Everybody has rough days. One big difference between successful people and those who don't make it, though, is how they react when the waters are troubled. If you want to set yourself apart as a real leader, you've got to pivot and stay positive.


1. Do an act of kindness.

This doesn't mean you're ignoring what's happening to you. But it does keep you from ruminating too much on it. When you look around and notice what others need or how you can help, it can reduce how isolated you feel and give you some perspective about how stressed or frustrated you are. Your actions also inspire others to pay it forward, not just to you, but to others, which can shift the entire mood of the office. Acts of kindness allow you to do something productive as you cool off so you don't rush into bad decisions you regret later, too.

2. Note your victories.

Maybe you finished the report 15 minutes earlier than you predicted you'd finish it. Or maybe you finally cleaned out your pencil container. Focusing on these simple, positive wins can keep you from emotionally snowballing.

3. Dip into your "smile file".

Get out that goofy picture that always cracks you up. Use a few minutes of your break to find a stand-up comedian on Netflix or a clip on Youtube. (My personal go-to is this Snowball compilation from The Secret Life of Pets.) Expose yourself to what's a little absurd so you can laugh and realize there's still fun out there.

4. Bust a move.

Meredith and Christina from Grey's Anatomy definitely might have been onto something when they resorted to "dancing it out". Studies show that dancing can lift mood, giving the double benefit of stimulating the brain's reward centers and providing sensory and motor movement stimulation. And like other forms of exercise, dancing is fantastic for brain health, strengthening neural connections important for coordination, planning, memory and more. And a healthy brain can find it easier to regulate emotion in the future!

5. Crank the tunes.

Because music connects deeply to our experiences and emotional recall on a neurological level, songs quickly can get your brain to do a mood 180. Grab your headphones and work with upbeat and positive tracks. These are the only requirements:

  • Stick with instrumentals if your tasks involve language, as lyrics can interfere with linguistics processing.
  • Choose songs you're familiar with. Otherwise, the novelty of the music can distract you from your work.

If classic feel good songs like Eye of the Tiger and I Will Survive aren't working for you, try some of my personal favorites (try not to wiggle or move your head, I dare you):

6. Strike a power pose

Power poses, such as standing with your chest open and hands on your hips like a superhero, are still in need of more research when it comes to their biological influences. Experts have yet to prove that there are significant hormonal gains, for example. However, research does suggest that these poses are effective for psychologically helping you feel more powerful. And in theory, the more confident you feel, the better you might cope with whatever it is that's thrown at you.

7. Delegate or reschedule.

If you can, hand off what you can to someone else or get what you know will add to your stress off your plate for the day. Don't even think about feeling sheepish or weak here. It's a far more mature thing to do to admit you're upset and can't focus than it is to do a half-arsed job while you're fuming or depressed. Plus, this reduces the odds you'll feel even worse from making mistakes. Just hit it hard again when you're back in the game and return the favor to the people who temporarily lighten your load.

8. Treat yourself like your best friend.

People tend to be much kinder to others than they are to themselves. So step back a minute. If your best friend was going through your pickle, what would you tell them to do? Give yourself the same pep talk and encouragement you'd say to someone close to your heart.

9. Accept the mess.

Sometimes, the reason we have a bad day is because we want so badly for things to be good. Or even better, perfect. But life is messy, and you're human. By expecting every single thing to go right, you can set yourself up for disappointment. Accept that this one day is one of the blips, that it's not permanent, and that overall, you'll move forward. It's about the ride and the big picture, not escaping failure or frustration altogether.

10. Have a piece of chocolate.

Cocoa contains flavonoids that can improve mood and, as a bonus, are great for overall brain health. So while you shouldn't emotionally binge on an entire plate of fudge, go ahead and break a piece off a bar of luxury dark chocolate. As you savor it, remind yourself that if you choose for it to be, the world can be incredibly sweet and rewarding. You always, always have a choice.