This post is not for someone with ongoing or severe depression. If this is you, please consider seeking professional services.
This post is for those who mostly feel fine on a day to day basis. You are working on goals. You are running after your passions. You have some frustrations of course, but you are doing okay.
And then one day you wake up, and it hits you. Hard.
Every ounce of passion that you felt welling up inside of you days prior, is suddenly and completely evaporated. What was I thinking anyway?
Suddenly nothing feels worth trying. Forget the aspiration to live more meaningfully, you can barely get out of bed today.
You try to search for the origin of this depression. Maybe it resulted from a bad night of sleep? Or some small moment yesterday that led you down a negative thought pattern? Or maybe, there is no external trigger to be found. You have no idea why you feel this way.
If you are lucky, you may recognize that you might feel better tomorrow. But that doesn’t alter the fact that your brain is persuasively attempting to make you believe you will feel this way forever. There is no hope. Just grey skies forever.
So, as you crawl out of bed full of apathy and void of motivation, you wonder, how am I going to spend the next 16 hours before I can go back to bed?
You may not be able to stop your bad day from happening. Life is not perfect – bad days do exist. Just remember, there is never a perfect, but always a better.
Here are few strategies to implement to help you have a better bad day…
CHALLENGE YOUR THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS
On these days, your brain will try to lie to you. Your brain will try to tell you that you have always felt this way and will forevermore feel this way. This is not true. Challenge these thoughts with evidence. Think of times when you were motivated about a project or excited for a dream. Trust that these feelings were true and they will be back, even if you cannot access them now. Realize you are having a bad day, not a bad life.
BUDGET FOR & ACCEPT THESE DAYS
These days will happen. No matter how much you do everything “right” – you will have these days. Expect these days to be in your life. Of course, if you notice patterns and can decrease the amount of these days, go for it. But it is important to realize having these days means you are a normal human being living a normal life. We allow space in our financial budgets for unexpected costs, allow space in your life for unexpected bad days.
Life is full of magic, wonder, and awe but every moment and every day is definitely not magical. As long as we are on planet earth, this is a truth we must accept, and will be much happier for doing so.
DO WHAT YOU CAN DO
If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward. – Martin Luther King Jr.
Maybe today all you can do is crawl. Do that. Work for just a little bit of a time on a creative project even if you don’t feel like it. Take a tiny action step toward your goal even if you don’t remember why it was your goal to begin with. Accept that some days, crawling is the best we can do. Give yourself permission to crawl and then credit for doing so. You will have more peace at the end of your day knowing you crawled instead of making no movement at all. Small movement is still movement.
LOOK FOR OPPORTUNITIES TO LEARN & SILVER LININGS
You are not going to trick yourself into thinking you are having a good day. But there are gifts in every day even if they are small and hard to find. What opportunity did today bring you? Needed rest? A conversation? A new perspective? Greater tolerance or skills for handling these days in the future?
REFLECT ON WHAT YOU ARE GRATEFUL FOR
This one won’t be effective if you aren’t actually grateful for the things you are thinking about. Don’t think of what you should be grateful for, think of what you are grateful for. A funny moment with a friend or significant other earlier in the week? A book you started reading that you absolutely love? Think of a few things that will help you remember the silly or small joys life has to offer.
SOLVE YOUR PROBLEMS TOMORROW
Don’t try to solve your life’s problems on a bad day. If they can wait, put them off. Two reasons. First, on a low day your brain chemicals are off. You do not have the clarity and problem solving skills that you have on good days. You will be spinning your wheels. Second, your problems will probably be halved by tomorrow. When we are having bad days, we create problems in our minds that aren’t really there.
EMBRACE SELF CARE & SOURCES OF ENCOURAGEMENT
Although I recommend pushing yourself a little, also allow for plenty of self care. Self care can be warm baths and good books. Self care can also be evidenced based practices for improving your brain chemicals – such as exercise, meditation, and healthy eating.
Also, find sources of encouragement. Positive self-talk is great, but sometimes we need the voices of others speaking into us. Allow your significant other to tell you encouraging and kind things. Call a friend who will speak encouraging truth to you. Whatever struggles that feel especially harsh on this bleak day – find a book about people who had those same struggles and were able to overcome them. Find a podcast of encouragement and inspiration. Your brain may not tell you what you need to hear today, so let the voices of others help you out.
REALIZE THE IMPORTANCE OF: PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION
Get better at having bad days. I know it sounds strange, but it is very possible. I used to have bad days where I would believe my negative thoughts, be mad that I was having a bad day, spend the whole day in bed, obsess about how the day was a waste, believe there was nothing good in my life, try to solve every problem I could think of and get frustrated when I couldn’t, and allow no room for self care or inspiration.
