Having a bad day is terrible, period, but when you have to get through the work day on top of it all, it can feel a million times worse. That's why it's so important to have a few ways to deal with a bad day at work under your belt. While everyone needs to take a day off sometimes because of an emergency (and seriously, do take your allotted vacation days!), bad days are also part of life;; as such, it's worth learning what coping skills and mechanisms work for you for how to get through them while still being professional and productive, no matter what your role is.
For a lot of people (myself included), bad days can feel like an overwhelming onslaught of emotions: You might be angry, sad, confused, down on yourself, frustrated with your place in the world... All before lunchtime. For some people, this makes it hard to focus on tasks, while for others, it makes you feel irritable enough to lash out at everyone around you.
The reality is that as an adult in the workplace, you can't just take your bad days out on others or spend the entire time hiding in the breakroom (though if you're having an actual emergency, you should of course talk to someone about leaving early). There are healthy ways to cope with no good, terrible, very bad days, though — so let's take a look at a few of them here. It might help you figure out what to do the next you're feeling down in the dumps on the job.
1. Take A Few Minutes To Be By Yourself
Of course, this one varies a bit based on your work environment, but if you're having a horrible day at work, it can make a world of difference to simply remove yourself from the situation. Whether it's that you're upset about how a project went, your coworker's bad attitude, of you yourself are just bringing loads of baggage into the office, it's important to recognize when you're about to snap and simply take a few minutes to yourself.
For some people, this means physically leaving the office for your lunch break; for others, this could be just sitting in the bathroom for a few minutes and focusing on some deep breathing. As much as we may want to scream our heads off because someone forgot to refill the printer paper again, that doesn't actually mean that's OK to do — so it's your job to remove yourself and chill before you take it out on someone else undeservedly.
2. Set Boundaries For Your Personal Life At Work
In an actual emergency, this goes out the window; if you or your loved ones are in an actual state of crisis and your presence is required elswhere (say, someone is in the hospital, someone's house burned down, etc.), then overlap is obviously going to happen. However, if your mom just wants to go over the seating arrangement at Christmas dinner, that can 100 percent wait until after work. First of all, it's not wise to get caught dealing with that sort of personal stuff on company time anyway; beyond that, though, these things can be unnecessarily stressful when you're trying to, y'know, do your job.
Dealing with our loved ones can bring on a whole onslaught of negative memories and emotions, so it's a good idea to set a strong boundary ("emergencies only"); this enables you to focus on your work during work hours. Any other favors anyone might ask of you can probably wait until after hours.
3. Get Some Relaxing Jams Going
If you're allowed to use headphones at work, it can make a world of difference to have a few playlists ready to go. If you're into instrumental or classical music, go there first. If you enjoy meditation, there are tons of free guided meditation podcasts you can listen to while you work. Studies show that music can alleviate feelings of anxiety and stress, so even if you aren't able to jam out at your desk, it may be worth keeping headphones in your bag in case you need to use your lunchbreak for a walk around the block while you listen to some tunes.
4. Realize That Everyone Makes Mistakes
If you're having a bad day because you messed up and you know it, remember that there is no point in beating yourself up over it. The past is the past, and the only thing you can do is fix your errors to the best of your ability and move forward. Depending on the situation, you may need to talk to your boss or others on your team on how to proceed, but remember: This doesn't mean you should just give up and let the rest of your day fizzle out because you're frustrated with yourself. Be proactive and work on finding a solution, not stewing. If you feel like others are absolutely grating on your nerves, remember that they're (probably) not doing it intentionally, and that it's important to cut everyone (including yourself) some slack.
5. Ask For Help When You Need It
If your head is a mess and you're in a fog, don't be afraid to ask for someone to repeat instructions or clarify their wants in an assignment you're working on. When you're having a bad day, it can be easy for everything around you to become a blur because you yourself are feeling so low, but the reality is, you can't let the quality of your work go up in flames because you're in a funk. Now, this doesn't mean you should just push your work off onto someone else, but asking for guidance or clarification is totally OK. Everyone has those days when their brain just isn't in it like it normally is, so people are likely to be patient and understanding if you ask politely and early into a project.