Turning Around a Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad Day

Terrible, horrible, very bad days happen to us all. We may be feeling frustrated, depressed, hurt, sad, angry, anxious, guilty, jealous, humiliated, ridiculed, trapped or misunderstood—whatever the situation, we need to be able to turn it around. As the saying goes, it isn’t about falling down, it’s about getting back up. But, it can be hard to remember that bad days are transitory and that how we react is up to us. It may take an attitude adjustment and some effort to bounce back, but you can do it. Here are a dozen tips for turning a really bad day around:

  1. Name it — Clarify how you feel and why. Recognizing how you feel and why is the first step to coping.  Stop negative thinking, and focus on identifying your emotions. Labeling the emotion can disarm it; putting your feelings into words can get your emotional response under control.

  2. Switch your thinking — Thoughts lead to emotions. Changing your thoughts can change your emotions. Stop brooding; it can make you feel worse and prevent you from thinking effectively. Refocus your thoughts on what you can change or influence. Reframe your situation; try seeing it from a more positive perspective or a different angle. Your goal is to stop sabotaging yourself—you are valuable and worthwhile—and to remember this too shall pass.

  3. Work it off — Not only does physical movement dissipate stress and bad vibes; it can also stimulate the release of “feel-good” neurotransmitters. Less than ten minutes of aerobic movement can reduce anxiety.  Walk, run, play a sport or game you enjoy.

  4. Connect with someone — A bad day can cause us to withdraw and become isolated, and that’s not good. Reaching out to friends and family can help you get rid of bad feelings by expressing them—and can be a comfort as well. Talking with someone can help clear your head and gives you a sense of connection and support. If you are seriously hurting and need professional help or support, don’t hesitate to get it.

  5. Get busy — Things aren’t going right? Then move on to something else for now. Stay active and busy and productive. Even repetitive tasks or things like answering email can calm you down.

  6. Shake it off — Consciously surround yourself with a positive environment. Make your space at work more pleasant with pictures or music, plants, natural light or fragrance. (Aromatherapy has been shown to elevate mood.) Bring things into your space that lift your spirits.

  7. Make yourself smile—or laugh — Research shows that smiling can improve your mood, even your health. Just the act of smiling can cheer you up. Keep a book or two In your desk that have cartoons, jokes or stories you find humorous; take a short break to watch something amusing online. (Cat videos, anyone?)

  8. Respond according to the source — Stress at work affects all of us at some time. Separate what you can control from what you can’t. Set priorities based on what is urgent, what can be done quickly and what will relieve the pressure. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes as well. We may miss a deadline or make an error. The key here is to focus on next steps. If the source of your bad day is personal, ask yourself whether you need to drop everything or you need to go on with your work and deal with the personal later.

  9. Listen and learn…but don't take rude comments to heart — Consider what you can learn from the situation, but don’t over-inflate the destructive or rude observations that are meant to be disruptive, hurtful or unkind. You may want to ask what specifically you could do better according to them. But don't waste your time trying to please those who can’t be pleased. Decide first how important the person’s opinion really is. Then consider whether the criticism really IS about you. Determine whether there is anything useful in it. Use what you can and jettison the rest.

  10. Don’t get stuck in an “ain’t it awful” rut — Pity parties aren’t fun for anyone. When things aren’t going well, there is a tendency to overlook things that are going well. Catch yourself doing things right and give yourself a pat on the back. Make your good repute as important as the regard of others. Make an effort every day to notice things you are thankful for. Allow yourself time to wallow, be angry, or be sad, but then move on. Sometimes, choosing to end one day and start fresh the next is the most powerful cure for a bad day.

  11. If possible, leave work today and start fresh tomorrow — If you feel exhausted, tearful, agitated, anxious, or out of control, it may be a good idea to withdraw and call it a day. Obviously, this doesn’t mean you storm out of the office or leave without appropriate permissions and arrangements for things to be covered.

  12. If all else fails, move on — Too many people stay in a job that makes them unhappy because they feel it would be a failure if they left or because they are afraid of the uncertainty of a new job. If your bad days overwhelm the good days and you dread going to work daily, you need to consider a new job that is a better match, more affirming and more enjoyable.

Interpersonal interactions can be the source of friction in the office. To minimize those problems, check out the 2017 APC sessions in the Leverage Connections, Communication and Collaboration program track. If your workload is causing you stress, you’ll find some meaty sessions in the Adapting to Change and Shifting Priorities track! Learn more