How to Cope with Bad Days
By Evie | @mindfullyevie | March 9, 2019
A good way to think about how you would cope with a bad day is to contemplate how you would cope with a temporary physical illness, such as a bad cold. What would you do if you had a bad cold and had to take some days off work? You might make yourself some nourishing meals, probably get lots of rest, maybe sit on the sofa all day watching funny feel-good films? Think of treating yourself the exact same way when having a bad day mentally; you need to do things that will help you feel better. Furthermore, just like when you have a bad cold, if you don’t take the time out to rest and get better, you will often make the cold worse, meaning it takes longer for you to get better, and ironically you then have to take longer off work! This is the exact same thing with a bad day; the longer you ignore those feelings or don’t stop and give yourself time to think about them and what you can do to help yourself, the bigger the crash becomes when you do finally stop.
Being able to handle bad days is such an important skill to learn in life, because bad days are inevitable, and if they’re not handled constructively, they can turn from bad “days”, into weeks and even months… I created this “4-step” guide which has helped me tremendously these past few years from turning my bad days around into better days, and sometimes into a really good day! With constant practise, I went from not being able to turn a bad day around for days, weeks, and sometimes months, into now being able to turn a bad day around in 10 minutes. You will also find that with practise, the time between when you observe the fact you’re feeling down and acting upon it, will shorten. Here is my 4-step guide on how to cope with bad days:
Step 1: Mindfully recognize your negative emotions – Often, you might fail to recognise when you’re having bad day, or you might even try to avoid your sad feelings or pretend they don’t exist. But by doing this it will only make you feel worse, because if you bottle it all up, you then might reach a point where your emotions “explode”, and you find it a lot harder to cope. By acknowledging it is a bad day, you will spend less energy trying to change it or convincing yourself it isn’t, and more energy on focusing on the necessary steps you need to take to feel better. A good way to help you accept your emotions is by saying to yourself, “this is how I’m feeling and that’s okay”. When you do this, and accept these bad days, often things will immediately start to look a little brighter.
Step 2: 15-minute rule – Although it is good to sometimes “let it all out”, it is also very important to make sure you do this in a healthy, constructive way. If you allow yourself to wallow for hours and hours, it will only make you feel worse. A good technique to use is the “15-minute rule”. This means you can speak endlessly for those 15 minutes about how rubbish your life is, you can cry and yell, but once your 15 minutes are over you are not allowed to talk about it anymore. After these 15 minutes, you will then direct all your attention to the next step.
Step 3: Self-kindness – Instead of running away from your negative emotions, you embrace them with kindness and compassion. Self-kindness involves actively comforting ourselves, responding just as we would to a dear friend in need. It means we allow ourselves to be emotionally moved by our own pain, stopping to say, “Poor you, I know this is really difficult right now, but I know you’ll get through it.” With self-kindness, we soothe and calm our troubled minds. A good way to comfort yourself is to say, “This is really difficult for you right now. How can I care for and comfort myself in this moment?” With self-kindness, it allows you to actively seek things that will help and comfort you in times of need, which leads us on to step 4.
Step 4: Things to cheer you up – Often when you’re feeling down, you might turn to unhelpful and negative activities, such as scrolling through social media or ruminating about your sad thoughts, which will inevitably only make you feel worse. It is very important to always have activities that will reliably boost your mood to help you feel happy again. Just remember they need to be something in your control, for example, “sunny weather”, isn’t reliable as it isn’t in your control. Listed below are plenty examples of things I hope will help you to feel better:
Meditate – By taking 10-15 minutes out of your day to meditate, it will help quieten the mind and leave you in a calm, peaceful state. Or even by just taking a few deep breaths, it will reduce your feelings of stress and induce that feeling of calmness within.
Treat yourself – For example, buying a food or meal you like but don’t often buy, buying yourself a new novel or renting out a DVD from the library, or having a bath using some new bath products.
Tick something off your agenda – Often on bad days you might feel like you can’t get things done and struggle to be productive, which often leaves you feeling frustrated and useless. By setting some small and reasonable tasks of things you can do, it will help you feel better and more in control. For example, it could be finally backing up your photos on your phone, washing the dishes, or finishing two chapters in your current book.
Repeat a mantra such as:I am in charge of how I feel and I choose to be happyI am strong, able and calmI have everything I needThis too shall passThis is how I’m feeling and that’s okayPet your animal – Animals can have such a positive effect on us and can instantly boost our mood. To read more on “What Our Dogs Can Teach Us”, click here.
Pamper yourself – You could have a nice warm bath with your favourite soaps, or you could paint your nails, or put on your favourite lotions or face mask. To make it even easier, it might just be a case of putting on some nice clothes and make-up to make you feel better, even if it is for just around the house!
Expose yourself to positive media – If you’re having a bad day, turning on the news and hearing about tragedy around the world is not going to help. Nor is listening to sad music or watching a sad film. Instead, watch your favourite comedy show, or put on some upbeat music and sing and dance along! A good idea might be to make a “feel good” playlist that includes songs that make you feel happy and positive.
Take a shower – Having a shower in the middle of the day can almost feel like starting the day again and hitting that “reset” button. It can metaphorically help “clean” the negativity and rid negative energy, helping to boost your mood.
Avoid social media – When you’re feeling rubbish, scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram feeds won’t usually make you feel better, if anything, it will probably make you feel a lot worse. Try signing out of your social media accounts for a few days, and see the affect this can have on your mood.
Go technology free – Sometimes it’s nice to go back to a world before technology existed, and pass the afternoon curled up outside with a book, without any distractions from your phone, laptop or TV. A good challenge to set yourself is to try to go a whole day without any technology devices.
Watch funny videos – Me and my mum are constantly showing each other funny videos (especially dog ones), and it often ends with both of us in fits of laughter!
Get a good night’s sleep – Sometimes going to bed early and to “sleep on it”, is a really good way to help you feel better, as not getting enough sleep can have a dramatic impact on your mood and health. To read more about “Tips on Getting a Good Night Sleep”, click here, and to read about “Sleep Routine”, click here.
Do something you love – For example, you could go for a run, paint, write, play the piano, bake, cook, read, any activity that you enjoy! Immerse yourself in that activity without any distractions.
Exercise – As we all know, exercise produces endorphins, which are our “feel-good” hormones. Luckily, this doesn’t mean you have to go for an intense workout to feel the benefits. It could mean some gentle stretching or even a walk around the block.
Eat well – When you fuel yourself with nutritional, healthy food, your body will love it, which consequently makes you feel good. You could make yourself a smoothie, or cook that new recipe for dinner you’ve wanted to try for ages, or bake some blueberry or carrot muffins!
It is important to note that if you still feel sad or feel like you’re having a bad day during step 4, that’s perfectly okay! Keep practising steps 1 and 3, as you should always be mindful of your emotions and be kind to yourself. However, don’t go back to step 2, because it will not be beneficial to you. Stick with step 4; it may take one feel-good song for you to feel happy again, or it may take quite a few days. Sometimes if you are having a bad day, you’re allowed to curl up on the sofa and binge watch “friends” all day, that’s okay! As long as you don’t repeat step 2 and you stay focused on the things that will help you feel better and stay positive throughout, then take your time doing those things. With practise, step 4 will become shorter and shorter, as you feel happier quicker.
I hope you found this post useful and it can help you through the bad days. If you have any activities that you do to help you feel better that aren’t listed, please let me know! Either leave a comment below or message me via the “contact me” menu button at the top.
Evie is a 22 yr old who suffers from M.E. She enjoys blogging/writing from my bed about chronic illness and mindfulness. You can find her blogging here:
By Metta, E