We all have them. The days where everything seems to be going wrong—the alarm didn’t go off, you stub your toe, your kid drops your toothbrush in the toilet, traffic makes you late for your doctor’s appointment, which you will now have to reschedule....Whatever it is that's going wrong when you're having a bad day, here are a few strategies to help you remain calm and regain emotional equilibrium—so you don’t end up taking your distress out on those closest to you.
Identify the real problem.
Are you having a “bad day” because there seems to be an unusual number of stressors occurring in a short period of time? Are you short on sleep or are you hungry? Are your hormones in flux? Are you emotionally fragile due to larger factors (grieving a loss, anxiety over impending changes, etc.)? Sometimes just recognizing why you’re upset helps you identify the best coping strategy.
Take a personal break.
Grab a cup of your favorite hot beverage and have some “me-time”-- read, meditate, pray, think, knit, or just enjoy the moment. If you have kids or other people who may require your attention, let them know that you need to be left completely alone for the next 10 minutes. (An egg timer set where the kids can see it or a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the office door is helpful in this situation.)
Fix what you can.
It's always more difficult to handle the inevitable things that the Law of Murphy throws into our day when we're tired or hungry. Get your blood sugar up with a nutrient-rich snack, preferably one that includes some protein and healthy fat like extra-virgin coconut oil or butter from grass-fed cows, avocado, cream, flaxseed oil, tree nuts or meat from properly-raised animals. (Healthy fat has been shown to have a stabilizing effect on the emotions, and healthy fats and protein in your diet will keep your blood sugar more stable between meals so you won’t be as tempted to graze on empty calories.) If you’re tired, take a cat nap. If you can’t fit that in, drink some coffee or tea or use a non-caffeinated stimulant like peppermint oil, raw cacao or bee pollen to get your brain out of the sludge. If you're experiencing hormonal flux, use essential oils or other natural alternatives to help balance you out. (Young Living carries a wonderfully effective oil for female issues called “Dragon Time.”)
Talk to an encouraging friend.
Often we can only see one part of a situation. A conversation with a friend can help us see a side that we never thought of before, or at the very least help us to realize that whatever we're facing really isn’t as bad as it seems. Choose your listening ear wisely, though—you want to hear from someone who will pick you up, not drag you further down. Also, go into the conversation looking for constructive advice, not just someone who will let you complain—you don’t want to bring your friend down, either. (Note: If most of your days are “bad days," you may want to think about getting some professional counseling to get you through whatever rough patch you're going through.)
Get some exercise.
Physical activity releases endorphins which naturally elevate your mood, and the effects last for hours. Even better? Do it outside. Sunshine and fresh air also produce mood-enhancing effects. Even a brisk 10-minute walk around the block can balance your emotions and help you regain the perspective you lost when your toddler smeared peanut butter all over the cat earlier or your co-worker volunteered you for that after-hours-only “special project.” Exercise also helps you release pent-up emotional energy.
Bad days are an inevitable part of life. But with a few coping mechanisms in your toolkit, and a bit of perspective, they don’t have to become a habit. After all, in the words of Miss Scarlett O’Hara, “Tomorrow is another day.”
Talena Winters is a busy wife and mother of four boys, an advocate and director with Heart4Children Canada, and an entrepreneur. Her therapy (and happily, career) is writing a blog, music, fiction, and knitting patterns. You can find her on the web at www.talenawinters.com, or on Twitter @TalenaWinters.