7 Therapist-Backed Tips for When You’re Having a Very Bad DayThe horrors may persist, but they’re no match for you.
If you’re human, you’ve obviously experienced bad days—and the struggle of trying to make yourself feel better when everything sucks. Sometimes it’s little inconvenient things that throw us for a loop, like a flat tire, getting to work late, or the barista getting your order wrong again. The horror. Sometimes the circumstances that led to a rough patch feel way more soul-crushing, such as getting laid off from your job, fighting with a loved one, or receiving some not-so-great news.
Either way, crappy days are no fun, and it’s very easy to let one thing—or, in some cases, a series of unfortunate hiccups—derail your entire day and take a toll on your mental health. While you probably can’t undo whatever caused the chaos, you can learn how to survive without falling apart when shit hits the fan.
Read on for seven therapist-approved, actually helpful and actionable tips to turn things around when misfortune strikes.
1. Accept that you’re off your game.
Setting the bar really high every single day can make any miss feel like a personal failure—which it isn’t, explains therapist John Tsilimparis, MFT. It’s just life, lifeing.
The solution: When trouble knocks, give yourself permission to have the bad day. Accepting that things are not going according to plan is easier said than done, we know, but Tsilimparis says that accepting rather than resisting your fate makes bad times feel not as horrid. As the saying goes, “Whatever we resist will persist.” So, the more we avoid feeling miserable, the more things seem to spiral.
2. Remember you’ve survived 100% of your worst days.
While it may sound counterintuitive to reminisce on past flops when you’re currently in the trenches, this can actually be a confidence booster. Those times are evidence that you can handle whatever life throws at you, says psychotherapist and life coach Corey Yeager, PhD. In other words, you’re a tough one who has dealt with challenges in the past, so you best believe you can do it again.
If you’re a journaler, read through old journal entries about previous crummy days you’ve experienced, suggests licensed clinical psychologist Ryan Howes, PhD. Again, this serves as proof that even if that struggle felt like the end of the world or like it was never ending, you made it through. This can help you realize, Hey, maybe that bird pooping on my head wasn’t that big of a deal.
So take a moment to recall some of those tough periods to help you shift into an “I’ve got this” mindset.
3. Reminisce on the good times.
On that note, treasuring your good ol’ days by looking through photos or videos of happy moments, reviewing positive journal entries, or reading kind messages from others can also help put things in perspective. “Negative moods tend to distort our view of reality, tempting us to think that not only is today bad, but all days are bad,” Dr. Howes says, which can send you into a tailspin.
Granted, Dr. Howes notes that looking at videos of yourself playing with your puppy may or may not immediately pull you out of a funk. Still, reflecting on the good times can help your perspective go from Woe is me to Bad days and moods are temporary, and good things are on the horizon.
4. Reframe your bad day as a helpful plot twist.
What if having an awful day was secretly a good thing and not just the universe playing a trick on you? According to Dr. Yeager, it can be. Hear him out: Growth and “pain” often go hand in hand. For example, you might struggle to build self-confidence if you don’t do things that push you out of your comfort zone.
So even if life feels like a total shitshow, slow down to reframe the “bad day” as an opportunity to learn and evolve, Dr. Yeager suggests. When you approach challenges in this way, it becomes easier to endure the “pain,” Dr. Yeager says. So, the next time you get some negative feedback on a work project, see if you can take the criticism like a champ by using it to level up your next project.
5. Engage your body.
I hate this for us, but the rumors are true: Moving your body really can work wonders at making you feel a whole lot better. That’s because physical activity helps reduce stress by releasing endorphins, the natural mood-lifting hormone. So you can see why psychotherapist Sarah Ahmed, RSW, strongly encourages going for a walk to clear your mind when you’re in the thick of a dumpster fire. Plus, getting out encourages you to be present, which is a form of mindfulness that helps reduce anxiety and improve mental well-being, she adds.
If you can’t sneak away for a 10-minute walk around the block, Ahmed says there are other quick and easy ways to physically cope with a garbage day. That can look like doing deep breathing exercises for five minutes, giving yourself a head massage, cooking something to keep your hands busy and nose engaged, or simply stepping outside to soak up some sunshine.
6. Consider if the call is coming from inside the house.
Sometimes (OK, a lot of the times) negative thinking, excessive worry, and anxiety make it feel like the sky is falling, even when nothing particularly awful happened. So recognizing the role your mind plays in perpetuating the sucky emotions is a helpful way to de-escalate the situation, calm your nervous system, and regulate your mood, Tsilimparis says.
To put this tip into action, Tsilimparis recommends becoming an observer of your thoughts. At the first sign of worry or anxiety creeping in, take a moment to identify the negative thoughts swirling in your mind. For example, it can be, If I don’t do everything perfectly on this project today, I will lose the respect of my peers. Then, replace them with more realistic, empowering thoughts like, I don’t have to be perfect all the time, and there are varying degrees of success.
7. Do something for someone else.
Performing an act of kindness changes your perspective so you can see yourself as “an agent of positive change in the world,” Dr. Howes says. That frame of mind puts you in a better headspace to potentially turn the tide on your bad day.
As for the act of kindness itself, sending a nice text to a friend, donating a few dollars to a charity that’s close to your heart, or just picking up some trash in your neighborhood are all great options, Dr. Howes says. But do whatever makes the most sense for you.
Wondermind does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a replacement for medical advice. Always consult a qualified health or mental health professional with any questions or concerns about your mental health.