Bad days happen to all of us. Sometimes you just know the day is not going to be the best one straight after waking up. Sometimes a bad day creeps up on you slowly, starting with an innocent coffee spill, followed by signal failure in the tube and the realisation the keys were left at home… When things start going wrong it can feel like you are watching a car crash happening: there is nothing to do but to let day run its course and hope for the best.
The good news is that it does not have to be like that. We have all the power to turn a day that has started badly to one that is, if not amazingly brilliant, a pretty good one. Here’s how.
1. Acknowledge things are not going smoothly and make peace with it
About a month ago I was few minutes late for a morning yoga class I was teaching. Not a big deal, being less than five minutes late, especially in Cyprus. Only this was few days after I had written a blog post how one should never be late for a yoga class. I was embarrassed and felt like a hypocrite. During the class I kept confusing my cues. Instead of shrugging it off, trusting that people were still following the class, I got annoyed and the rest of the class things continued to come out from my mouth sounding more or less strange: lefts became rights and so one. After the session, when somebody wanted to pay for a monthly pass, I realised I had left my purse home. At that point I let out a small “argh!” and the lady paying looked at me. “You are having not the best morning, are you? It’s ok, we all have those.”
For some reason those words gave me real comfort. Yes, bad days do happen for everybody and guess what, people understand that. They are not going to judge me for small mistakes. So why on Earth was I getting so worked out over things that quite frankly were very, very minor? Why was I calling myself a hypocrite for being three minutes late when nobody else was doing that?
And just like that, I made peace with the not so great day. I was not letting it to dictate my day. There is no great book of destiny that orders us to have x amount of s**t days a year, on specific dates on top of that. Instead, we can all do the following:
2. Reflect on the triggers and keep things in perspective
Things might not go great early on a given day because you are tired, or already overwhelmed by something that has happened earlier. When acknowledging and making peace with the not so smooth day so far, take a moment to check in with yourself. Ten deep breaths (I know, easier said that done but that’s why we practise yoga) by your desk, in the bus or even in the nearest toilet cubicle already help to calm the nervous system working on overdrive. Try to avoid catastrophising the events so far along the lines “This only happens to me” and “I might just give up and go home because the rest of the day is only going to be rubbish.” Trust me, there is no “bad day conspiracy” going on, aimed particularly at you. Instead, try to keep a positive (or at least a neutral) outlook and think what in particular has triggered you to react emotionally. Once you have identified them it is easier to find ideas that will help, if not to turn them around, at least keep them in perspective.
3. Modify your plan respecting your resources
So you are not feeling the best but need to get through the day. Have a look at your schedule and decide what are the things that have to be done, things what you can do and things that can wait. Is there a challenging one-to-one meeting coming up? Rescheduling is not great but as long as it is not what you are famous for in the office, maybe today is the day to do it. First draft of a report to be passed on to a colleague – you probably do not need to go it over with a comb, if it is the first draft nobody will care about few typos or less-than-perfect headlines. In short, treat yourself with compassion rather than punishing yourself for expecting excellence when you clearly are not up for it.
4. Switch your “to-do” list to a “done” list
Most of us have our lists (or ten) for things we must and want to get done during the day. Most of us also have things on those lists that we really are not too keen on, even on a good day.
One thing I often do, bad day or not, is to change my “to-do” list to a “done” list. I write down every task I do, whether it figures in my notebook or not. Sometimes the things I get to mark down on the “done” list are the same that I have on the “to-do” list – if that is the case, great. Sometimes I end up with a list of things that are entirely different. The point is, the things I end up doing are always tasks that needed to be sorted sooner or later. And so what if your “done” list includes things like sending a postcard to your cousin who lives in another country, and stretching in front of three episodes of your favourite series on Netflix. Because at the end of the day your cousin will probably appreciate your postcard more than your colleagues would be impressed by your intellectual contribution to the company Intranet you had planned to do originally. And gentle stretching whilst unwinding in front of a good program is just as good as going to a two-hour power vinyasa class you really did not feel like.
Celebrate the even small accomplishments with good consciousness. Your best today is good enough or did somebody tell you something else?
Finally, remember that everything in this life is temporary and tomorrow is another – and with all likelihood – a better day.
What are your best tips for improving a day going not too well?