Sometimes you just have a terrible day. Maybe you find out that you didn’t get the promotion you applied for or your boss says something and you can’t seem to shake it. Or maybe everything seems normal on the outside, but you just wake up in a funk and you’re feeling terrible on the inside. Maybe you know what you need to get done today but you’re dragging your feet. Or perhaps you’re just spinning in confusion and overwhelm about what to do next.
On this kind of terrible, awful, no-good, bad day, you might be asking yourself questions like “what is wrong with me?” Or “why can’t I get myself together?”
I coach moms on finding fulfillment in their work and lives and I still have days like this, too. Being fulfilled in your life does not mean being happy all the time. In fact, doing what brings you true fulfillment requires you to get very uncomfortable on a regular basis to go after what you want. There are days when my inner critic is telling me to stay safe in the cave, to not put myself out there. It sometimes tells me that my goals are too challenging and that I should just give up and go home.
Here’s what I do on those days.
Recognize That We Should Have Days Like This
Days like this are part of being human. If we expect to always be happy, feel great, and be super motivated, then we’re setting ourselves up for even more disappointment and suffering. Our resistance to external circumstances comes directly from the thought “this shouldn’t be happening.” But trying to argue against the pain of life is not going to make it better – it’s actually going to make it much worse.
When you feel yourself having a bad day and thinking “this shouldn’t be happening,” try turning that thought around: What if this should be happening? How can this day become my teacher? What can I learn from here? How can I grow from this? What if this is exactly the opportunity that I need right now?
When you’re growing and evolving into the next best version of yourself, you will definitely have days like this. Growing pains always accompany growth. But instead of thinking that bad days are happening to you, welcome them and see what is there for you.
Allow Yourself To Feel Terrible
Negative emotions feel uncomfortable by definition and our brains do not like to feel uncomfortable. What they most like are to seek pleasure, avoid pain, and minimize effort. So when we’re feeling negative emotion, we usually resist it by trying not to feel it, react to it, but yelling or being short with people, or avoid it with either a distraction (example: social media or Netflix) or dulling the discomfort with something that will give us an immediate dopamine hit (a glass of wine anyone?).
Allowing the negative emotion is very different. To allow it, try closing your eyes, taking a deep breath, and noticing what the negative emotion feels like in your body. Just sit with it and allow it to be there and then notice how you can handle it. You can handle being disappointed, sad, frustrated, overwhelmed. Welcome all of it.
If you’re willing to feel any emotion, then there’s nothing you won’t be willing to do. And that is the most empowering place you can ever be.
Take Good Care
Be extra nice to yourself on bad days. This does not mean indulging in false pleasures like overloading on sugar or alcohol or binge-watching Netflix. It means doing things that actually make you better off for having done them. They are the natural comforts that bring us joy, without any negative consequences.
Ask your partner or a babysitter to take the kids out for a few hours so that you can do something that will give your spirit a real boost. Things like taking a walk outside, having a hot bath, reading a book that lifts you up, listening to music you love, lighting scented candles, getting a massage, watching a feel-good movie. Even if you don’t have the luxury of alone time, there are ways to envelop yourself in comfort even with the kids around. Make a cup of tea or some nourishing soup, put on a cozy sweater or soft clothing, go to bed two hours earlier if you’re chronically sleep-deprived. Whatever would lift you up and comfort you.
Manage Your Thoughts
Once we understand that our thoughts create our feelings, we often just want to jump to the place where we change our thoughts to create more positive feelings. But sometimes you will want to think negative thoughts, so always resisting and trying to change those thoughts right away doesn’t always work.
That said, once you have learned how to allow negative emotions, it is useful to take a look at the thoughts causing those negative emotions and see if you still want to keep them. The first step in managing your mind is to a thought download or inventory and write down what’s in your head. The next step is to separate out the circumstances from the thoughts.
Then take a hard look at the thoughts that are bringing you down and imagine the possibility of living without them. Who would you be?
What if you started telling yourself positive thoughts that lift you up, instead? Thoughts like: I am enough. I am imperfect and that’s okay. I’m learning how to do something new and that’s okay. These are the gentle thoughts of a friend and they are available to you 24/7. Be nice to yourself. Have your own back.
Then think about how you want to feel instead of how you feel right now. What would you need to think to create that feeling?
In my case, I want to feel committed to my goal and purpose of helping as many moms as I can to find fulfillment in their careers and their lives. In order to feel committed, I need to think the thought “I’m willing to do whatever it takes, including being uncomfortable, to help as many moms as I can.” And then I think that thought and feel committed, I take action and put my message out there. My result is that I do whatever it takes to help as many moms as I can. Even if I’m still having a bad day.
We can handle bad days. When we really know that, it makes them a little better.
Go forth, grow, and bloom. Even on the bad days.