Coping Mechanisms for a Bad Day
In the famous words of Dr. Seuss, “when you’re in a slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.” Bad days can happen to all of us. Whether your bad day is brought on by an interpersonal conflict, a disappointing circumstance, or you are just feeling “off,” there are ways to cope with your bad day and improve your mood. I love Dr. Seuss’s quote because it validates that bad days are uncomfortable and sometimes you have to work to overcome negative feelings. Here are a few suggestions for “un-slumping” yourself.
Change Your Environment
It is easy to sit in the same spot and continue to cycle through the same negative thoughts and feelings. Sometimes, changing your physical environment is useful in breaking this cycle. I tell my clients, in these instances, that a distracting change of environment may feel particularly nice. Utilize your knowledge of what makes you feel good to chose where you will go. If you love nature, you could take a walk in a park or conservatory. You like animals? Maybe take a walk around the zoo. If you enjoy socializing, perhaps you could call up a friend and see if they can meet. These distractions will help to get you out of your head and in to (and hopefully enjoying) the present moment.
Talk to Someone You Trust
Talking about what is bothering you can be useful for a cathartic release. It can also help you feel supported, cared about, and rid you of feeling alone. Sometimes discussing an issue with someone we trust allows us to look at a problem differently.
Take Care of Yourself
Self-care comes in all shapes and sizes. It can look like eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising, but it can also look like listening to yourself and allowing yourself to do what you feel you need. If your normal self-care routine feels too aggressive for your bad day, perhaps try something gentler like practicing mindfulness, taking a bath, listening to your favorite band, calling a friend, or watching a movie. Giving yourself permission to engage in activities that feel gentle and kind is a helpful way to overcome bad days.
Exercise can be a great tool to cope with bad days. If you are feeling up for it, moving your body in any way can help release endorphins, which give you a boost of feeling better. If you’re interested in the science behind this, WebMD does a great job of explaining this in depth. When people hear the word “exercise,” they often think they have to run or lift weights. Walking is a low-impact way to move your body and still get the benefits of exercise.
Breathing has been shown to activate our parasympathetic nervous system, which works to calm sympathetic nervous system arousal. This means it has a calming effect on our bodies when we are feeling keyed up by our emotions. Engaging in diaphragmatic breathing is a way of grounding yourself. If you have never used diaphragmatic breathing before, the big distinction is that you can see and feel your belly rise and fall when you breathe, instead of your chest. Focus on slow, even breaths. You may find counting your breath is useful.
Sometimes a quick way to find balance on a bad day is to think about or write down the things in your life you are grateful for. I know this may not be the first thing you want to do when you are feeling down, but reminding yourself of what you are grateful for may help lift your spirits and infuse more happiness into your day.
Allow Yourself to Feel Your Feelings
I am a big proponent of allowing yourself to feel your emotions. Making time to non-judgmentally experience and validate your feelings can be a self-compassionate thing to do. Sometimes you just need a good cry, and that is absolutely natural, normal and healthy! If you are worried that if you allow yourself to cry or experience your feelings that you will be unable to stop and go on with your day, I sometimes tell my clients to actually set a timer for what they feel is a reasonable amount of time to be with their feelings. When the timer goes off, they are to use one of their coping mechanisms to be able to continue with their day.
I hope these tips are useful and help brighten your day.
Written by Kara Thompson-Miller, Licensed Clinical Social Worker: January 2023 “Why is it so hard to like my body?”: A unassumingly complex question that has been asked by many clients in many different variations, but one that, nonetheless, tends…Read More
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