It was going to be a really bad day, but I managed to turn it around. Here’s how.
I’m writing this at 5 a.m.
Not because I’m super disciplined.
Not because I’m so excited about my work that I wake up early to do it (I am super excited about my work, but self-care like meditation and yoga come first).
And no, I’m not up working early because I planned it.
I’m up because my youngest son woke the whole house up at 2 and I haven’t been able to fall back asleep since.
Maybe it’s the full moon, I don’t know.
But after 3 hours and about 50 turns from lying on my left side, to my tummy, to my right side, and back again, I finally gave up.
So here I am.
And surprisingly I’m feeling pretty great despite it starting out as a bad day.
But if I had tried to write this an hour ago?
You’d’ve grabbed some popcorn to watch the shiitake mushroom storm play out.
Because I was a MESS.
As my body tossed and turned in circles my mind was doing exactly the same thing with my thoughts.
I was entertaining all sorts of miserable storylines.
There are plenty of real and imaginary stressors to choose from right now, and my mind was running through them like an oldschool rolodex.
Those thoughts then triggered stressful and anxious feelings in my body, which my mind tried to explain away with more bad thoughts (as minds are prone to do).
Do you want to know how I pulled myself out?
Here are the 5 steps I use to turn a bad day around:
Acceptance doesn’t mean giving up.
And it doesn’t mean being a passive observer in your life.
Acceptance is the radical act of acknowledging where you are so you can move on.
Because if you don’t know where you are, how can you choose the direction you want to go in next?
You really can’t with any degree of certainty.
This is totally counterintuitive, because when you experience uncomfortable emotions your mind tries to convince you that you can think your way out.
But the more you push against a feeling, the more you suppress it.
And suppressing emotions means you stop them from moving through you, so they have nowhere to go and the discomfort grows stronger.
If you want an uncomfortable emotion to go away, you’ve got to let yourself feel it.
Otherwise, you keep carrying it around with you in your body, and it ends up hurting more.
So the first step to turning a mood around on a bad day is to acknowledge and accept it.
2. Remember: The feeling of a bad day is actually just a temporary experience.
When uncomfortable emotions come up, we often get so overwhelmed that we forget that emotions don’t last forever.
And to make matters worse, we identify with the feelings we’re having.
You might tell yourself you’re angry, or sad, or worried, or what have you.
And every cell in your body might be buzzing in agreement.
But those are just labels you’re putting on the experience you’re having.
You are not your emotions.
You are the one experiencing emotions.
This isn’t a bad day.
You’ve just experienced some uncomfortable emotions.
And while experiences come and go, you remain constant.
So when your mind is tempted to label what’s happening, try to resist the urge and instead remember: this feeling is a temporary experience.
3. Tune into your body instead of your thoughts.
I know, we already kind of covered this in the previous points.
But if you’re like 99.87629% of the world, it takes a lot of repeating to convince your mind that shutting up might be a good idea.
Because your mind is the one creating the problems.
Until your mind puts a label on it, whatever is going on is just an experience you’re having.
Once you have it labeled, your mind throws as many pinballs as it can into the game to try to solve the problem it’s identified.
The trick is to notice that it’s happening.
And when you do, breathe in.
Feel your feet press into the earth.
Then breathe the thoughts away.
Divert your attention to feel into what’s going on in your body, and follow it’s lead.
4. Regulate your nervous system.
There are lots of things you can do to activate your vagus nerve and regulate your nervous system, and I spend months teaching these real-life magic tricks to the women in the Feed Your Soul Society.
One of my favorites is changing your scenery.
Preferably so you’re interacting with nature but really, whatever you can do will do.
When I realized I wasn’t going to be able to fall asleep before my kids woke up for good this morning, I stopped tossing and turning and moved to the living room.
And with toys strewn everywhere, it’s a far cry from a serene lake.
But physically removing myself from the place that I was experiencing the frustration and worry allowed me a moment to reset, and it made a huge difference.
I’m talking instant relief. Bad day be gone!
Other ways to regulate your nervous system include meditation (which is what I did next), immersing yourself in (cold) water, massage, breath practices, and emotional release, just to name a few.
And that last one is maybe the most powerful of them all.
Because one of the biggest reasons you experience stress and anxiety is that emotions are being suppressed.
When you let your feelings move through your physical body, you let them go.
So if you want to cry, cry.
If you want to move, move.
If it feels overwhelming to you, don’t do it until you feel safe.
It’s all good.
Don’t overthink it.
Just let your body relax as much as you can, and be curious about what comes up (if anything does).
5. Intentionally shift your focus to what feels good.
Once you’ve gone through steps 1-4 and find yourself in an emotional neutral zone, that’s when you can intentionally shift your focus from the idea of having a bad day (which again, is just a label your mind invented) to find things that make you feel good right now.
Connect with the place in yourself that feels expansive, calm, curious, maybe even excited.
One way to do this is to make a “bliss list” of all the things that feel good to you right now, and observe how your body reacts.
But if you’re not feeling emotionally neutral, don’t force it.
If those “negative” emotions are still welling up in you, you’re not ready for this step.
In this case, just keep going through the first steps.
Intentional focus can be extremely helpful practice because it starts rewiring your neurology away from stress and anxiety in the long-term, but you might not always have access to it when you first get started, and that’s totally ok.
This is because the more you practice good feelings, the more access you have to conjure good feelings when you want them.
But you can’t make a U-turn on a bad day once your emotional truck is already speeding down the negativity highway.
You’ve got to slow it down first if you want to go in another direction.
So be honest with yourself, go back to step 1 and accept where you are before you try to change anything.
I promise, if not fighting against your emotions is as far as you get, that’s already going to be a HUGE shift for you.
And if you make it all the way to step 5, wahoo!
That’s awesome too.
Want to move from bad days to an astounding life?
Well then lucky you, because I teach all of these strategies (and SOOOO much more) in the Feed Your Soul Society.
Enrollment only opens a few times a year, but you can get started with one (or all) of my freebies right now.
I can’t wait to see where this takes you!