Having one of those days when it seems like everything that could go wrong, did? You needn’t give in to grouchiness or despair. Try these suggestions from our behavioral health experts instead:
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1. Be mindful of your feelings
What’s beneath your stress and frustration: anger, sadness, resentment?
“Research shows that knowing — and naming — your feelings is incredibly helpful and soothing,” says psychologist Susan Albers, PsyD.
Once you’ve identified your feelings, write them down in a journal. Or talk them out with a good friend.
“I recommend the 3M approach: being mindful of feelings, moving, and doing a mindset makeover,” says Dr. Albers.
2. Get up and move
In order to shake off a bad day, you need to be active. “Sitting still gives your feelings time to fester,” says Dr. Albers.
Sleep psychologist Michelle Drerup, PsyD, says ample research shows that exercise and activity produce endorphins and serotonin.
“Engaging in just 20 minutes of physical activity will increase these natural mood-lifters and give a noticeable lift to your day,” she says.
You don’t have to spend hours in the gym to enjoy the benefits of exercise. Do any activity you enjoy.
“Play fetch with your dog, walk outside with a friend at lunch, take a bike ride through the park,” she suggests.
3. Do something you love
Distraction can be a blessing. “Watch a favorite movie, work on a craft project, itemize your collection,” says psychologist John Vitkus, PhD. “If your passion involves physical exertion (hiking, running, kayaking, etc.), all the better.”
Avoid judging yourself or having strict standards. “Enjoy the experience — try to lose yourself in it,” he advises.
If you can’t completely set the anger, depression or anxiety aside, don’t worry. Taking positive action even when your heart isn’t in it will benefit you.
“We are highly motivated to make our inner and outer worlds agree,” explains Dr. Vitkus. “Doing what we love reduces this ‘cognitive dissonance’ and helps to lift our mood.”
4. Do a mindset makeover
Take a deep breath and reassure yourself that having a bad day is part of living on the planet.
“Consider the big picture. Will you feel this way for five minutes, five hours, five months or five years?” says Dr. Albers. “Say, ‘this too shall pass.’ Hang in there.”
Listening to uplifting music can help you set the tone, adds Dr. Vitkus.
You won’t feel better instantly. Give yourself some time to respond to your feelings in a productive way, Dr. Albers advises.
That’s especially good advice at the end of a bad day, notes substance abuse counselor Denise Graham.
“I always asked my kids for 15 minutes to ‘decompress’ after work,” she says. “Then, if I came home in a bad mood, I came out of my room as mom, not as an irritable worker bee.”
5. Connect with others
OK, your day hasn’t been a raging success so far. But it’s not over yet.
“It helps to close a bad day by getting out of yourself and helping someone else,” says Graham.
Volunteer, or offer someone a kind gesture. Help a family member with a task, or play with a pet.
“When you’re feeling kind, loving and grateful, it’s difficult to hold onto sadness, anger and resentment,” she points out.
Dr. Drerup has a dance party to connect with her kids and let off steam after a challenging day. “We choose their favorite songs, blare the music, belt out the words and dance around the house,” she says.
6. Rest up
The best thing to do at the very end of a difficult day? Get to bed at a decent hour and turn off/limit your use of cell phones, computers and tablets for the last hour before bedtime.
“Getting seven to eight hours of good quality sleep is one of the best ways to recover from a bad day,” says Dr. Drerup.
A good night’s sleep will help put it all in perspective. And you can start fresh the next day.