How to Turn a Bad Day Around

how to turn a bad day aroundLadies, how do you turn a bad day around?  What do you do to reinvigorate yourself, put the day in perspective, and ultimately move on? Do you have any tricks for “saving” a lousy day, or for letting go of the day once you’ve finished it? We’ve talked about ways to relax, laughter as medicine, and general after-work routines (as well as how to get your groove back in general), but not this.

For my $.02 — without sounding too much like the self-help section of the bookstore — I think gratitude is an amazing thing. (I am grateful for gratitude!) No matter what my mood is on the day itself, I find if I focus on three things I’m grateful for as I’m falling asleep, I get to sleep easier, sleep better, and wake up in a better mood. A few other ideas for shaking off a bad day:

  • Dance party! Shake it off, shake it off.
  • Have one drink with a friend and talk about other things, like how his or her life is going.  (I find that on a bad day, drinking more and obsessing over whatever went wrong just leaves me with a bigger black cloud over my head, so I don’t recommend drinking to excess or rehashing your bad day in detail — sleep on it one night, at least!)
  • Seek beauty.  Go for a walk and appreciate the skyline, the clouds, the trees — whatever is around you that you find beautiful.  If you can get out of work early enough to go to an art museum, you can do that. Along these lines, adult coloring books may also be helpful.
  • Focus on sensory input.  Go shopping, not to buy (necessarily) but to touch the different fabrics.  If stores are closed by the time you get out of work, try making cookies or bread or something you can knead with your hands.  (Or, steal a trick from the kiddos, and make your own playdough — odds are good you have everything you need in your pantry, and you avoid the temptation to eat the results.) Make some tea that smells amazing, and sit with the smell.
  • Laugh.  It’s one of my favorite ways to clear my head of a bad day.
  • Sleep.  Do whatever you have to to get a good night’s sleep.  If you have problems falling asleep, try the 4, 7, 8 technique, or challenge yourself to name five things that start with B in your bedroom.

Ladies, how do you turn around a bad day?

Further reading:

  • How to Turn a Bad Day Around [HBR]
  • 6 Simple Ways to Turn a Bad Day Around [Fast Company]
  • 6 Things This Girlboss Says To Do When You’re Having a Bad Day at Work [Levo League]
  • 32 People Having a Much Worse Day than You [Buzzfeed]

Pictured: Dimensions Needlecrafts Counted Cross Stitch, Hang On Kitty, available at Amazon for $6.23 (eligible for Prime!). 


  1. I never sing in public, but when I’m having a bad day I have a feel-good playlist of cheesy songs (and Billy Joel) that help turn me around. If I’m p!ssed off, I’ll play rap then transition to my playlist. Singing along usually helps too.

    • Yay, Kat–this is what I do. I usueally sing song’s to myself when I am walkeing in each morning, even tho at that time, the day has NOT gone South, yet, but I also sing song’s on the way home, after I have billed 16-18 hours and dealt with alot of serius LEGAL issue’s with cleint’s and the manageing partner. The song’s I sing VARY, rangeing from Janet Jackson and Adele on the one hand to Pat Beneatar, when I sing “HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT! – FIRE AWAY!” — after I have a long and hard day in court with litieagation and useually WIN! YAY!!!!

      Men look at me on the street and do NOT blink b/c I usueally have my song’s playing with me on my Iphone 6S. YAY for Apple!

  2. Anyone have experience with the Julie vs Marisa fit pants at Loft? They say Julie is for people who get that gaping waist (preach!) but i don’t have ‘wide’ hips; my waist circumference comes from the butt. I love the editor pants from express but Loft’s are $17 right now…

    • The Julie pants tend to be a little too big in the thighs for me. I’m an hourglass (complete with butt) and they are made for pears. The Marisa fits me a bit better and gets rid of that extra fabric on the side of my legs. Caveat- I haven’t bought pants there in the past 6 months or so.

