How to Get Through a Really Awful Day

I had an epically terrible day Monday.

My dog got really sick at 2 am and kept me up all night. I had to get downtown for an early morning doctor appointment, which got cancelled just as I stepped off the bus in front of the office building.

It was 7 am, and I hated the world already.

Things did not get better quickly. I struggled through my usual Monday tasks in a total fog, limping from one cup of coffee to another.

Around 3 pm, I finally got a boost of energy and zoned in on a task [yay!]…

…completely missing a scheduled conference call [ugh]. Epic fail.

I faced two options: melt down or push through.

No one’s safe from a rough day. Everyone has them. It’s how we deal with them that matters.  I can’t always muster up the energy to take the admirable route, but I managed to on Monday.

When I need to push myself through a truly awful day, I do six things to minimize damage and bounce back:

1. Don’t React Right Away

Anyone can get upset and throw a public tantrum. That rarely gets anyone anywhere. It always backfires on me. When you feel like you’re about to boil over, your first step should be to keep a lid on it.

Bite your lip. Count to ten. Close your email. Excuse yourself from the room. Whatever works to keep yourself from immediately reacting, do it. This is the most difficult step but the most rewarding overall.

2. Take a Moment

Let’s get real. Most people need at least a second to let off steam, so find a private place and give yourself a moment to recover and recalibrate.

This is easy for me say, right? I work from home, lucky me. But I need space too. When I get upset, I make myself physically walk away from my work and go into a different room to give myself some space.

I go to the bathroom and cry. I take a quick walk around the block. Sometimes I grab a refreshment at the coffee shop around the corner. I’ve done all of these a dozen times. A few minutes of reflection does a world of wonders on a bad day.

3. Find a Cheerleader

Going through bad days alone makes zero sense. After taking my few private minutes for myself, I text a friend for support.

How you interact with your cheerleader is up to you, but my texts always start with, “Here’s my day so far. Here’s what’s bothering me. Am I overreacting?” My friends usually respond, “Yes.” But they always listen to me explain what’s bothering me anyway. Then they build me back up. It makes a world of difference to talk things out with someone who cares.

4. Write It Down

Then I focus on getting perspective. I write the days’ problems down, listing everything that’s gone wrong. Then I write how I’ve dealt with the problem or plan to deal with it next to each item.

Yesterday’s list looked like this:

  1. The dog’s sick — It happens. Also, I shouldn’t have kids until I’m ready for a lifetime of this.
  2. I’m tired as all hell — I’ll catch up on sleep tonight. Until then, more coffee.
  3. Doctor appointment canceled — Politely reschedule. All doctor offices are disorganized. It’s a life truth.
  4. I completely missed a conference call — Apologize and reschedule.

This mini form of journaling delivers major reflection and helps me see my bad day for what it is – a bad day. Things will be better the next morning, especially if I have a plan to deal with things.

5. Scrounge Up Some Gratitude

Yeah, it’s an awful day. But there’s got to be something to be grateful for. Monday, it was coffee, delicious casserole for dinner and Monday night tv.

We’ve all got something good in our lives. Focus on that one thing, even if it’s small and simple, and you can get through the day.

True story: I once got through an entire terrible day at work by thinking about frozen yogurt. That was all I had in my arsenal. That day had a delicious end.

6. Get Inspired

Find a quote about resilience, write it on a post-it note and stick it to your computer for peripheral inspiration. Honestly, the best part about finding a quote is getting to read through the others before finding the one you want.

My favorite: “Inside of a ring or out, ain’t nothing wrong with going down. It’s staying down that’s wrong.” –Muhammad Ali

What About You?

What did you do to recover from your last terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day? How did you pick yourself back up? Let me know in a comment below!

  • Brian Sirimaturos
    October 29, 2015

    The great thing about you documenting and putting this into words is that we can all look and say, “hey, we’ve been there too!” I think you and I (and others that work from home) have to find a different way to cope with these days because we are alone for most of the time…nobody to physically interact with…which is in it of itself is usually an issue for others…but to have a bad day by yourself is a unique battle to face. I like all of your tips! Going to that coffee store around the corner could get expensive!!!

    • Allison
      October 31, 2015

      Ha, I like to think that having a bad day by yourself is a two-sided coin – I struggle to deal with things alone, but I can also stomp around and make ugly faces at my computer screen when I get frustrated.

      Yes, coffee trips get expensive. My friends think remote working is wonderful, because I can work from quirky little coffee shops every day. What they don’t understand is how quickly that adds up. If I sit in a coffee shop for an 8-hour day, I burn through about $20 in coffee, lunch and snacks. That’s just not sustainable on a day-to-day basis.

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