How do you think I felt at the end of my bad day? Ten times worse of course. My bad day had been promoted to an awful day.
Now on bad days, I still have negative thoughts but I don’t believe them, I accept that I am having a bad day, I get a few small things accomplished, I find the opportunities within my day, I think of happy moments in the recent weeks, I hand my problems over to tomorrow, and I allow positive stories and voices of inspiration to feed my soul.
At the end of this kind of bad day, I feel okay. It still wasn’t a good day, but I make peace with it and go to bed with hope for the chance at a different kind of day tomorrow.
You can have better bad days.
ALLOW FOR HOPEFULNESS
So, I talked a lot about accepting bad days. And I said this, because sometimes we do have to accept bad things. Denying them doesn’t help. If a love one passes or you are laid off from a job, denying this fact is not helpful.
But, accepting something is bad, does not mean we do not allow for hope. We must create space – space for the negative and space for hope. Both are important.
On a bad day, hope is hard to find. But look for the glint of hope and take it. It can be something very small. Maybe you think to yourself Maybe if I start going to bed earlier and getting enough sleep, these days will come up less often. Or Maybe some negative thinking patterns did lead me into this day, maybe I will consider going to counseling to work on these patterns and maybe this will decrease how often I have these days.
Let yourself think these things and believe these things. I know this sounds opposite of my recommendation to accept and budget for these days. But, if you haven’t noticed yet, life is full of opposites. Be strict and consistent with your kids and also full of grace and forgiveness. Have a tightly managed budget and splurge on the things you love and are meaningful to you.
Opposites create balance.
Surrender your control. Embrace you have the power to control. Yes, I am telling you to literally do both.
If you don’t accept that sometimes bad days happen, you will feel angry at that day and you will not accept the reality of the situation. You have to realize sometimes things are out of your control. But, if you don’t believe there is hope that you could make changes to decrease negativity the future, then that can further the depression. Accept negative situations of the past and present, but never accept the negativity of the future, because it hasn’t happened yet.
LIGHT A CANDLE
Bad days are dark. I know, because I have had them.
Just don’t forget, it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.
Lighting a candle is doing what you can do, looking for silver linings, and being grateful for what you are able to.
And sometimes we have to accept the light of others on the days that our flames are small.
But simply sitting in the dark and cursing it, will get us nowhere.
Find whatever light you can find on this day and allow it to illuminate anything and everything it can.
This week’s journal questions are for when you are in the midst of your bad day – when you are in the thick of it. You, of course, are welcome to reflect on them now, but they will likely be the most helpful to you during your bad day. If today isn’t one of those days I recommend bookmarking this page and coming back to it when you find yourself in that place. (Also, I recommend reading the coinciding section with each question if you are coming back to the questions at a later time)
1. What negative things is your brain trying to tell you on this bad day? That things are hopeless? That you will feel this way forever? That your creative project or goals are not worth pursuing? Jot down some of these thoughts and then write out evidence to the contrary. Disprove what your brain is telling you.
2. Are you getting worked up and angry at this bad day or are you willing to accept it? What does it look like for you to accept that you are having a bad day today?
3. What will it mean for you to do what you can do today? What are the small steps you can take? What does crawling look like for you? Even if you can’t commit to anything big, make a list of small things you can commit to doing today.
4. Where can you find opportunities for learning and silver linings in your day? It can be very small, but come up with the few small gifts that this day has to offer you.
5. Reflect on what you are grateful for. Again, these can be small. But as I said earlier, don’t write down “shoulds” – write down the little things in your life you feel grateful for right now.
6. Write down the problems that are nagging at you right now. Can these problems wait until tomorrow when you are feeling better? Commit to let them go for today and decide to come back to them again on a day when you are feeling better
7. How will you care for yourself today? How will you seek inspiration today? Look through some of the examples in this section of the article and commit to a few self care practices and sources of encouragement that you will engage in today.
8. What does your “better” bad day look like? Remember, the goal of going through these journal questions right now is not to suddenly feel better. It is to have a better bad day. Reflect on what this could like for you. What would an awful day for you be like? Contrast that with a better bad day. How would those two days differ?
9. What is the glint of hopefulness you could accept today? Are there any small changes you can make that might help you have less of these days in the future? Commit to make this change and allow yourself to have hope that it will help you.
10. How will you light a candle today? You can answer this as abstract or as practical as you like. Reflect on what this phrase means to you and keep this mantra in your mind for the rest of the day.
I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR YOUR COMMENTS!
Let me know if this entry helped you in any way, if you have any further questions, or if there is anything else you would be interested in learning related to this topic!
Also, I would love to hear how you have been able to battle these kind of days and what strategies have been helpful for you.
Thanks for reading & wishing you better bad days…