We've all had one of those days when everything seems to be going wrong. Perhaps you overslept, spilled your coffee on your white blouse, and had a flat tire -- all before 8 am. You just can't help but be in a bad mood.
It can be even worse if you have to get through a task-filled workday on top of all that. You've got a mountain of paperwork, a sea of emails to sort, and a limited budget you are being pressured to stretch. What would normally seem like a doable (albeit busy) day now seems overwhelming. Because it seems overwhelming, you end up not getting much done.
I know I'm guilty of letting a bad mood result in an unproductive day. Because of that, my approach to my work was negative. I made the mistake of tackling a major project that only resulted in a major headache instead of prioritizing and completing small goals.
Luckily, I have a great team that recognized my mood and helped me shake it off. Once I felt better, I was able to focus my energy on getting things done instead of sulking in the corner. Here are five strategies I used to help turn the day around:
1. Give yourself a little reward.
If possible, make your coffee a little sweeter, grab a bowl of fruit at the market you pass on the way to work, or put on a good song and jam out in the car before stepping into the office. Do what it takes to give yourself something pleasurable.
The goal is to get your mind off of that and into a different groove. This small change in routine can get you out of your head without causing too much disruption to the rest of the day. I have a stash of strawberry tea from London that I use as a pick-me-up.
You've likely heard that smiling (or grimacing, depending on how bad it is) can change your feelings, even if you have to force it. A 2009 study in Canadian Family Physician showed that smiling can boost your mood, lower stress, and may even prolong your life. Interestingly, your brain has trouble telling the difference between how genuinely happy you are when you smile.
I like to take it one step further by laughing. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughing forces you to breathe in more air and stimulate your body, therefore releasing more endorphins. Your muscles relax and your mind has focused on something else.
I highly recommend listening to funny podcasts and having a saved playlist of short, funny videos in times of trouble. The funny pages in the newspaper can also help. Whatever you turn to, make sure it isn't hurtful to others.
3. Keep to yourself and avoid major decisions.
There are times when you just can't shake the mood off. In that instance, it's better to keep to yourself as much as possible. One eye roll or abnormal tone of voice can deem you as uncooperative, hard to work with, or worse.
Instead of putting yourself in that situation, step back and work on catching up on small solo tasks. Avoid any big decisions. If that can't be avoided, seek advice from someone you trust.
4. Understand where the mood came from.
Is the bad mood due to not having control? Maybe you made a mistake at work. Most likely, the mood is stemming from a series of unfortunate events that you had no power over. You don't have to let that dominate the day.
Don't attempt to gain control by putting down an intern or lashing out at the barista. Instead, get your power back by thinking of all of the things you've accomplished. Think of the progress you've made and goals achieved (even if they're small). Write them down and display them. Seeing them can boost your confidence and get you back on track.
You can also make a list of at least three things you are truly grateful for and why you are grateful for them. It can be as simple or complex as you'd like. It's for you.
5. Get out of your environment.
Going for a stroll outside of the office can help. This can be especially helpful if the bad mood began at work. If you can, find a park or garden. Fresh air will help.
If you can't get away, listen to something fun. Take small breaks and drink water. Meditate for a minute or two by focusing on your breath and the rise and fall of your belly.
If your bad mood lasts for an extended period of time or the source is more serious than a bad day, seek professional help. Your health is more important.