We’ve all had them: bad days. They suck and it seems like nothing will ever go right again. But you don’t have to just suffer through them. This article is about how to turn a bad day around.
We’ve all been there. Maybe your kid woke you up a bunch at night or an hour before your alarm was supposed to go off you wake to your dog puking on the rug. You roll out of bed, already on the wrong side of the day, exhausted, miserable – and it all goes down hill from there.
While it can be incredibly hard to pull yourself out of an exhaustion induced funk – not all bad days stem from tiredness. Sometimes we just wake up grumpy. Or maybe initially things seemed like all was well, but then you spilled coffee on your favorite dress, the traffic was horrible, and your boss laid into you as soon as you walked in the door. This bad hour can set a miserable tone for your whole day.
But it doesn’t have to. We often feel like our days and emotions happen to us and we don’t have any control over it. That’s not actually the case. We have a lot of control over our emotions and our perceptions — which is great news. It means that even though you might have had a really crappy few moments, you don’t have to let your day go down like the Hindenburg.
Below are 10 ways to help you turn around a bad day. The sooner you get control of the day the easier it will be. It’s so easy for a bad few minutes to turn into an hour, the day, the week.
Certainly not everything negative that happens to you is your fault — but there is often something that we did that played a part in making our day awful. Maybe you stayed up too late binge watching and now you’re exhausted. Perhaps you were running late because you couldn’t find a clean shirt or hadn’t packed your lunch.
When you’re having a bad day it’s useful to go through what happened to get you where you are right now. Examine all the things that have contributed to your day and find where you could set yourself up for success in the future. Maybe you could start packing your lunch at night, or laying out your clothes, or setting alarms at night to get ready for bed.
One of my clients calls this helping her future self. What can you start doing now to help your future self out? What will help you avert whatever disasters you experienced today?
Not only will this exercise help you avoid future misery, it will also help you realize how much control you actually have over your day. By taking ownership of the things that you can control you will help contribute to all the good days you will have in the future.
If you find yourself in the middle of a bad day, take a moment and think of a few things you are truly grateful for. They don’t have to be big things, but they do have to have a positive impact on your life. The lift that you get comes from a genuine connection with the things that you are grateful for.
This may feel like a real struggle if you’re in the midst of a horrible mood on a bad day — this is where a gratitude practice comes in handy. If you get into the habit of writing 1-3 good things in a journal or a note on your phone or a calendar on your desk you will start to amass a big list of all the good that you’re surrounded by. Then you can go back and relive those good things and be grateful for them again.
CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE
Another Jedi mind trick you can use to get your brain out of that negative feedback loop is changing your perspective. There are many ways you can do this. All of them help you get some distance from your emotions and thoughts to help you get your pre-frontal cortex (your thinking/planning brain) control back from your emotional brain.
What would you tell a friend
We are all distinctive, unique people, however, most of the things in life that we are going through are not unique to us. There’s 7 billion of us and every single one has had their fair share of bad days. In order to put it into perspective, imagine what’s happening to you is happening to a friend. They’ve told you all about this bad day they’ve had. How do you respond? What compassion or advice would you give them to help them out of their funk? Then turn that around and give it to yourself.
We’ve all have that person or people that we want to be when we grow up. So instead of trying to figure out what to do on your own, imagine what someone else would do in your situation. Imagine your mentor or role model has had the bad day that you’re having — how do they handle it? Alternatively you can imagine telling them about your bad day and seeing what advice they might give you to help you cope.
Take to the stadium
Imagine that your life is a football field. While it’s cool to be on the field or the sidelines watching the game, you aren’t able to see everything from that angle. So imagine that your life is just one play in an entire football game and walk yourself up to the sky boxes. Have a seat and look down at that play. Is this one bad day going to affect your entire game? Imagine seeing this day for the blip that it is in terms of your whole life. This can help you release your frustrations and move on in a better mindset.
GET SOMETHING DONE
When I’ve had a bad day I want to run away and hide. I envision myself escaping to a tropical island and sleeping my misery off in a hammock.
When it starts to get rough we tend to either tense up and try to get through it or we give up on today and hide under the covers with Netflix. This is fight or flight in the modern day.
One thing that can help is actually finding something meaningful to accomplish. It can be something monumental like going all Marie Kondo on your closet, but it can be as simple as sending an email that you’ve been avoiding. The point is to find something that’s been bugging you and take care of it.
By doing this you are setting off the first step in making progress. And our brains love progress. It sends off all kinds of feelings of happiness and satisfaction. Which might be the exact thing you need to turn your day around.
