11 Simple Ways to Survive a Terrible Workday


Ugh. We've all had terrible, no good, very bad days at work. And they are the worst, if only because you can't just go home, crawl into bed, and wait for the whole thing to be over. Nope. When you have a bad day at work, you have to stay there. You have to keep going, keep being productive, keep moving forward. (See also: Your Stressful Job May Be Making You...Healthier)

Since you have to stay, you might as well try to improve your day. Here are some easy, frugal ways to make things better.

1. Acknowledge Your Bad Mood

Whether or not your bad mood is justified, the first step toward improving your day is to admit what you are feeling. Name your emotion, so that it feels more manageable. Are you angry? Sad? Frustrated? Stressed? Embarrassed? Once you know what you're feeling, you can tell yourself that, no matter what, you can turn this day around.

2. Figure Out What's Bothering You

Sometimes it's easy to name a feeling. Other times, you may need to ponder it a bit more. When you are having a bad day because a client or your boss is upset, or a coworker won't cooperate, or things aren't coming together the way you need them to, it's easier to fix it if you know why you're upset. This will also help you reflect upon how the whole issue began, and if something could've been done differently.

3. Listen to an Upbeat Song

Most of us have "mood music" for whatever mood we happen to be in at any given time. When you're down, though, don't give into your desire to listen to your sad, depressing, angry music. Instead, choose something that makes you happy and play that.

4. Focus on Someone Else

Sometimes, the best way to get over a bad day is to do something nice for someone else, even if that other person happens to be driving you nuts. It doesn't have to be something big. Pick up a cup of coffee for your coworker when you go by the break room, or deliver those papers you find at the printer when you pick up yours. Even a little selfless act can help you feel better.

5. Choose Gratitude

You may not feel like you have much to be grateful for, but choose what you do have and focus on it for a minute or two. If you have to start with the clothes on your back, do it. Embracing gratitude can help you remember what is good in your life and turn around a bad day.

6. Find a Funny Video

Laughter makes lots of things better. So find a funny video — YouTube is free and has millions of them — and watch away. Letting the laughter roll out of you will cause your brain to release endorphins, which can help lower your stress levels. Of course, do this on your break time or lunch hour. The last thing you need on a bad day is a reprimand.

7. Embrace the Sun

Getting outside also helps your brain release good chemicals, thus improving your mood. In this case, being outdoors causes a rise in levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is known to help us feel better and more positive. Even if you work in cubicle hell, you can take your breaks and lunch outside and reap this benefit.

8. Take a Deep Breath

Sometimes, all it takes to turn around a bad day is to stop, fill your lungs with air, and refocus. Taking time to breathe will help you focus on the present moment, which will aid you in slowing down the rushing outside world so you can see what is going on in your life and better deal with what is being thrown at you there. Plus, it's really good for your body. 

9. Don't Just Sit There

If there's an action you need to take, even if you're dreading it, just do it. Put one foot in front of the other until the thing is done. Send that email, schedule the meeting with your boss, or start the report.

And if you can't start the thing you're dreading, do something else. Taking concrete steps to get things done and make things better will make you feel more positive and confident, which will improve your mood and, also, the overall situation.

10. Walk It Off

If you can, take a short walk. Even 20 minutes can help you to feel stronger, happier, and more balanced about whatever is going on. You'll get some endorphins, and the mood boost from those can stick with you for up to 12 hours. And if you walk outside, you can combine these benefits with those that come from being outdoors.

11. Write Your Stress Away

Write down what is bothering you and how you feel about it. This can be as simple as a few sentences on the back of a receipt. This helps you release your feelings in a way that won't cause relational friction at work, because you never have to let anyone else see what you wrote. Writing also gives you a way to evaluate possible next steps, so you can make a decision that is most likely to turn your day around.

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