Rules for Having a Bad Day

Photo by sabianmaggy on flickr

Photo by sabianmaggy on flickr

Let’s face it, we all have rough days once in awhile. Sometimes they seem to come more often than not, but either way, we will have bad moods sometimes. Sometimes we allow our bad moods to give us license to be unkind, selfish, or even cruel. So I’ve come up with a list of rules for myself to follow when I’m having a bad day. And let me clarify, this is not a list of ways to get back into a good mood. That’s a different subject entirely. These are rules for coping with a bad day or a bad mood.

  1. Acknowledge your bad mood. It’s a rough day. Perhaps it’s one of many, but there it is. You’re in a bad mood. (This rule will help you come to terms with your state of mind so you can focus on following the rest of the bad day rules.)
  2. Be gracious in your bad mood. It’s okay that you’re not cheerful. It’s even okay that you’re feeling grumpy, but you don’t have to let your bad mood control your actions. Be kind and considerate to other people, knowing you won’t feel warm and fuzzy inside for doing so.
  3. You can still be useful without feeling useful. Since nothing you do will feel positive in much of any way, you may want to do an unpleasant task that needs doing, but that you’ve been avoiding. You may even find it a little therapeutic. Plus it’s been suggested by some experts that getting things done during a bad mood sometimes polishes the project considerably better, since you tend to be critical of the smallest defect.
  4. Bite your tongue. Any time you’re tempted to respond with sarcasm or anger, just stop talking. If something has to be said, such as a conversation with your spouse or a coworker, say, “I can’t think about this right now,” or, “Can we talk about this later?” If it’s something that needs to be dealt with soon, include a specific time. “Do you mind if we continue this conversation after lunch? I need some time to sort through some things first.”
  5. Go easy on others. By that, I mean, be softer with people, especially your spouse and kids. If it’s your kids, and they’re getting away with more trouble today, you can lightly inform them that this will be dealt with, just not today. When you’re in a good mood later (be it an hour or a week later), make sure they get the consequences for their trouble—maybe even a little tougher than usual, so they don’t use your bad moods to step on you. But don’t worry about what that will be now. You’re in a bad mood today. You have a free pass.
  6. Go easy on yourself. Don’t beat yourself up over every little thing, as you will be tempted to do. It’s okay to have a bad hair day or a messy house, or whatever, on a bad mood day. Your bad mood pass doesn’t free you from the fulfillment of deeply important habits and resolutions, but it does give you a right to not care while fulfilling them.
  7. This may seem to contradict the last rule, but feel free to put young kids in timeout more today. Not in a spirit of meanness, but in an effort to avoid allowing them to fan the flame too much. Put them in and tell them, “We’ll talk about the reasons later.”
  8. Consider the stress and frustration you’re suffering now as being good for you. Tempers aren’t good for you, and neither is lashing out. But graciously accepted bad moods can help build your stress resilience, including your bad-mood resilience, just by considering it healthy. You don’t have to egg it on by doing things that will make your mood worse. Just graciously put up with your mood, and your psyche will be strengthened for putting up with future bad days.
  9. Regarding the problems that seem to either trigger or exacerbate your bad mood, tell yourself, “My fault, I’ll deal with it later,” often. This will do two things: it will keep you from developing a martyr complex (which is never constructive), and it will keep you thinking in terms of accountability for your actions. If it makes you feel worse to acknowledge that something is your fault or your problem, then put more mental emphasis on the second part: “I’ll deal with it later,” with the addition, “just not today!
  10. Lower your expectations. Cut your to-do list in half. You won’t get as much done, and that’s okay. You’ll do more on your next good day (which will come). If you can take a nap, go for a walk, or otherwise chunk out some time to slow down, do it. It’s my personal observation that it’s not too difficult to become thoughtful and ponderous on bad days. You may even be able to turn your inner grump into a thinker, if you can squeeze in some quiet time. Just don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t work. You are, after all, in a bad mood.

Rules for a Bad Day

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