GET CONTROL OF YOUR THINKING
Just as I said above we can have a tendency to get into fight or flight mode when things go south. This gets us locked into the oldest part of our brain and all of our thinking tends to downgrade. We stop being creative, we stop seeing options, we stop having control of our thoughts.
One simple thing can help bust us out of that mode though — breathing. Focusing on your breathing and flooding your body with oxygen helps calm down your nervous system. It will help you break out of that fight or flight mode and help you get the rest of your brain back online.
You can certainly do a guided meditation or try any number of these stress reducers here – but one fo the easiest methods is box breathing. It’s easy to remember, can be done anywhere, and is extremely effective. Check it out here.
Another one of those crazy brain hacks to improve your mood is kindness. In fact something as simple as buying someone a coffee can lift your mood more than buying yourself one.
If you’re having a bad day, consider something nice that you could do for others. It doesn’t have to be big or expensive. In fact it can be as small as leaving a post it note on a friends desk telling them about how great they are.
If you’re struggling with this – go look at that gratitude journal. If you have something someone did in there, write them a thank you note. That practices both gratitude and kindness – which can help boost your mood even more.
The last corporate job I had was awful. I had an incompetent manager, needy clients, and long days. I found myself at the end of a bad day more times than I can count. And one of my most reliable ways to shake it off was with a hard run.
Exercise is a great way to improve your mood (and productivity!). The endorphins that you get help turn your mood around and often while you’re exercising you have great ideas. Both of these things can be just what you need to turn around a bad day.
But you don’t have to have an intense sweat session just to get the benefits. In fact a 20 minute walk is enough to help you improve your mood. This has the side benefits of a change of scenery, getting outside, and (hopefully) getting some sunlight. All of these things have been shown to boost mood.
FIND THE FUNNY
Ever wonder why the internet is covered with cat videos and memes? It’s because we love the funny. It makes us feel good. In fact laughter is another way to get those feel good endorphins. If you find yourself headed for a funk take a moment to check out your favorite funny site. Or if you’re at the end of a bad day, put on your favorite sitcom or movie. It can help you shake off the bad day so that it doesn’t turn into a bad week.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
Let’s face it, when we’re pressed for time or exhausted, one of the first things to go is self care. I’m a classic case of this bad behavior and it’s one of the contributing factors to my period of burnout. And intense self care is one the things that helped me dig out of that burnout.
As drastic as it sounds one bad morning can be a slippery slope. It can turn into a bad day, which turns into a bad week, a bad month, a bad year. And all that can send you straight into burnout.
If you’re having a rough day, make some time for your favorite self care practices. Especially if you feel like you don’t have time. The way to make time is by dropping something that’s a low priority — those not urgent and not important things. If you need help figuring out what those things are, check out this post.
Some great, easy, and cheap ways to practice self care are to take a nap or pet an animal. These things seem so simple, but are actually very effective. A power nap is an amazing way to reboot your brain. It will help you reduce some of that stress hormone, cortisol, that’s swimming around your system and it can be the do-over that you need to get your day back on track.
Petting an animal has been shown to reduce our blood pressure. It’s so effective in reducing stress that many hospitals have therapy animals that visit patients. We see these dogs all the time at our hospital because it’s where the Wounded Warriors are treated. The military knows how much these animals benefit the men and women who have lost so much from war. So find yourself a furry friend, and go snuggle.
BREAK YOUR ROUTINE
One of the sensations that can overtake us when we’re in a bad day is that feeling of being stuck. We didn’t ask for this misery, but now, here we are, trapped in a bad day.
One of the best ways to bust out of feeling stuck is to do something different. You could try a new restaurant for lunch, take a different route home, make something new for dinner. It doesn’t have to be complicated, in fact it can be as easy as taking your laptop to the sofa so you’re not working at your desk anymore.
Any time you do something different, you’re shifting out of your habits. By breaking out of the routine you’re activating different parts of your brain. This wakes your brain up, and can help you get a new perspective on your day. Anything you can do to shake up your routine will help you release yourself from that stuck feeling so you can move on with things instead of ruminating in your misery.
A bad day isn’t just something that happens to you, and it’s certainly not a death sentence. There are many tricks to help you switch out of your funk so you can turn a bad day into a good one.
If you feel like you’re constantly struggling with a bad day, please contact me. Coaching with me can help you figure out what’s causing you to struggle and figure out how you can change your life for the better.