  3. Anonbecausecrazy :

    I smile as widely as I can for 3 minutes (I watch the clock so no cheating). It’s ridiculous but it does help improve my mood. (Also, backed by science. Google “smile therapy”.)

    • I do this!! Especially while I’m driving. I haven’t actually watched the clock so I doubt I’m making the full 3 minutes, but I should start! And power poses ala Amy Cuddy. Big believer in self fulfilling prophesies and “tricking” yourself into confidence/happiness.

  4. It doesn’t turn the whole day around, but whenever I’m upset / angry / sad, I have a rule that I HAVE to go outside and get some fresh air. A walk is best but even just sitting in the office courtyard for 5 min can calm me down if I feel like I’m about to lost my temper or cry or something.

    • I do the same. No matter what, I get out of my office for 10 minutes and walk around. The fresh air, the movement, the break enable me to get back and face whatever has happened.

  5. YOGA, YOGA and more YOGA

  6. I’m a big fan of the emergency dance party. If I’m in a place where I can’t dance I’ll put on a podcast from one of my favourite podcasters and listen to that.

  7. Grammer help! :

    Grammar TJ. “Baby Matthews’ Birthday” or “Baby Matthews’s Birthday”, or neither?

    I would have said the first option, but the grammar thread had me second guessing and I need to get this printed for a shower… thank you :)

    • AnotherKate :

      If the last name is Matthews, then Baby Matthews’s Birthday

    • My last name ends in S and I do not use the second S when doing possessive forms. I do Matthews’.

      • gingersnap :

        According to Strunk & White, it should be Baby Matthews’s Birthday.I have been told that Strunk & White lost the language battle on this one, and both are common use and appropriate. Personally, this is a thing I get twitchy about, so it might be wise to check with Baby Matthews’s parents about their preference. (My first name ends in an “S” and I am endlessly annoyed by people making me plural with incorrect apostrophe placement.)

    • Grammer help! :

      HA. Grammer. I wish I did that on purpose to be ironic…..

      So, one vote either way. That’s what Google is telling me to. I was trained in journalism and we edit to our style guide, which was “Matthews”… I just don’t want to be judged for having it the “wrong” way…

      • This came up recently for a brief. IIRC, Garner says either form is correct, but prefers “s’s.”

      • Anonymous :

        Because it’s 50-50 I would change it read “Come celebrate the birth of Baby Matthews!” or something to that effect, to avoid the issue altogether.

    • How about Happy Birthday Baby Matthews! or Celebrate Baby Matthews!

  8. Running. The endorphins are great, and the sense of achievement also helps.

  9. CorporateInCarhartt :

    I go hang out with my horse, even if I don’t have time to actually ride. Did this just the other day. I realize this probably isn’t a universal approach, but it kind of goes with a “spend time with pets” them. My dog also helps cheer me up.

    • Anonymous :

      OMG Corporate in Carhartt I wish I had come up with your name. That is me to a T. Unless you are also saying you are general counsel for Carhartt. In which case does your department have any job openings? In general, fawning compliments.

      • CorporateInCarhartt :

        Haha, thanks, that’s awesome. Seriously, I wish I were corporate counsel for Carhartt BUT I think PBR (professional bull riders, not Pabst Blue Ribbon) IS hiring if your Carhartt leans in that direction. I am also corporate in trucker hats, boots, etc. But, sadly, only on weekends.

        • I bet that would be a very interesting job!

        • Attorney by day, Cowgirl at Heart :

          I’m also looking at a counsel job for a veterinary products company. Would be located in Boise, ID….

          • Wildkitten :

            If it’s MARS can you make them change their description of pit bulls on the doggy dna test?

    • It always makes me smile when my horse perks up at me headed his way in the field or to opening his stall door. I know the real reason is because he is hopeful that I have food, but it still makes me feel good!

      Other things include:
      – terrible but uplifting pop music (Lush Life, I am looking at you);
      – sitting with my foster kitties (my own cats are not as cuddly) one of whom likes to hang out on my shoulders like a wrap;
      – running;
      – yoga; and
      – sometimes I just need a good ugly cry and then I feel better.

