What makes a bad day at work so very bad? In part, it’s a problem of perspective.
Now, don’t get us wrong: we’re not saying that a positive attitude will make your bad boss into a supportive mentor or your difficult clients appreciative of your hard work. Some days are full of challenges, even if you’re on your game. And on other days, you can’t get into the zone no matter what you do.
The problem starts when you take these challenges and use them as a lens for viewing your entire workday, or week, or year. In short, it’s easy to make a boring meeting or a rough morning into a bad day. To stop, you have to change your point of view.
1. Look for Cognitive Distortions
“Cognitive distortions are simply ways that our mind convinces us of something that isn’t really true,” writes John M. Grohol, Psy.D. at Psych Central. “These inaccurate thoughts are usually used to reinforce negative thinking or emotions — telling ourselves things that sound rational and accurate, but really only serve to keep us feeling bad about ourselves.”
For example, when you arrive at work to find several problems waiting for you … and then decide that it’s going to be a hard day. Maybe it will or maybe it won’t — but expecting it to be a bad day will increase the chances.
“When you find yourself having the cognitive distortion, ask yourself: what other ways you could think?” suggests Alice Boyes at Lifehacker.
Maybe you’re not going to have a bad day. Maybe you’re just dealing with a lot right now. Things could be better in a few hours.
2. Find the Opportunity to Grow
“Many people I know do their best to avoid setbacks and obstacles,” writes LaRae Quy, a former FBI counterintelligence and undercover agent. “They don’t want to surround themselves with anything negative. What these precious petunias refuse to acknowledge is that life is hard and pain is inevitable, but growth is optional.”
To opt for growth, Quy recommends asking the following questions:
- What is one thing I can learn from this experience?
- How can I avoid this trap next time?
3. Talk to a Friend
“It might seem obvious that friends make us happy, but when you’re feeling down, hanging out with others can seem pretty unappealing,” writes Jessica Stillman at Inc. “Psychological research actually shows that if you can bring yourself to pick up the phone, however, socializing is one of the surest routes to a brighter mood.”
When’s the last time you talked with a friend outside of work? If you’re especially busy — if you work 70 hours a week, or have small kids, to name two examples — it might have been a while. Use your bad day as an excuse to change that.
Sure, maintaining social connections is also good for networking, and therefore, for your career. But it’s also just plain good for your head. You’ll feel better if you remind yourself that life isn’t just about work.
4. Help Someone Else
And while you’re reaching out to your friend, maybe see if there’s something you can do to help them out, professionally or personally. It’ll make you both feel better.
“Thinking about someone else helps to take your thoughts away from your own troubles, and helping a friend will make you feel better about yourself,” writes Barton Goldsmith Ph.D. at Psychology Today.
5. Go Outside
Back to cognitive distortions again: how many times have you told yourself that you don’t have time to take a break? But your productivity depends on finding the time to stretch your legs. You can’t do your best work when you’re go-go-go all the time.
If you can take your breaks outside, so much the better. Studies have shown that just looking at a “forest view” can improve stress levels and job satisfaction. So, take your lunch break walking, if possible — and try to do where you might catch sight of a tree or two.
Tell Us What You Think
What’s your trick for turning a bad day around? We want to hear from you. Share your advice in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.