“Hey, how’re you doing?”
“Not great. I’m having one of those days.”
“Oh, Janice lit into me because I forgot to pay the cable bill. Then I go downstairs and Audrey’s in mid-meltdown because Bobby hid her favorite stuffed animal. And things just went downhill from there…”
Most of us have been one or the other participants in this conversation. The bad day.
The thing is, most bad days don’t have to be bad days. They may not be great days, but they don’t have to be bad.
How do we turn things around on a bad day? Here’s a four-step plan to get things back on track.
1. NIP IT IN THE BUD
This should be a one-step plan consisting of only this. Why? Because if we nip a bad day in the bud there is no bad day, there’s just the beginning of one that we don’t allow to metastasize.
What’s the chief culprit here? We give up too quickly. One or two things happen and we go straight to, “That’s it. This day officially sucks.” Punt.
Then we get into that mode where we look for things to compound this bad day. “Great, three red lights in a row. As if this day could get any worse…” Once we’ve labeled a day as ‘bad’ it’s hard to turn it around.
We do it because we’ve always done it
So why are so many of us so quick to label the day as bad so early on? I think there’s a simple answer: We do it because it’s a habit. We’re used to doing it so we keep on doing it.
And that’s a good thing. Why? Because the solution is to break that habit.
How do we break the habit? We set an intention. We commit ourselves to not allowing one or two incidents to ruin our day.
Here are some specific actions we can take that will fortify that intention when stressful events arise. Most of these apply to when you’re already in the midst of your bad day and are trying to snap out of it. But they will absolutely extinguish and nip in the bud any bad day potential when you employ them to the initial stressful event(s).
2. RELAX AND TAKE SOME DEEP BREATHS
So your wife yells at you or your kid goes into full meltdown, screaming at the top of their lungs mode. First thing you do is relax and take some deep, slow, cleansing breaths. Try to do at least five of these. I find it works best if I do this with my eyes closed so try that if the situation allows it (i.e., you may not want to close your eyes in front of your boss right after he’s made a snide comment).
What the breathing will do is create some distance between you and those anxious feelings, especially if this is the fifth stressful event that has put your day in a funk and you’re trying to snap out of it.
3. SIT WITH THE STRESS
This one may seem crazy, but it isn’t. After you’ve calmed down a bit from the deep breathing, place your attention on any anxious feelings. Just watch them, from a place of non-judgment. Don’t resist the feelings. Breathe with them. Let them loosen. Give them space. Then let them pass, like clouds through the sky.
4. HAVE A TALK WITH YOURSELF
This is a big one, the key to turning things around. We need to talk to ourselves.
About what? First, we need to dish out some tough love. Because most of the time, a bad day is about us saying to ourselves some version of, “Poor me. I got yelled at. And I’ve missed every light. And my boss was a dick. And my kids melted down on me…” Yada, yada, yada.
Well, here’s the thing. None of those external factors is the reason your day went to hell.
The reason your day went to hell has to do with how you responded to each of those things. If you’d handled each of them well inside you would have soldiered on with your day and been fine.
So part one of the conversation is,
“I’ve allowed these incidents to turn this into a bad day. Bottom line, though, is that it’s not those incidents, or the people behind them, that caused me to spiral into a funk. I did that. I have it in me to relax and let go of all these things and I didn’t do it.”
The negative way of looking at this is that you’re being tough on yourself and blaming yourself. Don’t do that.
Because the positive side of this is massively important and good for all of us. And it’s this: WE have the power to determine how we feel. We don’t have to allow the external world and all the crap going on in it to be the determiner of our moods.
Which leads to part two of the inner conversation: We need to fight for ourselves! Don’t let your boss, your spouse or a random driver be the determiner of your mood. Take ownership of your inner state.
So you say to yourself,
“Yes, my boss just pissed me off. And I just got off the phone with the auto shop guy who told me it’s going to cost $1,200 to repair my bumper. But screw it. I’m not going to let that sink my day. Right in this moment I’m sitting at my desk looking at a photo of my wife and three adorable kids. Life is fine. Actually, life is great.”
The key is to stop looking out and blaming the external world for our problems. Instead, we go inside and work on ourselves. We gain a ton of power over our lives when we do that.
Most of us have been blaming the world for our woes for our entire lives so turning things inward won’t happen overnight. It will take a lot of practice and work to reverse that habit.
But my God, doesn’t that work seem worth it? Imagine if you really hunkered down on this work and got to a point where your ‘bad days’ were few and far between. Because you started fighting for yourself. Taking care of yourself. Sticking up for your days.
All it takes is setting the intention and making the commitment to practice and work at it.
Think Nike on this one…Just do it.