Having a bad day at work, or you trying to get over one? You’ve landed in the right spot.
I’ve had my fair share of difficult days at work, both as a professional and now as a full-time career coach, and I recognize it can be challenging to recover from a bad day at the office.
How To Get Over A Bad Day At Work
Here are eight strategies you can try when struggling to let go of a rough day at the office:
1. Take a pause.
For starters, it can be easy to let negative thoughts consume you when you’ve had a bad day at work. While easier said than done, try to avoid acting out of fear, anger, or frustration when you’ve had a rough day at the office.
Consequently, pause before making any big decisions about your job. While you’re at it you might find it helpful to set a timer and allow yourself X minutes to sit with your feelings from the day, then move forward so you can leave work at work.
The key here is to permit yourself to process your emotions within a specific container. If you’ve seen Apple’s show “Shrinking,” therapist Dr. Paul Rhoades (played by Harrison Ford) uses a similar strategy where he sets a timer for 15 minutes and listens to music to process his extreme grief.
2. Move your body.
So, how else might you spend your time during that pause? One of the most effective ways to release pent-up energy from a challenging day at work is to exercise, in part because it releases feel-good endorphins.
Feel free to get creative and move your body in whatever way feels most cathartic to you. Personally speaking, a few of my favorite exercises include qigong, tai chi, and dancing around our condo. Whenever the weather permits, I also try to go for a brisk walk to reduce my stress.
3. “Brush off” the negative vibes.
Speaking of movement, physically “brushing off” your body can also be therapeutic when you’ve had a rough day at the office. What this looks like is firmly brushing your body with your hands and visualizing the negative energy leaving your body.
I learned about this technique many moons ago in therapy, and it has been invaluable for my mental health ever since. I will often go out on our balcony and metaphorically brush the negative vibes into the wind.
You can also practice a similar technique when washing your hands or taking a showing by visualizing yourself “rinsing away” the negative energy from your bad workday.
4. Write out your feelings.
You might also consider writing out your feelings. As you do this, see whether you can identify which specific core emotions you’re currently experiencing: glad, mad, sad, scared, or ashamed. While “glad” may not be the first emotion that comes to mind after a bad day, I’ve still included it as there might be aspects of the day you appreciate.
In case you need them, here are a few prompts to guide your writing:
- How do you currently feel? How do you want to feel?
- What’s one step you can take to move toward that future state feeling?
- Imagine you feel better; how did you make that happen? Who helped you get there?
5. Draft a “nastygram.”
While on the topic of writing, if there’s someone specific at work who has triggered your frustration, consider drafting a nastygram to them expressing your feelings.
Importantly, the intention here isn’t to send the letter, but rather to create a space in which to express your feelings. And since you’re not sending this letter, you can be radically honest and put it all out there.
6. Try ho’oponopono.
Another technique worth trying if you’re harboring negative feelings toward someone at work is the Hawaiian forgiveness practice of ho’oponopono, which means, “to put to rights.” You repeat the following four-part phrase to yourself:
- “I’m sorry, _____.”
- “Please forgive me, _____.”
- “Thank you, _____.”
- “I love you, _____.”
It’s difficult to stay frustrated with someone after you’ve repeated this process a few times. To put it simply, this ritual isn’t necessarily about the other person, but rather beginning to heal.
7. Treat yourself.
As a major proponent of self-care, I’d be remiss to not include treating yourself on this list of strategies. After a challenging day at the office, practicing self-care can replenish your soul. This may look like:
- Brewing a cup of tea
- Watching your favorite TV show
- Drawing or painting
- Taking a bath
- Calling a loved one
Reflect on those activities that bring you joy and make your heart happy. And if you’re doubting whether you have time for self-care, remember Audre Lorde’s proclamation: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
8. Talk to someone you trust.
Talking with a friend, mentor, or someone else you trust can also be helpful in processing your emotions from a bad day at work. When reaching out for support, it can be helpful to clarify whether you’re simply looking to vent or want their advice, in order to avoid unsolicited feedback.
You might also find it helpful to speak with a therapist if you find your workplace is negatively impacting your mental health. You deserve a workplace that respects and values you.
Conclusion: How To Get Over A Bad Day At Work
Finally, while most of us have bad days from time to time, they shouldn’t be the norm. More bad days than good days can be a sign of a toxic work environment. The following are additional signs it might be time to look for a new job.
- Your manager sets the bar unrealistically high.
- Your boundaries aren’t respected.
- You continually think about quitting.
With these tips in hand, hopefully you feel more confident in bouncing back after a bad day at work. On a final note, remember that bad days only last 24 hours. You’ve got this!