Self Care

How to Turn Around a Bad Day: A Step By Step Guide

January 29, 2018

Like most people with an interest in personal development, I’ve always been fond of a good inspirational quote—and lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about a favourite:

“Choose your mood.” – source unknown

It’s a simple but powerful reminder that, while things may not always go exactly to plan, we always have a choice about how to react when life throws us a curveball.

This is so relevant for me right now because with a four-month-old, a LOT doesn’t go according to plan—and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit it’s sometimes often frustrating!

Of course, I can’t put all the blame on my little munchkin; I was having bad days long before she arrived! Kids or no kids, challenging days are inevitable, but how we react is up to us. We can choose to give in to the negative voices in our heads or we can take steps to turn things around.

For what it’s worth, I’ve been working hard to choose the second option more often than the first. Some days it takes me longer than others (and some days it just doesn’t happen) but mostly, I’m finding I really can “Choose my mood” when I put my mind to it. Step by step, here’s what works for me.

Bad days are inevitable, but how we react is up to us. We can choose to give in to the negative voices in our heads or we can take steps to turn things around.

HOW TO TURN AROUND A BAD DAY: A STEP BY STEP GUIDE

By the way, I wrote this draft a few weeks ago in my journal. Then today, as I was typing up this post, I started to slide headfirst into a bad day and had to put my own words to the test! It truly worked for me so I hope these tips will work for you too! x

STEP 1: RECOGNISE WHAT’S HAPPENING

I think one of the biggest challenges to overcoming a bad day is sometimes just realising what’s going on. It can happen so quickly; one minute you’re okay, then something doesn’t work out quite as planned, and next thing you know your mood is snowballing downhill.

Because of this, your best bet is to try and turn things around before it gets too out of control, so it pays to know your early warning signs. Everyone’s different but here are a few things I know I do when I’m on the fast track to a bad day:

  • I think negative or defeatist thoughts (“I can’t do this!” or “I give up!”)
  • I become short-tempered and get snappy with my loved ones
  • I look for quick fixes to boost my mood, like unhealthy snacks or mindless shopping

STEP 2: PRESS PAUSE

Once you realise what’s happening, the next step is to press pause; you need to get out of your own head and, if possible, out of your current environment. Go outside, escape to the bathroom, or–if you’re really stuck—just close your eyes for a few minutes.

Take a few deep breaths and try to forget about everything but the present moment. Don’t think about what’s gone wrong, don’t think about what you have left to do, don’t even think about trying to turn around your mood.

Just breathe until your mind starts to quiet.

STEP 3: MAKE THE CHOICE

While of course, there are unfortunately some truly bad days in all of our lives, the good news is most of the time “having a bad day” is more of an attitude choice than the result of our circumstances.

The bad news, however, is that changing your attitude can be much harder than you might initially think (or at least, I’ve always found this to be the case!). It requires letting go of whatever it is that triggered you in the first place—hurt, anger, or disappointment—and making an active commitment to move forward.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not always ready. On really rough days, it just feels easier to dwell in my own misery than to do the hard work and turn things around. It’s not something I’m proud of but I’m not beating myself up about it either (and neither should you). If this is where you are right now, it’s okay to write off the rest of the day and start again tomorrow.

But if that’s not what you want—if you want to turn around your bad day—then you need to commit to your choice. There’s no doing this halfway; accept that whatever has happened is in the past, draw your line in the sand, and get ready for a fresh start.

STEP 4: RESET

How this next step plays out will vary a lot from person to person but the idea is the same for everyone; once you decide you’re ready for a fresh start, I suggest doing a short “reset ritual” to signal to your body and mind that you’re starting over.

If you’re short on time, it could be something as simple as applying a fresh coat of lipstick or making a hot cup of coffee. If you’ve got more time (or if you’re having an especially bad day!) you might want to take a shower or go for a run. It’s completely up to you what you do but once you find what works for you, I suggest sticking to it and making it a habit every time you find yourself in this situation.

STEP 5: MOVE FORWARD

Now that you’ve let go of the negativity and reset your mind, the final step is to make the most of your fresh start! Make a conscious effort to move forward and make today a good day by doing something that feels good.

Again, there are endless possibilities and you need to decide what works best for you (in fact, it’s not a bad idea to put some thought into this before you’re having a bad day!) To inspire you, here a few things that work for me:

  • Check something off your to-do list—the sense of accomplishment always lifts my spirit!
  • Get moving (I like to go for a walk or do yoga)
  • Catch up with a friend or loved one
  • Cuddles always work for me 🙂
  • Plan an adventure (watch this space—I’ve got a big announcement coming soon!)

BONUS TIP: BE KIND TO YOURSELF

On a final note, I’ve noticed that a lot of my bad days are caused because I’m too hard on myself—usually a mix of unrealistic expectations and perfectionism. I know if I could nip this in the bud, there wouldn’t be any need to combat so many “bad” days … so I’m working on it.

It’s not easy and I often need to be reminded, so I thought I’d share message in case you needed to hear it today too 🙂

I hope you enjoyed this post! What are your tips for turning around a bad day? Let me know in the comments! xx

photo credit: Bruce Mars // Used with permission

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  • First I just want to say that I LOVE your blog. You have a beautiful writing style, and it really resonates with me. 🙂 I’ve been on a major purge this past week, getting rid of so many clothes and things that we don’t use or need. It feels so great. However, yesterday I realized that when I transferred my work things from my old, broken backpack to a beautiful laptop bag I found hidden in a closet (yay purging!), I forgot to take the spare key fob out of its special little pocket. And the dumpster had been emptied, so it was gone. (I actually went there and stuck my head in looking for the trash bag, with two neighbors looking weirdly at me.) Of course I felt how incredibly unnecessary it was, but the amazing thing was that I just accepted that it had happened and that there was nothing I could do about it. A year ago that would have destroyed my whole day, and now I just started researching how to find the best/cheapest way to replace it. We really do have the power to decide how things are going to affect us 🙂

    • Hi Erika! Thank you so much for your sweet words about my blog! You’ve made my morning 🙂 And thank you for sharing your story too! It’s great to hear how you turned things around. All the best! xx

  • This is so true, Jen! (And can I say how happy I am to see you posting more these days?) I’ve learned to pause and make that choice so I don’t stress overmuch.

    Like last week when I was checking in at the airport and realized my passport was in the safe of the place I stayed at downtown. (This is the first time this has happened lol; I’m usually more careful but being in 6 cities in January probably confused me a bit.) The friend who drove me back commented on how calm I was, even laughing with him about it on the way back. I told him I’ve learned being negative about things don’t make a difference so I might as well be positive. It’s not a natural reaction at first, but it gets easier with practice.

    • Hi Daisy, oh my goodness, I’m not sure I would have stayed calm if I’d left my passport behind! You’re an inspiration 🙂 Hope you’re well xx

  • SageOnEarth

    I really love these advice of yours! They are simple and useful. Because they are simple, they are achievable and efficient! Thank you once more for all your ideas.

    • Aww, thank you! This post was born out of my own trouble dealing with “bad” days—it’s not always possible but I think a lot of time, we do have the power to turn things around. Thanks as always for reading! x