Every single person experiences at least one bad day in their life. It’s a part of living and it’s a part of being human. Most likely, everyone experiences a lot more than just a single one, and those of us living with mental illness tend to experience even more bad days than those without mental illness.
Getting through a bad day can feel like time is dragging on, infinitely slow and filled with difficulty after difficulty. Feelings like this are more common after crises, loss, a difficult diagnosis, and other life-changing events. Even though these are common triggers, a bad day can come at any time. When it arises out of the blue, we can feel lost and confused, unsure how to handle it.
I’ve compiled six ways you can get through a bad day. This blog is a resource you can refer to whenever you wish. None of these are meant to change or erase the feelings, since they are arising for an important reason, but these suggestions are here to help you survive the day and make the most of the difficulty. When struggling with a bad day, pick and choose the ones that feel the best for you.
Number 1: Accept Your Emotions
Acceptance is both one of the most powerful and one of the most overlooked tools for coping with intense emotions. When we’re having a bad day, we naturally want to be having a better day, so our minds often tell us the answer is to just pretend it’s a better day. Doing this, in actuality, makes our day worse because we are essentially telling ourselves there’s something wrong with feeling bad. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a bad day.
Acceptance is so important because it allows us to validate our emotions. Resistance, the opposite of acceptance, comes when we want a better day but are experiencing a bad day. This creates inner tension, which only adds to the stress, exhaustion, and overwhelm we experience. With acceptance comes validation, and with validation comes peace.
Have you ever had a loved one say “it’s okay you’re feeling that way,” and felt liberated? This is the power of validation. When we validate ourselves by saying, “it’s okay that you’re having a bad day,” we bring this peace into our lives. Accepting ourselves and our difficult moments is the best way to validate ourselves.
Number 2: Make Your Needs a Priority
One of the most common ways we “rationalize away” a bad day is by telling ourselves “well, I have to (insert task here).” Yes, we may want to be able to carry on a normal day, but our emotions have made that harder to do. And, you know what? That’s okay. It is perfectly valid to take a mental health day or admit we’re not feeling great.
Not all of us have the financial means or personal resources to take a day off from work, school, or household chores. But, whenever possible, minimizing the amount of work we have to do on a bad day is an ideal way of coping with this hardship. Take longer breaks, have an extended lunch, ask someone to help with household chores, or put unessential tasks off until a better day. This may be a slow process to make your needs a number one priority, but it’s a fruitful journey.
With the symptoms of my own mental illnesses, I frequently come across rough days. I’m fortunate enough to work from home, which makes coping more accessible, but I first had to come to terms with needing to step away from work in the middle of the day. I initially feared working under 40 hours a week, but recognized this was necessary for my mental health. Making the decision to put self-care first has actually helped me run a more successful business.
Work on overcoming the shame and fear of putting your needs first, and you’ll notice a huge increase in your mental health, whether it’s a bad day or not. Let’s end the stigma around bad days!
Number 3: Rest
Emotions can take a huge toll on us, especially when we live through a full 24 hours or more of them. Dealing with high-intensity feelings is naturally a challenge and, like all challenges, this zaps our energy. If you feel tired, mentally and physically, during a bad day, that’s totally natural.
Listening to your body’s needs is of upmost importance. Instead of pushing through and trying to resist the fact you’re having a bad day, listen to the needs you have. If you feel tired, rest. Forcing yourself to work, socialize, or do everyday activities when your mind doesn’t have the stamina will only tire you out and extend the time you feel down. Choosing to rest is a great way to both accept and acknowledge your needs in a tough time.
Rest, for some of us, happens too often. If you experience too much sleep as a result of depression or another mental illness, adjust this practice as you see fit. There are many ways of resting that don’t involve sleep. These will still give you the emotional space to feel, find peace, and relax as best as possible. Here are some ways you can rest without napping:
- Holistic therapies and treatment
- Calm and relaxing walk
- Cup of tea and a book (or just a cup of tea)
- Slow and conscious eating
- Taking a bath
- Snuggling with a loved one (or stuffed animal, pillow, blanket, etc.)