    • Mary Ann Singleton :

      Yes, hanging out with my horse! Studies have actually shown that being around horses can lower your blood pressure and stress hormones levels in your blood. I am much happier after a visit to the barn and snuggles with my horse.

    • Wildkitten :

      I am so impressed at how many of you have horses. I need to get a hobby that doesn’t involve my iphone…

      • CorporateInCarhartt :

        You would be so much less impressed if you saw my farrier bills. I wish I were joking when I say that I spend at least 10 times a year more on my horse’s shoes than my shoes. It’s one of those things where I don’t count it up in my head and just focus on the enjoyment I get out of it. He’s basically a mix between a land yacht and a trust fund baby.

        • Attorney by day, Cowgirl at Heart :

          Ugh with the mud we’ve been having my horse has lost 3 shoes in the past 2 weeks!
          My farrier hasn’t charged me extra, but I’m not sure who’s more embarrassed him or me.

          • CorporateInCarhartt :

            Yep. Went to ride my horse the other weekend, he was missing his RF. I spent an hour looking for it in his paddock: nothing. One of the barn guys found it the next day … 10 feet into the next paddock. It’s a good thing I love my land yacht.

          • Mary Ann Singleton :

            I love how your land yacht can launch his shoes into the next paddock. That takes some skill and dedication.

          • CorporateInCarhartt :

            What can I say, he’s in the gifted and talented program. But I’ve seen weirder. I’ve seen a horse come in from a paddock with a shoe hanging from a D ring from one of the leg straps on his blanket. Someone ELSE’s shoe.

        • I’m not even going to talk about my horse’s shoes for fear of jinxing myself during mud season. But please take a look at the cost of my new saddle (my old one made me bleed) and then the additional cost to refit the panels to fit my horse before you decide to go out and get one! ;)

          But yes, the horse gets new shoes every 5 weeks that are far more expensive than any shoes I have purchased for myself lately! Thank goodness he is sweet and cute. And a rockstar.

          • CorporateInCarhartt :

            Ugh. I need a new saddle. Just not in the budget right now. :/

          • My original “new” saddle budget was blown in 2009 when the 100 year old claw sewer pipes under my house collapsed and my basement flooded with sewage 6 months after I bought my house. It only took me 6 years and a bit of inheritance money to be able to build it back up!

        • Mary Ann Singleton :

          Exactly this re: farrier bills. When I told my boss (who’s socially awkward and finds asking about my horse a way to make small talk so of course I indulge him :) how much I spend on my horse’s shoes ($200) every six weeks, he was astonished. I wish I could buy myself a pair of $200 shoes that often!

  10. Another vote for running and pets – nothing beats the greeting I get from my two dogs when I get home.

  11. Anonymous :

    I was having the worst day yesterday and I was home because it was snowing. I went outside to shovel our driveway/burn off steam, and on a whim I shoveled the driveway of our sick neighbor, too (he had a freak accident and is now partially paralyzed). I actually felt much better afterwards–something about getting out of my own head, doing something nice, and feeling grateful for the things in life that I do have. Win-win–they got their driveway shoveled and I got out of my funk.

  12. Yesterday's overwhelmed afternoon poster :

    I’m the poster from yesterday with the litany of stressful/upsetting things. I got home – put on very comfy clothes, had pizza with the hubs and dessert. I know I shouldn’t eat my feelings, but the comfort really does help sometimes. We cuddled with our dog while watching mindless tv, and then had some dogless time :) With the loss of my friend, what is making me feel better right now is trying to live in the moment and love my new husband as much as possible, making every moment count.

    But when it’s just a crappy day without all the emotional baggage – I still like comfy clothes and yummy foods, but also bubble baths, either being really lazy and watching tv from bed or cleaning my apartment if the reason i feel bad is lack of accomplishment, and favorite old shows. Like an old friend welcoming me back – old sitcoms, some gossip girl, reruns of Downton. Stuff like that.

