggested to do to make it better. Decide on what you’re willing to work on and track. The most common suggestions center around sleep, exercise, diet, and medications. If you work, track that too.
As for me, environmental factors go in my notes section but you can decide to track those as well – such as changes in weather triggering migraines. If you suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affect Disorder) then you may need to track this. I’ll point out here that people with PTSD can also suffer from a form of SAD if their trauma is strongly associated with a certain time of year. If anniversary blues is something you struggle with, track it. Figure out what helps and what doesn’t.
Environmental factors aren’t just weather and season. It’s people and events as well. Basically anything outside of you, and often outside of your control, falls into this category. You can’t control the weather. You can’t control traffic. You can’t control what other people do either. You CAN control how you respond to it. Sometimes you can limit your exposure to it. Sometimes you can do things ahead of time to reduce the impact.
Finally, you need to decide how you’re going to track your moods. In my experience, I seldom have any one emotion dominate my moods. For me it’s a question of intensity. During mania EVERYTHING I feel is more extreme. Everything. Depression tends to blunt all of that for me, even though I might experience the full range of emotions. More often than not, I tend to rely on my energy levels, appetite, and sleep patterns to tell me which mood I’m in rather than my emotions.
A quick search on the internet will produce a wide array of premade mood trackers. Almost all of them track the manic-depression scale, but few track the stuff behind those cycles. So even though I call mine a mood tracker, I actually think of it as a wellness tracker. A quick search shows me that those exist too.
None of them look like mine. And they shouldn’t look like yours either. Your tracker should be based on you and your needs to be well.