A few things going wrong need not cast a dark shadow over everything. Here are some simple tips to help you turn a terrible today into a terrific tomorrow
You’ve probably woken up some mornings with a horrible feeling that hangs overhead like an ominous dark cloud, leaving you grumpy and irritable before the day has even started.
This often leads to a day filled with problems and negative interactions, which might leave you wondering: “What else could possibly go wrong today?”
Whether it’s falling out with your partner, stubbing your big toe, or mistakenly putting deodorant in your hair and dry shampoo under your arms (we’ve all been there), just one small thing can set the wheels in motion for a day you’d rather forget.
Believe it or not, experts agree that Tuesday, around midday, is scientifically the most stressful time of the week – with work and lack of sleep cited as the biggest contributors to a bad day.
Surveys show that the average UK employee experiences eight hours of mental or emotional strain a week, and 23% of people say they’re stressed every day. But we want to make sure you don’t let this become the norm.
1. Don’t call it a bad day
You’ve probably heard of the placebo effect, which is when patients are given inert treatment for an ailment, but it still leads them to experience relief or lower levels of pain as a result.
This works in reverse, too. So if you’re expecting a certain level of pain, then it’s medically proven that your brain will experience heightened levels of pain, meaning that your expectations can have a tangible impact on your perception of reality.
So if you wake up on the wrong side of bed, burn your toast, miss the bus, and declare it a “bad day”, then you’re guaranteed to feel worse than if you just brush it off and move on.
2. Stop the negative cycle
Although negative thoughts are natural, going over and over those thoughts in your mind is something that scientists call “rumination”, and it can lead to increased feelings of depression and anxiety.
Learn to hear your negative thoughts, then actively challenge them and question whether they are factually correct.
For example, when you burned your toast this morning, your inner critic probably said something like: “You’re such an idiot.”
Try to listen to that dialogue with an outsider’s perspective and ask: “Does burning a piece of toast really make me an idiot?”
The more likely scenario is that you overslept because you were tired, got distracted because you were running late, and you need to learn to slow down and take a break.
3. Get outside
Sitting inside and overthinking how bad your day has been is counterproductive, and, as we’ve already mentioned, can actually lead to you being more perceptive to negative feelings.
Take the opportunity to give your brain the energy it needs by walking outside in nature, which is proven to revitalise you and make you feel happier.
Studies show that typical outdoor smells – such as lavender or pine trees – can reduce stress levels and increase relaxation, while simply breathing fresh air can increase energy in most people.
4. Reflect on what you have achieved
A bad day can leave you feeling like a failure if you let it get on top of you.
Although there’s nothing wrong with moping around for a little while, take a few minutes at the end of the day to reflect on all the great things you’ve achieved recently.
Our brains naturally focus on our failings more than our triumphs, so we need to work extra hard to keep those wins at the forefront of our minds.
Write down one good thing you have achieved today, this week, and this year so far, and you’ll be surprised at all the amazing things you’ve done!
5. Set realistic expectations
If your bad day has hit you hard mentally, then give yourself a little breathing space to recover.
Take time in the afternoon to acknowledge what you’re feeling, be it sadness, anger, frustration, or whatever emotion has taken over your brain.
Then be sure to jump back on the horse – but with realistic expectations of what you’re capable of if your mood has started to affect your capabilities.
For example, if you know you have a bad habit of emotional eating, then get a few ingredients to make a simple but healthy meal at home – and stock up on a few treats, like popcorn, fresh strawberries, or dark chocolate, to give you some comfort.
If you need to, cancel any plans and spend an evening taking care of yourself instead, enjoying your favourite self-care activities, such as reading, watching a movie, or doing a yoga class.