Number 4: Journal
This goes back to validation. There is no better medium to freely express our feelings than a journal. We can write anything we want down without fearing judgement. All our thoughts, feelings, and concerns are able to be freely expressed. I journal every single morning. It has changed my life.
The benefit of routine journaling is immense, but even if you just journal on the bad days, you’re doing yourself a great service. The emotional freedom and healing you may experience could change your day in such profound ways. Sometimes, journaling is all we need to get out a much-needed cry, frustration, or hurt.
Journaling doesn’t have to be a formal practice, either. It can be jotting down thoughts on a loose sheet of paper, or inscribing in an ornate notebook. Whatever suits your fancy, go for it.
Number 5: Seek Out Inspirational Quotes
Alright, this might sound cliché but…clichés work. They are common for a reason, after all! Inspirational quotes can give us a new and positive perspective. This can help us focus on the good, rather than dwelling in our misery. They aren’t meant to help us escape the bad day, but rather add additional healing perspectives to it. Mixing negativity with positivity makes us feel more balanced.
A fantastic way you can modify a simple search is to send out a prayer or wish beforehand to your chosen higher power. In my own life, when I’m in a rough spot, I ask the Universe “please send me a message when I open up Pinterest.” Almost without fail, a quote of exactly what I needed to hear is at the top of my feed. Call it divine intervention or coincidence, it’s impactful. This adds an extra boost to the healing power of inspirational quotes because they feel more meaningful to us individually. Instead of just stumbling upon a quote, we feel that the power we asked intentionally sent it to us. Talk about a fantastic way to feel unconditional love in our lives!
Pinterest is a great resource for finding quotes meaningful to you. I have several resourceful boards here at my account, to get you started. You can also click your browser’s pin-it button and uncover hidden inspirational quotes in this blog!
Number 6: Talk To Yourself
Although a surprisingly stigmatized gesture, talking aloud to yourself is actually incredibly healing. There is something about vocalizing our grievances that helps us process difficult emotions on a bad day. It’s similar to when we stub our toe and curse, it seems to hurt a little less than if we held in the swearing. Our emotions are no different than physical pain in this way.
This is worth giving a try. It’s a seriously powerful gesture. Find a private space and rant, scream, mumble, or otherwise express whatever it is you’re feeling. Complain without regard. If it helps, direct your words at God, the Universe, the spirit of whoever frustrated you, or some other entity. How you choose to practice this is up to you. You can make any and all modifications you wish.
Whenever possible, continue talking and expressing your feelings until you find an emotional release. If tears start to come, that’s a great sign. You’re tapping into the emotions behind the bad day and freeing them. In my own experience, it usually doesn’t take long for these feelings to arise. It’s much faster than any other emotional exercise I’ve tried!
Don’t Forget to Prepare for the Future
You’re probably going to have more than one bad day in your lifetime, so it’s worth preparing for the inevitable. To do this, you can make a self care plan. If you’re into list-making, pull out some paper. If you’re an artist, pull out a sketchpad. If you’re a computer scientist, create some code of this. This plan is best designed on a day when you’re feeling better and when you have the ability to reflect upon what works and what doesn’t when you are experiencing high-intensity emotions.
This plan can include any of the ideas above, plus any others you wish to add. Be it flowchart form, to do lists, or code, have a sequential pattern of tasks to follow when you’re having a particularly bad day or experiencing a crisis. In many cases, you may only need one or two tasks to feel better, but it’s a good idea to have somewhere around 7-10 listed. Once created, keep this in an accessible place so you can find it during any bad day you have. (Also, you can add some of those inspirational quotes you found earlier into your plan!)
Now I’d absolutely love to hear from you in the comments. What technique works the best to get you through a rough day?
If you know of a friend who’s had a bad day recently, send them this article with a sweet “I’m thinking of you” message to put a smile on their face. Share the inspiration!