We all have bad days. Some worse than others. You might be feeling anxious, stressed, sad, disappointed, or all of the above. It’s a bit easier to cope with all of these big feelings when we have someone nearby to vent to, a therapy session scheduled for that afternoon, or a family member to call for support. But what happens when none of these people happen to be available at the time when you need them? Here are five evidence-based, simple ways you can support yourself on a bad day.
- Name that feeling. Are you feeling disappointed, angry, nervous, or lonely? Research indicates that the simple act of naming the feeling helps reduce its intensity. Most of us have been taught (directly or indirectly) to ignore or suppress our feelings. So while this sounds simple, you’re probably not automatically doing it. Next time you’re noticing that your day is feeling rough, stop and ask yourself exactly what emotion(s) are happening.
- BFF yourself. Are you maaaaybe being a bit harsh or judgmental toward yourself right now? Try being your own BFF instead. In cognitive behavioral therapy, a widely-validated therapeutic approach, we focus on catching that negative self talk. So imagine what you would say to support a good friend or partner, and direct it toward yourself. We are often so much harder on ourselves than everyone else!
- Laugh. You probably aren’t in the mood for giggles. And yet, I bet you can think of a movie, show, or stand-up comic that is guaranteed to make you crack a smile. Whether it’s an Amy Schumer Netflix special, reruns of 30 Rock, or one of my personal favorites, the 1999 cult-classic “Office Space,” it’s helpful to have a go-to for bad days. Even just 5-10 minutes of viewing or listening can help improve your mood a bit.
- Move. If you’re feeling anxious or stressed, your body is readying itself for something. It doesn’t realize you’re just going to be sitting on your butt trying to get a report written, or worrying about some rude comment your great aunt made. So, if able, take your body for a walk. A long, intense workout is great, but we can almost always find 10 minutes to take a brisk stroll around the block. Or if walking doesn’t work for you or you need to stay at home, try 10 minutes of stretching,jumping jacks, yoga, or dancing to your favorite tunes.
- Practice acceptance. Ugh, I know. Accepting things sucks sometimes. That’s why I listed it last! But seriously, check in with yourself. Is a part of you trying (or wishing) to control something that you can’t? Are those “shoulds” getting you riled up? The sooner we can get to “it is what it is,” the sooner we’ll be ready to problem-solve and get things back on track. That’s not to say you won’t have feelings. But the “shoulds” can lead to additional feelings like anger that only add to the problem.
Want to dig a little deeper on some of this stuff? Let’s chat.