September 21, 2013

Turn a Bad Day Around in 6 Actually Easy Steps.

We all have them.

Good days. Bad days. Awful days. The best days. Boring days. Once in a lifetime days. Days strung together that make up a lifetime.

A day is just that—a day. A small snippet in time, however sometimes we find ourselves overtaken by it—making meaning out of one day by associating that day with how our lives will always be.

A day can bring a host of experiences, thoughts and feelings that continue to hang out after we fall asleep and wake the next morning, or they can be fleeting—not to be remembered with any significance at all.

The bad days—when things just aren’t going the way we want—can easily consume us. As they are woven together in such a way that leaves us feeling powerless over time. Several bad days in a row can leave us feeling sad, depressed and anxiety ridden.

Finding ourselves on this bad day train doesn’t feel good. We typically don’t like it, but it can be difficult to get off of it once it’s started.

Sometimes outside circumstances in our lives miraculously change and this can shift a string of bad days into better ones. And, other times it takes a hit over the head to realize—”what the hell is going on,” and we decide to jump off the going-no-where-every-day-is-crappy train and we begin to take charge.

I am not talking about the horrific days here; the days that leave us with such immense loss and questioning whether or not there is still any goodness left in the world.

The days that feel unlike any other days—not even in the realm of typical days. These are the days we remember forever. Tragic loss of a loved one or pet. Mass attacks and violence. Divorce. Victimization. Natural disasters.

Thankfully, these days are few in the course of our lives, and I’m not sure if we can ever turn these days around—except that there can be experiences of of connectedness that happens to us all as we experience trauma and loss.

I am referring to the days when things are just not going right. Our morning coffee dumps all over ourselves right before we have to leave the house, and then we’re late for work or school because of traffic issues. The days that you don’t want to see anyone and you would rather just crawl back into bed for the rest of the day. Maybe the kids are refusing to get out of bed for school or can’t find a thing to wear.

Maybe the computer crashes, or the car doesn’t start. Maybe the kids are in trouble at school, or they’re sick and getting off work early to go pick them up is just not an option. And cooking dinner feels like such a chore that the only thing that comes to mind for dinner is a bowl of cereal.

Or, maybe an argument with a boss or someone close to you takes up the afternoon, or the dog is sick, or the bills still need to be paid and money is nowhere to be found.

Of course, we may not be able to change the current situation—but we can adapt ourselves in ways that provide strength in the moment in order to access a bit more influence over the day.

And the train of worry, frustration, powerlessness and negativity is departing. Resist getting on it.

Here’s our chance. The next time a bad day seems imminent, give these six steps a try.

1. Take Notice.

Take a moment to observe what is happening before judgements of the day are made. One experience in a moment does not make for the whole day. Resist drawing negative conclusions about what just happened. Resist the self-talk of “this is going to be a bad day.” Notice the event for what it is—just a moment. This event does not need to start the train.

2. Breathe.

Inhale to the count of three. Now, exhale to the count of six. Think—length in the breath. This can clear the mind. And, can be done without anyone else knowing it’s happening. In the car, at your desk, while cooking dinner—anywhere. I actually do it in sessions with my clients at times depending on the energy in the room. If time allows, take even five minutes of meditation. Clear the mind—we can tend to over think and ruminate about a bad day, trying to find the why’s and all the rest. Allow your mind and body to just be. There is no need to figure everything out, just sit with what is for the moment.

3. Move.

Physical movement allows us to connect with our bodies, and it gives the brain a bit of a break. The brain can only think of one thing at a time, even if those thoughts are jumping in second to second— the monkey mind, as it’s often referred to—jumping around at warp speed. Go for a walk. Practice yoga. Get the heart rate up, and warm up the body. There is time in the day to move, even 12-20 minutes is helpful.

4. Listen to music.

Music that moves and makes you feel alive. It has an incredible effect on our stress levels. It can slow down our physiological functions—often helping to slow our pulse and heart rate, decreasing blood pressure and cortisol levels in the body. And, if you find a groove you like—it just feels good to move with it, also. Use your ear buds if you need to.

5. Write.

Get it out. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Put it on paper and visualize the anxiety, frustration and the rest seeping out of your pores as you write it down, releasing it from the tight grip of the body. Forget about filtering it. Let it flow without analyzing or judging.

6. Touch.

Hug someone.  Anyone. Your kids, your spouse, your friend. Hold hands with your partner. Ask for a massage, even it’s just for a few moments. Soothing physical contact helps us to feel connected in this world.

A daily practice will keep the going-no-where-every-day-is-crappy train from pulling up to the station.

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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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