Having a Bad Day? Give Yourself Permission to Start Over
As a child, when I was having a difficult time listening or just in an all-around awful mood, my mom would send me back to my bed. She would usher me into my room and tell me I needed to start the day over. Before closing my door, she would tell me I was welcome to get up as soon as I was ready to face the day with a better attitude.
I suspect my mom was mostly looking for a quick break from the moodiness and chaos of being at home with four young kids in a small house, but this practice has stuck with me into adulthood. I haven’t forgotten just how powerful this simple approach to difficult days can be. From the few minutes spent under the covers of my bed, listening to a book on tape or scribbling in my Lisa Frank diary, I found the power of giving myself permission to start my day again.
When I am allowed a hard reset, I can salvage a rough day.
For me, this habit isn’t about denying how I feel or avoiding reality. When things are wrong, if I’m arguing with my spouse or sorting through a personal crisis, I face it head-on. There is something different about one of those days when all the small things seem to be going wrong or when you’re bristling more easily with no explanation. Those days, I need to crawl under my covers, pull my blanket over my head and grab five minutes of quiet.
Of course, getting back into bed isn’t always an option. Most of us have jobs and families who need us. Because of this, I made a short list in my planner of things I can do in any environment that feel like starting over:
- Take a walk, around the block or around the house.
- Make a fresh cup of coffee or a big glass of cold water.
- Practice a few minutes of mindfulness right where I am.
I know I’m not the first to adopt this habit. One blogger and mom of six calls it her “second day” and signals her reset with an iced coffee. Others go for a run over their lunch break or call their mom from their car.
Some other quick ideas to hit reset on your day include…
- Complete the sentence, I’ll feel better when…
- List three things that are in your control to change right now.
- Listen to an uplifting song.
- Watch a funny video.
- Look at pictures from your favorite vacation.
Everyone has hard days, and that is exactly what Leah Weiss, a professor at Stanford University who specializes in mindfulness in the workplace, believes everyone must accept before they can move on.
“The first step is to be kind to yourself,” she advises. “Realize that you are not perfect and recognize your flaws. Then work toward making your day better.”
As far as strategies for restarting your day, Weiss is a big fan of using mindfulness. She suggests a practice of lighting a candle, as a signal to yourself that you are ready for a fresh start. A full body scan is also an effective approach for checking in with yourself, to look for causes for the rough day you might have been unaware of or to practice acceptance of how you feel about the day.
“Go for a meditative walk to reset your mind-body clock,” she says. “Speak to your co-workers about what you are experiencing. Be human, be real.”
Lastly, Weiss says it is important that we don’t dismiss a bad day as useless. Even the sourest of days can have a purpose in our own development, especially when we are able to identify the underlying problem driving our negativity.
“A bad day can really be a useful tool. What made it bad? Why? How can you fix it? What did you learn or recognize about yourself? After you employ a ‘resetting trick,’ reflect. By recognizing our weaknesses, we build strength.”