  13. I look at this list someone here posted a long time ago:

  14. Anonymous :

    Itty Bitty Kitty Committee kitten videos. Her instagram is full of them, more than the website. And this current crop of kittens is exceptionally adorable (though I think I say that every time she gets a new batch of fosters)

  15. Anonymous4 :

    Lately it’s been a glass of wine and an adult coloring book, since a walk in the sunshine is impossible in the current weather. Coloring Mandalas or something equally abstract seems to bring some calm and focus, allowing me to put my day in perspective. I also turn to some soothing music, a long soak in the tub (or a hot shower), and a good book.

    In the midst of the workday I find a cup of tea very helpful. I was reading just the other day that bergamont oil (in Earl Grey tea) can be very uplifting. I also find pulling out either a highly creative task or a highly rote/mundane tasks can be really helpful. Something highly creative seems to inspire me, while something rote/mundane allows me to feel like I’ve accomplished something.

  16. Yoga class. I practice at home almost daily, but if I’m in a dreadful mood I really need a teacher to direct me. I almost always walk out 100% better.

    Spotify playlists. Really enjoying “totally stress free” curated playlist today.

    Baths + old Friends episodes that I’ve seen 100 times.

    Planning and actually putting something awesome on the calendar. Last year I was having a rough week, so I booked myself skydiving for a couple weeks out. Or this morning was kinda blah, so I signed up for a “Sound of Yin” yoga/meditation workshop with my best friend for next month. Just the concrete plan made me excited and feel way better.

    • Also, I try to eat fruit/fruit smoothies or a delicious salad. I actually have to think about this, because I’m drawn to terrible food when I’m crabby. [email protected] food, while good in the moment, doesn’t do anything to help. Chocolate is the exception. Chocolate always helps.

  17. I told my husband I wanted a divorce. It needs to happen. We cannot continue to live like this anymore and we both need to move on.

    However, I am so tired and drained from all of the discussions and his anger, denial, bargaining, etc., I almost just want to say never mind and go back to the misery because it would be easier at this point…

    • Hugs. My ex-uncle did this to my aunt – detail, bargaining, counseling to be a “changed” person, pretending to be interested in converting her religion (after 15 years of not being interested and finding a different religion where he became active in – this was the most disgusting because he manipulated my grandma during the last few months of her life), using Bible verses for why they shouldn’t get a divorce, moving out to a different family house that was one block away, etc. And that’s only what I know about as her niece.

      I was so proud of her for how she handled the whole 1 1/2 year thing. She stayed resolute through all of the manipulations; I remember her saying that she was happy for him if he wanted to change (through counseling, different religion) but she still wasn’t going to take him back. She’s just over one year out now and so much happier – you can feel it just being around her. You can do it. You deserve happiness.

    • Senior Attorney :

      It took me three tries before my divorce decision finally stuck, and both of the first two times I looked back and was so sorry I’d chickened out. You can do this! Just remember, the only way out is through and there are much better days ahead!

    • Anon for This :

      I’m posting very late but just in case you are still reading responses — I just wanted to offer my empathy and support. It has taken me over a year to complete a divorce from a husband suffering from severe depression, and I have never felt so weary in my life. Endless discussions, denial, delays, passive aggression of every kind imaginable. But I can tell already that things will be so much better not too long from now. Huge thanks to Senior Attorney, who responded to a post of mine with very wise and kind words at a crucial moment.

  18. Katherine K :

    Best advice I received from my former boss, now a fellow partner: if you’re having a bad day at work, EMBRACE IT. Use it as an opportunity to get all the other stuff you don’t want to do out of the way, so that all the bad stuff gets done in one fell swoop. Difficult client phone calls to make? Make ’em all! Difficult issues to brief? Do two on the same day! There is something immensely satisfying about getting all the nasty stuff behind you.

    Other than that: work out, knit, sleep (in that order).

  19. Anonymous :

    How about doing a guided meditation (I like meditation oasis). Or putting fresh, soft sheets on your bed?

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