Turning Around a Bad Day

December 08, 2023
This story took place in Scotland

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We’ve all been there, maybe you missed your alarm and slept in, falling at the first hurdle. Or perhaps you ran into a challenge right after getting up. For me, having a good morning often feels absolutely crucial in setting my day up to go well. If things don’t go to plan, I just become stuck in a rut, and write the entire day off. It’s a pretty regular occurrence for me to set an alarm for 7am, write out a long todo list, and go to bed early with big plans of being productive the next day. It’s also a pretty regular occurrence for me to sleep through that alarm and feel so frustrated with myself that there is little point in completing anything I had set out to do. 

I’ve tried hard to work on myself and improve this all-or-nothing mindset. I feel lucky to have developed a more positive, resilient mindset, and I want to share some advice I wish somebody had given me on overcoming bad days. Here are five tips to help you turn a bad day around:

1. Consciously revise your expectations. 

Often, I find that it’s the pressure of tackling an ambitious to-do lost which paralyses me with an overwhelming sense of dread. When I’ve not started a day as I’d hoped and lost time, it’s this fear which prevents me from turning it around. I know in my head that I have a long list of tasks to complete, but I feel it’s unlikely that I will finish them after an early delay, so I don’t start any at all. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. Taking a bit of time to consciously review your to-do list and revise your expectations for the day can help you create a more manageable to-do list which doesn’t overwhelm you. Pick a few key tasks that must be completed and list the rest in order of priority. You probably won’t get through them all, and that’s okay. However, you will definitely get through more than you would have sitting in fear of getting started. Something is better than nothing!

2. Make sure to pace yourself as you would any other day.

In frustration of having lost time, I’ll often try to push myself to work for longer periods or later sessions. This only leads to burnout, though, which puts me back to the start of a vicious cycle of demotivation. Instead, make sure to still give yourself plenty of breaks throughout the day. You don’t deserve to punish yourself, or be worked overtime, but you do deserve to take adequate time for yourself.

3, Complete two self-care basic musts.

Get outside into the fresh air and speak to another person. You could use one of your breaks for a walk or perhaps a task of yours involves heading out. Maybe you’re a runner. Whatever form you choose, make sure you get outside to breathe in some fresh air. I find this really grounding, and I always feel better for leaving the house for a little while. It’s also important for me to speak to another person. It’s easy to hide yourself away in your room or the library when you feel stressed or defeated, but I find this isolation is never good for my mental state. So, on days like these, I make sure to boost my social battery with some lighthearted conversation. This could be a phone call to your mother, a chat with a flatmate, or a facetime with a friend.

4. Set yourself up for your next day. 

Reflecting on the day which has just passed always helps me to move forward positively. I like to remain mindful of what went well for me, whilst also considering how I could have navigated things better. Finally, I would make sure to have an extra relaxed evening and get to bed early. This helps me to decompress and feel a lot more calm and optimistic for the next day.

5. If all this advice doesn’t seem to be working, know that it’s okay to give yourself the day off. 

Sometimes, there truly isn’t any saving a bad day. Yes, it’s good to give it a go, but if you truly can’t get your head in the game, it’s best to recognise this and consciously make the decision to take the day off productivity-wise rather than push yourself too hard. I think that the mental act of deciding to give myself a day off makes a huge difference compared to sitting paralysed by a lack of motivation whilst meaning to complete tasks. By doing this, you allow your brain to move past your todo list and truly take a bit of time to recharge and decompress. Salvaging productivity from a bad day can help us feel much more accomplished, but it’s never worth making you feel worse. 

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