The definition of a bad day is subjective. It can range from “everything sucks” to being utterly depressed and not knowing how to get to the end of the day. The reason can be one situation, or an ongoing event that never seems to end. This post is for any of those. Because there is one important thing you should never forget: every next day is a step closer to a better one. It will not stay like this forever. But while it lasts, make the least bad of it.
Whenever I had days like these, I wasn’t really able to think beyond the despair. I just waited until it was over, which is torture. So let (the healthy) me do the thinking today. We’re gonna make this day the least sucky one possible. See it as a step-by-step manual for the worst of days, where we try to beat your bad coping mechanisms.
Your morning routine
- Good morning. I’m sorry you’re feeling like this. 🙁 It sucks! It can be super tempting to stay in bed, and sometimes that is what you really need. In that case, stay in bed and take all the sleep you need. This is self-care and you deserve it! However, it can hold you back from feeling better. So if you don’t really have a reason to stay in bed, grab all the courage you got and get out of your bed.
- Good! Now make your bed. This is more important than you might think; stress takes a huge amount of your already depleted energy. Experiencing chaos is also a form of stress on the brain. In fact, clutter can make us anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed, while a tidy surrounding will make us feel better1. So do the thing, it will only take a minute.
- Now you’re gonna take a shower. You will feel better after a hot shower; it wakes you up and warms you up, and the best part: a study showed that taking a hot shower increases your oxytocin levels which helps to deal with anxiety2. A hot shower literally reduces stress! Or take a bath, that will do the same. But easier said than done for some people. A few years ago I hated showering because of my body image. I didn’t want to be naked and I didn’t want to see it. If this is you; go for it without thinking, because it is important.
- Well done! Next: get dressed. Choose something comfortable, but wear something you could wear outside (as in: clothes that are appropriate for being outside. I know you can wear a PJ outside but you know what I mean). You can wear sweatpants and still look nice. Your brain will associate pajamas with sleep, and we were going to wake up, right? Getting dressed will give you energy and make you feel better because you look better. (Unless you have a unicorn onesie. In that case wear the unicorn onesie. 🦄)
- Do you hair and make-up if you like. I feel better with make-up on, but I’m not saying you need make-up to feel or look better. Do whatever you like.
✨ AWESOME! ✨
Now let’s see what else we can do to make this shit day a bit better.
Things you can do today to feel better
- Now there are a few things we want to accomplish:
- Take your mind off of bad things
- Reduce stress hormones
- Increase ‘happy’ hormones
First things first: you need food. Your brain needs fuel, and food releases endorphins, two things that will be beneficial. I know this isn’t easy or even possible for some, but I really hope you will try. Preferably, something healthy. Good to know: a banana is rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that improves your mood3. You can do it! 💪
Whatever you did at the previous paragraph, at least get yourself a nice cup of tea or coffee. It will boost your energy and hydrate you. Water is extremely important for your brain and not drinking enough will not help you today. Your brain will perform better when it’s hydrated4.
✨ Now you’re going to do something, just anything. ✨
Create yourself a nice surrounding. As I already stated, clutter increases stress and a peaceful surrounding will do the opposite. I can feel really overwhelmed when I forgot that my room was messy and I walk in unknowingly. So get rid of clutter, make sure the temperature is right, create some light, get rid of noise.
You could draw or paint or grab a coloring book. These things increase your levels of serotonin, endorphins, dopamine, and norepinephrine5. Now that’s powerful! A lack of serotonin causes depression, so that’s the thing you’re missing right now. Endorphin helps to alleviate anxiety and stress. Dopamine makes you want to do stuff instead of staying in bed all day, and Norepinephrine makes you more active and alert. Drawing always calms me down, but it can also be a way for me to express my feelings.
Listen to nice music. There is probably not much as influential to your emotions as music. Music does an insane amount of things in your brain, and it can influence your mood instantly. It can even make Alzheimer’s patients reconnect with the world6. Music has healed me many times. Or, if you are able to, make music yourself! I sometimes feel like I can express myself better with music than with words.
Read a book. Apart from the fact that reading does all kinds of nice things for your brain (nice, but not our main concern today), it can temporarily take you to another place. At least, that’s how it works for me. I can totally get sucked into a book. It can make me forget everything around me. Sometimes that’s all you need to get through a day.
The same goes for watching a movie or a series. It can take you to another world for a while, where all of your problems don’t exist. Whenever I had a crazy bad day, I watched romantic movies; somehow love stories of others made me feel better.
