Bad days are a fact of life. Who doesn't have a bad day from time to time? In fact, it’s not a secret that 2020 has particularly been a heavy year for all. COVID-19. Changed plans. Massive unemployment. Black Lives Matter uprisings. Beirut. The election. Isolation. Hong Kong. Internment camps. I could keep going on, but I’ll spare you.
However, this is just the context surrounding our daily lives. This doesn’t include the stubbed toes and hormones, the snide emails and the fears that are unique to everyone’s experience.
Personally, I have been having more than my usual amount of bad days. There are days where I look back and am not even sure how I was able to get anything done. I felt crappy, and the world felt like it was crumbling around me. It’s been a really difficult season! And yet, there are also some incredibly exciting things happening behind the scenes. I’m learning how to sit with that tension.
2020 doesn’t look like it’s going to let up anytime soon, so I just want to share some tools that have helped me face my own bad days. They’re for you if you’re actively having a bad day and if you’re feeling like your day could take a turn for the worse if you don’t do something about it. Here are some ways you can approach a bad day:
Mary Englebreit said “It's just a bad day, not a bad life.” It’s easy to feel like everything sucks. Trust me, I’ve been there. Taking a moment to level set can help you face the day differently.
I just say “Yes, this sucks and it’s a crappy situation. I am not loving it, but it’s just today. There are still a lot of great things in my life.” You might try to take a moment to practice gratitude. Start listing things you’re thankful for. In my case, I am grateful for Matt, my dog, my family, my friends, having a roof over my head…
This isn’t about spiritual bypassing yourself. It’s important to allow yourself to feel both positive and negative emotions. Reframing helps me acknowledge the bad day in the context of my whole life.
Practice saying “Yes, today is a bad day. It’s just a bad day, not a bad life.” See how it changes your approach to the rest of your day.
Y’all know that I love tracking my cycle, but I’m not usually checking an app every day. However, when I’m feeling off, I do check my apps. It helps me see what’s going on hormonally, and I get to realize that it’s not all in my head.
I can see how my hormones levels are shifting and how that might impact how I’m viewing my day. It gives me a new language to address my emotions without coming from such a personal place.
I have a responsibility as one of my Strengthsfinder strengths. If I say, I am going to do something, I will go through hell and high water to get it done. You might not go to the same extremes that I do, but our society certainly conditions us to be workhorses. We tend to prioritize work over well being.
I’ve lucked into a career that gives me tools to challenge our societal beliefs, but I want to be clear: It is not easy for me to step back and take a break when I’m having a bad day. This is something I am really working on.
What has helped me is to evaluate what actually has to get done. If I don’t do this by the end of the day, what will happen? More often than not, there are no major consequences.
If you are in the middle of a bad day. I invite you to ask yourself what needs to be done. Do just that, and take the rest of the day a little slower.
Christine Miserandino created the Spoon Theory, which talks about how much energy people with invisible illnesses have on any given day.
There are days in which you have ten spoons and all the energy to give. You feel like Superwoman! Then you might have a day when you have just 2 spoons, and you just don't have a lot to give. On these days, it’s harder for you to concentrate and maybe even to physically get out of bed.
What I really love about this approach is that it offers a visual representation for an internal conversation. I can check in and ask, “How many spoons do I actually have today?”. That allows me to realize when my energy supplies are low. I can proactively shift my schedule accordingly.
One of the big things I’ve realized in 2020 is how arbitrary deadlines are. Having a deadline gives you something to work towards and can give you motivation. That’s great. I also think it’s really helpful to acknowledge that a deadline is often an arbitrary date on the calendar. You can move it around and still accomplish your ultimate goal.
So, on a bad day try to analyze what has to get done. Maybe you can send that email tomorrow. Maybe you can push back that task to later in the week. Be really honest and ask yourself “Okay, if I don’t do this today what’s going to happen?” And then honestly answer that question. You will be surprised to realize that most of the time the result won’t be as catastrophic as you think it will be.
Furthermore, depending on how your bad day looks, maybe it is not the best day for you to be responding to emails or for you to be creative. You will be able to respond to emails more kindly and to be more focused on your project tomorrow.
It is not only about pulling back tasks to have more space to care for yourself, but it is about executing your tasks at a higher level with a better disposition. So, on a low spoon day, get the essentials done, and then rest!
When I feel my bad days coming, I tell Matt, my husband, that I’m having an off day. It’s never an excuse for poor behavior on my part, but it lets him know that I need a little extra grace and support that day.
We all have bad days, and we still have to treat people like they’re human beings. As you are more aware that you are having a bad day, you can let people close to you know so that they can help you make it better.
That support doesn’t have to be extravagant. Sometimes it’s just an extra hug, some space, or a pep talk. When you let people in, you might be surprised by how they can help you navigate the rest of that day.
Since a lot of you are working from home you might feel like you're waking up in your office. You work all day, and when you are off work you may kind of feel like you should still be working. If you have a bad day, you might feel like the walls are closing in. This is when you need to get out of your head:
Sometimes it is just about switching tasks and doing something that uses a different part of your brain. Try to get out from whatever is making you feel stuck in order to create new possibilities.
If you notice you have a string of bad days, or that you are having a week or a month full of bad days, maybe you need to talk to someone besides a partner or friend. You may need to talk to a therapist.
This year has exacerbated pre-existing mental health issues. If you are prone to depression, it could be easier for you to get in a much more depressive state.
For folks who haven’t struggled with mental health in the past, it may not occur to you to seek out a mental health professional. Know that there are people who are trained to support you, and there shouldn’t be any stigma around getting the help you need.
I hope you don’t have a bad day anytime soon, but if you do, I hope you can try one of these tools and that they serve you.
Finally, I wanted to give you a heads up, since I am going to be in a panel at the Financial Diet’s event, The Big Reset. There are going to be talks about topics ranging from financial health to mental health, and I’m pumped to be a part of it. If it’s something that interests you, you can learn more here.