There are days when sometimes you just can’t. Some days are non-starters where everything seems to be going wrong; the baby is crying, the dog needs walking, arguments ensue, and somehow you’re sick on top of it all. The worst thing about a bad day is the feeling that it can’t be recovered because it’s already lost.
We all have days from hell and that’s, unfortunately, a fact of life. However, when things are falling apart at the seams, it’s how we react that matters most. I would argue that if left unchecked, a bad day can bleed into other areas of life and cloud our spiritual and emotional life for the rest of the week.
So no matter where you are in the bad day, in the first few hours or last, you can recover some ground with these simple tips.
1.) Take a walk
Sometimes the best thing you can do is get out of your head and go for a walk. Even the philosopher Aristotle believed so firmly in the power of walking that he founded the Peripatetic school, a school dedicated to walking and talking.
Walking is man’s best medicine. – Hippocrates
It’s long been understood that the mind/body connection plays a huge role in our overall wellbeing.
Not only does moving the body release endorphins which help balance the mood chemically. But moving also releases tension in the muscles and ligaments, relaxing our body.
I go to the same park nearly everyday. It’s a lovely greenway near my neighborhood with large swaths of trees, a winding creek, and wooden footbridges that lead through a dense southern rainforest.
Walking there never fails to change my mood entirely. It’s my favorite place to get right.
In Japan the practice of “forest bathing” or shinrin-yoku is believed to be therapeutic, even medicinal.
In as much as you can, remove yourself from your setting and immerse yourself in a green environment where you can stretch your legs and unwind.
2.) Work it out on the page
You may not call yourself a writer, but writing is something we all do out of necessity.
Being able to express your thoughts without any outside opinions or fear of being criticised is one of the most freeing gifts you can give yourself and those around you. For obvious reasons, not all things are meant to voiced to our family and friends. Rather, take out your frustrations, wrong or right, on the page.
GIve yourself permission to dump your thoughts and feelings in a journal through expressive writing. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, is known for getting her students to write “morning pages”. The belief is that what we don’t allow to come out in a healthy way will eventually come out sideways, as a mentor friend of mine used to put it.
When emotions come out sideways they’re usually more heightened and charged. We say things we don’t mean, we hurt feelings, and we take things personally that would otherwise be totally benign interactions.
Say what you want and process in private to relieve stress and get your mind back on track.
3.) Say the serenity prayer
As simple or trite as this may seem, I promise that saying the Serenity Prayer works to immediately refocus your mind on what’s within your control.
By focusing on the small or large things we cannot control, we unintentionally drive ourselves and those around us crazy which only makes a bad situation worse. Don’t beat yourself up though. We all do this.
We tend to overestimate how much is really within our power to solve, while we overlook the seemingly mundane solution that could improve a tense situation. When we take on problems that are too big for our strength and resources alone, anxiety follows. It’s like trying to push a great big boulder up a hill on your own. It’s futile to waste your efforts and exasperate yourself in the process.
When the dog barfs on your shoes 15 minutes before you’re supposed to be at work, remind yourself that controlling this was simply above your pay grade. All you can do from this moment forward is control your reaction.
4.) Call a friend
Studies show that friends are awesome.
But in all seriousness, friendships are perhaps one of the most beneficial aspects of being alive. Can you tell I’m a people person? Without close friendships, we miss out on the ability to bare one another’s burdens, have fun, and call each other to higher standards.
Recently, when I was getting ready for a big workshop I was hosting, I called my best friend Kate to help remind me of why I was doing what I was doing. During our phone call I told I was scared to reach out. But in reality, my friend was more than willing to help me get back to a solid place.
When you’re day is going poorly, reach out for a lifeline. Enlist the help of a trusted friend to give you a piece of encouragement via text, or a quick chat on the phone before an important meeting. We were never meant to face all of life’s challenges alone.
Though it might be scary to show your soft underbelly of vulnerability, do it anyway.
In doing so you show you’re strong enough to ask for help while also giving your friend the opportunity to support you. And in the future they know they can lean on you for the very same support.
5.) Do the one thing you’ve been putting off even if it’s not perfect or complete
Part of what contributes to a day feeling messy and out of control is that, for one reason or another, we’ve missed our opportunity to get an important project done.
This kind of goes back the things we can control. Perhaps you can’t complete an entire project or get all the loads of laundry done, but you can get started on the project or finish only the load of clothes you need for the week.
Whatever is most important and urgent to you in the moment is the thing, that if you give it attention, will be guaranteed to improve your day.
My husband likes to repeat a little saying he learned from a mentor of his, “If you want to feel esteemable do esteemable things.” In other words, if you want your day to feel instantly better, complete a task that you know will make you feel better.
6.) Accept that not every day can be a winner
When all else fails and you just can’t recover from the day, crawl into bed and give yourself some space and time to think about the things that did go right.
Never let yesterday use up today. -Richard H. Nelson
Most importantly, get your mind focusing on things that you are grateful for and what your intention for the following day will be. Set your mind to the task of applying what you learned from a day of mishaps and failures to your future.
If there is any purpose in having a crappy day, it’s that you can use it to implement change for a better tomorrow.
He who every morning plans the transaction of the day and follows out that plan, carries a thread that will guide him through the maze of the most busy life. But where no plan is laid, where the disposal of time is surrendered merely to the chance of incidence, chaos will soon reign. – Victor Hugo
I know that there are many more ways to improve a bad day. I’d love to hear how you personally deal with a crappy day. What tip will you try using to improve your day? Leave a comment below!