You could write! Just as reading, writing really engages your entire brain. When you write, both the left and right side of your brain are at work and they collaborate awesomely7. But more important; writing can help us with processing traumatic events or stress. Writing about what’s bothering you can lighten your emotional burden.
If you’re up for it, go outside. I always feel better after I’ve been outside (at least, when the weather is ok). It might be one of the hardest things in this list, but also one of the most powerful things. Your cortisol levels drop (cortisol is a stress hormone), and a study showed that being outside literally heals your body. Besides that, the sun gives you vitamin D, which benefits all sorts of body functions, and also improves your mood8. On top of that, being active releases endorphins and a protein called BDNF, that both reduce stress levels9. You could go for a walk, a run, or take your bike. Recommendation: music in your ears.
A year ago, I wasn’t in the best place. I had a very high calory burning quota that I had to reach every day, which meant I still had to walk for hours after I had already been to the gym. I was quite depressed at the time, and after a few weeks of doing this, I realized that something amazing was happening. Every time I went for a walk, my mind would process everything that was bothering me. It was like my thoughts were on the loose the minute I started walking. I could make more and more connections, think deeper, understand more, and above all: process things. I don’t know why, but these walks turned out to be very therapeutic. But it took a while for this to happen. I think it was the combination of music, which can help you to get to your emotions, and the fact that you don’t really have to pay attention to anything when you walk (other than staying on the pavement and not walking into a ditch). Your mind gets the opportunity to be free. So long story short: walks are the best. (BUT. Don’t go overboard if exercise is your coping mechanism. What I did here was unhealthy and not a good example.)
Meditate. Studies have shown that meditation does an insane amount of good things to your brain. In a nutshell, your memory and creativity improve and your anxiety decreases. The latter happens because we’re actually loosening the connections of particular neural pathways when we meditate, which leads to a weaker response to fear and stress9. Meditation has a bit of a mysterious image, but it is not much more than calming down your brain. You can meditate in many ways, just ask Google.
Eat chocolate. I’m not kidding. For some, not an option and a hard topic. In that case: skip this one. If food is your coping mechanism in a bad way: also skip. Especially dark chocolate (dark chocolate has a much stronger effect than milk chocolate) is also called a ‘brain food’. It releases endorphins, the hormone that reduces stress, and serotonin, the ‘happy’ hormone10. And well, it’s chocolate. No need to explain that.
Meet or call a friend. Compassion is something very important that we need to survive. We even have entire brain circuits dedicated to it. We need human connection as much as we need food. Being without it is even worse for your health than high blood pressure or smoking. It fights anxiety and depression to a far extend11. Loved ones are extremely important. Don’t have anyone to talk to? There are many places you can go for help. Or you can write me. Like, right now.
Hug your pet, or someone else’s pet. Did you ever notice that interaction with animals can make you very happy? It totally makes sense; studies proved that pets increase oxytocin levels (like the hot shower), which is also called the ‘love’ hormone. It just makes us happy. At the same time, pets lower our cortisol (the stress hormone) levels. Pets overall fight depression, anxiety, and social isolation12. So find yourself an animal and exchange love.
Read funny comics written by (other) depressed people. Yeah. There are a lot of anxious/depressed people who make the funniest comics. Maybe they tried to cope with their feelings and accidentally created something great. Not a coincidence though; it’s a fact that most artists are sensitive and easily depressed people. Their comics can really cheer me up because it gives recognition and I really feel connected with those writers. It makes me feel less alone.
Gemma Correll draws comics inspired by her own anxieties and depression. She says: “I would have felt a little better as an anxiety-ridden teenager if I knew that I wasn’t completely alone in my fears. I honestly think that humor can be a savior at times of distress or, if you just live with a constant level of anxiety and depression like I do.” Well, I do too. Check out her drawings and Instagram, she’s awesome.
Then there’s The Awkward Yeti, created by Nick Seluk, who is also familiar with depression and anxiety. His comics are SO on point! They are often great additions to my posts.
And I really love Allie Brosh. I recommend her story about depression. If you like it, read part two here. If you don’t like it, read the dog series, it’s hilarious. Or everything else. (Sorry, I’m a fan. I even have her book. Buy it.)
And last but not least…
Be ok with a bad day. Cry. Don’t judge yourself. You’re a good person and it’s ok to feel this way. You are worthy and loved. Instead of neglecting yourself to cope, try to choose something nice, because you deserve it. ❤️
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