You know that feeling when you’re really having a bad day at work and you get home and just can’t shake it? And then it carries into a totally crap night and maybe you even end up snapping at people you shouldn’t be snapping at and feeling even worse and wishing the day would just go away? (Yes, speaking from lots of experience.)
If you’ve had a day like this, you have two options:
Option 1: Before you get home, make a conscious decision to leave your awful day behind you. This isn’t easy and you might not succeed, but the first step is making the decision that you're in charge and you’re going to kick your bad day's butt out of your way. (Super-practical tips for doing this are below.)
Option 2: If you can’t find the emotional or physical energy to tackle Option 1, make the rest of your day as short as possible. Going to bed at 8 p.m. might be one of the best things you can do to reset yourself for a fresh start in the morning. This is not a cop-out and nothing you should feel guilty about. You’re not giving in to your bad day, nor is it winning. You’re simply being smart about taking care of yourself.
To help you tackle Option 1 -- kicking your bad day to the curb before it ruins the rest of your night, and worse, carries into the next day -- here are some favorite tips and ideas:
Take a short walk before you step inside your house or apartment. You have to create a barrier between your bad day and what’s ahead and the best way to do this is by getting some fresh air into your lungs. Even if the weather is not great, consider taking a short brisk walk before you get home. If you have kids or pets to take care of, bring them with you!
Change your clothes as soon as you get home. This might seem trivial but it’s a really simple way to signal to your brain that this is a new beginning vs. a continuation of the (really bad) day. If you have a few minutes, hop into a shower to literally rinse the (really bad) day off of yourself.
Treat yourself to a tiny luxury. Have a cup of tea from your favorite tea cup, perhaps one you usually only take out for company. Enjoy a piece of your favorite dark chocolate (here are some of our favorites, by the way). Put on your favorite yoga pants. Light your favorite candle. You get the idea: Do something nice for yourself, however tiny it may be.
Sit still for a few minutes. Bad days are usually frantic and your body is likely buzzing from stress and anxiety. Take a few minutes to calm it down, in whatever way works for you. Perhaps you can simply sit for a few minutes in a quiet spot, and focus on taking some deep breaths. Or have some tea without doing anything else, just sitting and savoring it for a few minutes. If you can calm your body, you’ll also be calming your brain -- something that’s really important to do after a stressful day.
Get absorbed by something or someone. To stop all the thoughts and feelings from your awful day from swirling in your mind, you have to fill it with something different. Watch your favorite show on TV or Netflix, read a chapter from a book you really enjoy, work on a craft you love. Another way to distract your brain from your worries is to focus on someone else. This might be the best night to help your kids with their homework or call a friend and chat about how her day was.
Force some gratitude. It’s absolutely OK not to feel like counting your blessings and you might feel like this day had absolutely nothing good in it. But science shows that if you can find a few things -- even if they are super small -- to appreciate about your day and write them down, it can have a really strong positive effect on how you feel. Before you go to bed, try to write down 3 good things about your bad day, even if you have to think really really hard about them. Think of it like finishing this sentence: "I had a really crap day but…."
Awful days happen. Being happier isn’t about avoiding them -- impossible! -- or driving yourself crazy trying to turn them into good days -- also impossible! It’s about making a decision to take care of yourself in the best way that you can and if you’re up for it, taking some steps to make sure that your bad days don’t infiltrate all parts of your life. You may not want to always hear this, but you can make the choice to put an end to a bad day and not bring it home with you.