Let’s say you wake up late, discover you’re out of dry shampoo, note a stain on your favorite white jeans, can’t find your keys, get that text message *insert eye roll here*, find a lovely new zit on your chin, hit every red light, and spill your coffee… only to show up late to your Very Important Meeting where you realize you forgot your computer at home and no, you will not be getting that client for your portfolio.
I’ve been there. And if you’re anything like me, these types of situations have all the makings of a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day. One thing goes wrong, and then you soon decide ok now today is going to be the worst, sliding riiiiiight into a foul mood with an attitude to match.
But I’ve learned this approach pretty much never makes me feel better; it just contributes to the problem. A better solution? A total redirect in the form of self-care, my friend. Here are 11 tips for how to shift your mindset and turn a bad day around, for good.
1. Laugh at something really dumb.
Nothing gets me out of a funk faster than a stupid cat meme from Instagram. Seriously, I can’t not laugh at that shit. Pick anything hilarious and you’ll probably get the same result: throw on a few minutes of a comedy podcast, read a couple Laffy Taffy jokes (remember those?), or watch part of a movie you’ve seen a million times that never fails to make you laugh. Laughing makes you feel good and lifts the dark clouds for just a moment.
2. Call your BFF.
Yes, call if you can. A good friend will 1) distract you with epic stories from their weekend, 2) commiserate with you re: Mercury forever being in retrograde, or 3) provide a little much-needed perspective. The other day, I was literally about embark on one of those “I need to win this argument via text message” journeys (note to self, don’t do that), and I told my sister, and she said, “Um, maybe don’t respond.” Simple advice from a close friend can remind you to take a step back and avoid creating more drama around a bad day, and it can also give you a healthy dose of sympathy so you feel less alone.
3. Pump those endorphins.
Running, yoga, tennis, swimming, walking, burpees — you can do whatever you like, but physical exercise is one of the easiest solutions to slowing down the bad mood train. Moving your body relieves stress, centers your mind, and gives you the beautiful gift of endorphins. Ideally, get outside so you can enjoy the added benefits of fresh air and Vitamin D, both of which will help calm you down.
4. Zone out.
You could also call this one straight up distraction. If you’re slipping into negativity, redirect with something that allows you to completely zone out. Play video games, get lost in a good book, explore that forgotten hobby, binge on a beloved Netflix show, whatever. I find that cleaning is oddly therapeutic (same with cooking) when I’m feeling cranky because checking something off my to-do list gives me at least a small sliver of accomplishment on a difficult day.
5. Throw an emergency dance party.
My friend Sarah from college swears by something called an emergency dance party. It’s simple: if you’re in a bad mood, or having a hard day, put on loud, classic tunes and dance it out. She recommends Hall & Oates or Phil Collins, but kick ass lady anthems will also do the trick. Easy, free, fun: just do it.
6. Hold the door.
When I’m about to freak out, everything in my mind is all about me — which is why doing a good deed for someone else in those moments can help me get out of my own head. So when I’m all pissed off about something, I immediately try to be nice to someone else. I smile at the cashier at the grocery store even though she’s taking 25 years to ring me up. I hold the door for the little boy and his dad behind me. I donate $5 to a charity in need, or bring cookies to work. I offer to help, especially when I don’t feel like it, because I know caring for other people has a boomerang effect, eventually.
7. Complain for one minute.
You know that stereotype of women who say they’re fine when they’re not fine? Don’t do that. Instead of pretending everything is cool, own your emotions for a hot second. Feel whatever you’re feeling, fully, and vent away to a trusted confidante (or yourself in the mirror, or in your journal). Let yourself cry and wallow for a tiny window of time to, as my mother-in-law would say, “release the bad mojo.” Then, reframe and restart without letting one frustrating moment sideline your entire day or mood.
8. Check your breath.
When stress begins to build, it’s normal to shift into fight or flight mode — which usually means a much more shallow breath. It sounds kind of silly, but when you feel overwhelmed by circumstances out of your control, take 3-5 deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. It calms your heart rate, slows you down and gives you one thing to focus on versus dealing with the crazy monkey brain jumping from thought to thought. Breath can translate to a lot of self-care practices: yoga, meditation, prayer, tarot cards, essential oils, mantras, quiet time, and more. I like to do a simple breathing exercise and then ask myself: will this (whatever I’m annoyed by) matter in a week, or a month or a year? After a couple breaths, the answer is often no.
9. Treat yourself like a toddler.
A couple years ago, I read this line: “People are usually tired and scared — not mean.” It’s a good reminder, when you’re all worked up, that many terrible moments can be eased by our basic needs of food, health, comfort, and sleep. For me, a bad day often continues because I’m trying to do too much at once, I’m not hitting pause, I’m not drinking enough water, I’m eating too much or not enough, and I’m basically on high alert, go-go-go mode at work and home. So I try to treat myself like I would my toddler son when he’s melting down: big glass of water, yummy snack, and then an early bedtime. It works.
10. Or just treat ‘yo self.
Sometimes you gotta fake it ‘til you make it with a healthy dose of treat ‘yo self. And sometimes that means buying an extra large coffee in the afternoon, indulging in an overpriced pair of shoes at your favorite boutique, taking a long hot shower with a cold beer in hand, or putting on bright lipstick even though you’re going nowhere. For your own sanity, embrace whatever form of therapy helps you remember you are a badass and you shall overcome.
11. Say thank you.
Again: you can absolutely continue to have a bad day once it gets going — and once in a while that’s the name of the game — but you also have the choice to do everything in your power to feel better. Take a moment to make a list of things you’re thankful for, like your family, friends, home, access to clean water and nourishing food, a job, your health, and so on. Cultivating gratitude for the big and small elements of your life is the best way to guide yourself back to goodness.
And if you’re getting tangled in scenarios that haven’t happened yet, or you have no control over, ask yourself, “How much of this am I making up? What can I do about it?” Then count your blessings again. My friend Elyssa practices this while petting her dog because, as she says, “Minds are tricky, but dogs are not.”