What to Do When You’re Having a Bad Day

What to do when you're having a bad day
I find staring at the water actually helps!
Let’s talk what to do whan you’re having a bad day…

“It has been a TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY. My mom says some days are like that. Even in Australia.” – Judith Viorst, ‘Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day’

Turns out, Alexander’s mum was right. One can have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Even in Australia.

You know the ones.

The ones where it feels like the universe is conspiring against you.

The ones where nothing goes right.

They are usually the ones where you’re trying to squeeze as much into your day as possible.

I’ve had my share of those days. They suck, don’t they?

So what’s a girl (or even a boy) to do?

It’s hugely counter-intuitive, I know, but rather than crawling into your cave, the very first thing to can do when you’re feeling overwhelmed is STOP. And, by stop, I mean stop the feeling of your terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

There are a number of ways you can achieve this.

1. Follow this simple technique from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy:
What to do when you're having a bad day

S is for Slow Down – slow down and focus on your breath; or slow down by pressing your feet into the floor; or slow down by pressing the heals of your palms together.

T is for Take Note – look around you, wherever you are right at this moment. Notice what you can see and hear and touch and smell. Notice your thoughts and notice your feelings. Engage with where you are in this moment.

O is for Open Up – instead of responding to your day on autopilot, open up and consciously make room for your thoughts and feelings. Recognise them. Acknowledge them.

P is for Pursue Your Values – reconnect with your values (more on values here), and let them guide you towards whatever you might do next.

2. Try some Focused breathwork

It’s straight forward, you can do it almost anywhere, plus it’s quick and free!

One of my favourites for when the overwhelm is high is CROCOCDILE BREATHING

  • Start by lying face down with your forehead on the back of your hands. This is to make sure your neck is in alignment with the rest of your spine.
  • Next, breathe in through your nose and deep into your tummy – you’ll feel your stomach push out into the ground. You may feel that your lower back rises and falls, with your inhale and exhale as well.
  • Once you have a comfortable inhale you simply exhale and begin again.
  • Do this for 3 – 4 minutes (tip: set a timer!)

I’m also partial to Box Breathing – especially if I’m out and about, and throwing in some Creative Visualisation for mindfulness-based escapism while throwing my legs up the wall.

3. Write it out

Get all of that ‘stuff’ – all of those thoughts and feelings – out of your head and onto paper. There is evidence suggesting that expressive journal writing can help with easing the emotionsl pain and stress of a no good, very bad day. And, there’s even evidence that writing it out can help to improve your health, too.

Find a quiet place to try this exercise I’ve adapted from, ‘Opening Up By Writing It Down‘ by James W. Pennebaker, PhD and Joshua M. Smyth, PhD:-

Understanding what you’re feeling

Start by writing an identifier word at the top of your page – whetever is top of mind for you. It may be ‘stress’, or ‘overwhelm’ or ‘frustration’ (or something else!). Under this word, write whatever assocoiated word or topic enters your mind. Continue to do this, immediately writing one word or phrase after another as they come into your consciousness. Don’t think too hard. There is no need to eveluate or censor your thoughts or limit what you associate with each successive word. This is stream of consciousness stuff. Keep writing until no more words or topics come to mind.

Take a short break and then come back and review what you have written. Look at your list of words, topics and phrases to see if you notice any patterns.  This bit is about critically analysing your download.  Do you notice any themes or topics that pop up for you? Are there patterns in the feelings or meanings of the words? Understanding these patterns may help you to better understand the nature of the streessors in your life.

All three of these techniques can help to lower cortisol and signal to your nervous system to ‘rest and digest’ as opposed to the ‘fight or flight’ we feel when we’re having a bad day. And, all three are EASY, effective ways to break the circuit on feelings of overwhelm.
One of my favourite tools to minimise the frequency of my bad days is my DAILY MORNING RITUAL.

It’s arguably one of the best things I’ve implemented on my personal health caper. My morning ritual has had such a profound impact on my mental health that I created a FREE Personal Morning Ritual video series for you. To help you get your personal morning ritual underway.

At the end of this mini program of videos and downloads you’ll –

  • Understand why having a very intentional morning ritual is such a good idea for your health (and that includes your stress levels).
  • Discover what some famous morning rituals look like (including that of Sarah Ballantyne, The Paleo Mom)
  • Learn how to build a simple morning ritual into your day (beginning with my 3-minute baseline ritual that you can do from the comfort of your bed!)
  • Come away with a FREE downloadable workbook to help you personalise your morning ritual

Why not give it a go? Just click on the pink button to get started.

Morning Ritual

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Comments (9)

A post to bookmark. I love the STOP acronym. I stopped ~mid-read~ and followed the steps. They helped! Thanks for the link to the values post, too, that was a great reminder. A+!

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is FULL of great little techniques, Petra. 🙂

Excellent thoughts. Unfortunately after stopping I have to start again, but taking a moment here and there helps. We are going through challenging times … started with a burst hot water pipe on Saturday morning, and then the fallout from having changed to cheaper insurance a year ago (Coles!!!!) and having increased the excess for building insurance because we thought what could possibly happen to the building unless it was a bushfire or whatever? Followed by noisy industrial fans trying to dry the joists out, having to remove numerous book cases so they could rip out the wet carpet, and then me getting sick (either a head cold or related to wet carpet because they don’t work on weekends and didn’t come out until Monday evening). Then I didn’t hear the postie on Tuesday morning (because of the industrial fans) so went to the post office this morning to be told that they only have one parcel, not the two stated on the delivery card. 40 mins on the phone to customer service with the tracking number to find out they DO have the other parcel and it has been there for the last few days. Numerous STOP moments have got me to Friday still in one piece. But I did choose the healthy reward option at the markets this morning – a bunch of flowers. That was after being told by my kombucha lady that she wished I had told her before I came that I wanted a couple of boxes because she didn’t take that many to market this morning and I might have left her short. I’m hoping for a better weekend. 🙂

Aaaaaargh!!! Melanie – Tapping, my friend. Have you discovered tapping?

Has your weekend improved at all…?

Doh, I just typed a reply and then it disappeared. So here I go again.
Well, yes and no to the improvement question. But I’ll just focus on the yes part. The headcold turned out to be a reaction to wet carpet – at least that is my diagnosis based on the fact that it immediately improved when the carpet was cut out and taken away. Then yesterday the insurance company agreed to pay out the building side of the claim, minus the excess, instead of having us pay the excess up front. Phew! We are still waiting to hear on the contents side.
I have tried EFT where you rub/tap just below the thumb joint – a technique started or embellished by Max Lake? But out of practice so thanks for the reminder. 🙂

Brilliant acronym JF! You nailed it with this post and can I say, that crocodile was total brilliance. I think the next time I’m having a bad day, I’m going to come to this post just to look at him again. He had me in stitches.

Thank you for this wonderful blog post, Joanna! xx

Martine! Thanks for stopping by, Possum. xx

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