5 Ways to Cope With a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

UPDATED: September 30, 2015
PUBLISHED: September 29, 2015

We’ve all had days that are a cascade of problems: Your car breaks down; you wait two hours at the doctor’s office; a client or boss is unreasonable; a heel comes off a shoe. Here are ways to deal with negative emotions from these mini-disasters:

1. Recognize that luck changes. These things even out. You’ll soon hit a stretch of things going right rather than wrong.

2. Be gentle with yourself. Set an intention that you’ll be kind to yourself while you wait for the universe to dish out kindness again.

3. Treat yourself. Sometimes you need a dose of positive emotion to increase your resilience. Come up with a short mental or written list of five simple things that reliably boost your mood; indulge when warranted by circumstances. For instance: Buy food you like but seldom buy, get a massage, or pick up a new book.

4. Accomplish something small on your agenda. A positive mood comes from a combination of pleasure and a sense of mastery—feeling you’re competent and can get things done. On frustrating, demoralizing and out-of-control days, you’ll feel better by laying claim to something productive. Identify quick mastery tasks you can handle amid the day’s fires. These might include putting a hook on your wall so you don’t keep losing your keys, backing up treasured photos that are on your phone, testing/changing your smoke detectors’ batteries—anything that instills a sense of basic competence and helps you regain a feeling of some control.

5. Recognize the impact of events. When I worked as a therapist, clients frequently overlooked or underestimated the impact of stressful events and frustrations on their moods. It’s easier to cope with a single frustrating incident than with a series of blows in quick succession. You’ll feel better if you embrace the knowledge that many stressors are temporary one-off events or random incidents of bad luck.

—Alice Boyes, Ph.D., author of The Anxiety Toolkit: Strategies for Fine-Tuning Your Mind and Moving Past Your Stuck Points

Happy, successful, optimistic people know how to find the laughter during tough times. And you can, too…

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