You had a bad day...
Me too, lovely.
Well, I had a bad yesterday, at least. Tuesday was incredible - we launched episode one of our new podcast - Navigating the Storm - and then Wednesday? I felt like so many things came crashing down. A bit of a wobble with a friend turned into a bigger wobble with another friend, and then next thing I knew I was weeping into my sandwiches at lunchtime.
It can creep up on any one of us. Above my desk, I have a postcard from a dear friend that says "healing is not linear" but yesterday I remembered a bigger truth... LIFE is not linear. There are good days and there are terrible days. So much depends on our bodies, our sleep, our work, our families, our friends, the world in general...
In the past, one bad thing could turn a day from a good day into an apocalyptic one. The story I told myself in my head was one where every tiny moment by moment aspect of that moment coloured how I felt about the whole day. It pretty much wrote off everything else that hadn't even happened yet.
Yesterday, I was able to rewrite the story... a bit. I don't have a magic cure that can make a shitty day go to superb again. If that's what you're after, you might need Mary Poppins. What I am an expert in is making bad days survivable, refocused and contained.
Sometimes it's one shocking event that knocks you off your feet, and sometimes its a buildup of tiny moments that end up as a "bad day avalanche". Either way, whatever is causing it, bad days can feel like the end of the world. You might end up cursing the world, the people in it, or often yourself.
So my top tip number one? Give yourself some love. One technique that I've been practising lately is talking to myself like I was comforting someone younger. When I'm in that "the world is ending" state, I'm not operating in my rational, in control adult brain - I'm dipping into memories of bad days in the past. Talking to that younger part of me is a mix of:
reassurance ("you're safe..."),
encouragement ("you can do this...")
self-forgiveness ("this bad day doesn't mean I'm [insert mean thought here]...")
For added effectiveness, try putting your hand on your chest for the feelings of physical contact.
Most bad days don't happen just before bedtime. If you're at the end of your tether and staring at a list of tasks that feels impossible, it's tempting to climb back into bed and give up. Instead, try delegating and ditching.
If a task needs doing - like actually needs to happen or some harm will happen - is there anyone else who could do this almost as well as you? Not perfectly, not to your standards, but well enough that it's done. If so, delegate away, my lovely.
What if nothing bad is going to happen if it doesn't get done? Ditch it. If it feels important, schedule it for another day later in the week. If it will come back around by itself, then you can release it from your brain.
When you've delegated and ditched, the rest of your day should feel much more manageable. You have a nice neat list of things to focus your attention on. They might even be small tasks like "drink a glass of water". We're aiming for a manageable plan to guide the rest of your day smoothly until bed.
Bad days can turn into bad weeks really easily. Our brains love patterns, and once we're focused on the negative, the problems begin to pile up. Have you ever said "bad things come in threes" and then, sure enough, another two things happen within hours? Or maybe "a streak of bad luck"? "Murphy's law"?
Instead, consider bringing your attention back to the good stuff. Yeah, the shitty things happened, but what else? What good things were in your day? Who was in your corner? What relieved the pressure? You might start by naming one tiny thing that made it better, but those things can snowball just as easily!
You don't have to get yourself into a state of full-on, peppy optimism. You can still feel sad, mad or anything else. But keep flexing your attention towards the positive as much as you can.
So there you have it. My recipe for bad days. I turned yesterday lunchtime's misery into delegated, ditched, contained day of self-compassion. By the end of the day, I wasn't feeling great, but I was okay. And that's okay.
Let me know what you think... Do you have extra steps that work for you? Is there a missing ingredient?