So here you are again. You’ve woken up on the wrong side of the bed and from there spiraled into one of those days. Those positive mantras stuck to your bathroom mirror make you roll your eyes, and the thought of getting dressed and ready for the day is already exhausting before you’ve begun.
It can feel like some twisted cosmic joke is being played on you when your brain goes wacko out of nowhere. When you’ve been in a stable pleasant state of mind for a few weeks and then one day, for no obvious reason, you wake up on the wrong side of the bed. And starting your day that way leads to a full day of progressively worse feelings until you finally reach that breaking point. You give in to the cranky little monster inside, and before you know it that inner monster is totally hulking out and you now find yourself in a full on toddler style tantrum.
I’m sure this isn’t how those days go for all of you, but most of mine will look a lot like that. It’s either random bouts of intense frustration that results in a tantrum (I hate calling it that but unfortunately it’s the closest description I can think of), or it’s a random depression. Those are a little easier to deal with and way less embarrassing, but I wouldn’t wish either on my worst enemy. Especially not the hulking out… I’d rather my enemy not have hulking abilities.
Off days aren’t always so dramatic though. An off day can simply be a full day of feeling…well, off. I’ve had depressive off days where I felt a little sad and lethargic. I’ve had off days where I was just a little on edge all day and that was it. But even the mild off days are uncomfortable, and nobody likes feeling uncomfortable for a whole day.
Whenever an off day happens for me, especially following a lengthy good mood streak, I always try to get into detective mode. I make myself crazy trying to figure out what the cause could have been. Was it because I ate that cookie when I never eat sugar and freaked my whole system out temporarily? Was it because we had people staying with us for a day or two and I’m somehow recovering from the energy expenditure? It could have been that I forgot my probiotics… I’m telling you, my mind really goes through every conceivable explanation until I totally exhaust myself and either decide on a convincing reason or I give up.
Sometimes it’s not a good idea to harp on what could have caused your bad mood, but doing this has definitely helped me discover things that were triggering me at times. Like the time I figured out that if I drink just a little bit too much coffee, I will almost definitely have a breakdown. I literally measured out my daily coffee intake with a teaspoon for a while there. I had about two teaspoons a day and later in the day I’d have some green tea. That seemed to be a safe amount of caffeine for me.
Off days happen for everyone but for people like us who live with mental health disorders, an off day can easily mean an off week or an off month. Or it can even just mean a really, really bad day. On days like this, what we need is a tool kit already prepared that will help us navigate the ickiness a little better. Maybe we won’t find our way out of it right away, but maybe we will find our way out of it sooner and it’ll feel a lot less devastating because we had the right tools for the job.
I decided to put together a framework of ideas to help you build your own Bad Day ToolKit. Keep in mind when you’re putting your toolkit together that you want to plan for simple off days, and also for really bad days. I’d suggest putting one together for both kinds of days.
I’d like to present you with some of my favorite tools from my own Bad Day ToolKit:
- When you don’t have the energy to shower
For the really bad days, where you’re nearly bedridden, I’d suggest keeping things like baby wipes, mouthwash, dry shampoo, etc. on hand so you can at least feel a little fresher if you can’t find the motivation to shower, brush your teeth or whatever else.
- If you do have the energy to shower
If you do have it in you, try a nice warm shower, taking the time to really make yourself feel pampered. Whether it be putting lotions or oils on after, putting some pretty music on that helps you feel calmer and uplifted… whatever you think will work specifically for you.
- Try taking a bath
Right now I don’t own a bathtub and it is driving me crazy because one of my fool proof tools for kicking a bad mood is an epsom salt bath! Here’s an article about all the health benefits of epsom salt baths, including the relieving of stress: Article by Salt Works
There are a lot of neat things to do for a good mood bath. I used to cut unused stockings and put herbs in them, tie them up and use them as giant tea bags in my bath! It was like soaking in a huge cup of tea and the health benefits were fantastic. Here’s a great DIY article if you’d like to make your own tea bath:DIY Herbal Bath Tea
- Remember to drink water
It can be difficult to keep up with something as simple as drinking water on an off day. I’d suggest tracking your water intake or even setting reminders on your phone or Alexa (Alexa is awesome for this stuff!) so you won’t forget to stay hydrated.
- Make sure you’re eating
Have protein bars or other healthy snacks that are easy to eat on hand. On days like this, I usually do. not. want. to. cook. Luckily my boyfriend normally cooks dinner, but during the day having a protein bar ready to grab is very helpful when I basically want to spend the entire day staring at the wall.
- Self Soothing
Self Soothing is a big one for me. Usually people who are diagnosed with ADHD have trouble automatically self soothing, and will have to consciously make it a habit. I’m sure this is a problem for other mental health disorders as well. So if you have ADHD or another disorder that makes self soothing difficult, try to keep that in mind.
It doesn’t mean it’s impossible, it just means you have to be a little more deliberate about doing it than most people. There are many ways to do this, but one way has proven to be most effective for me personally. Try it and see what you think:
Basically, you stand in front of your mirror and look yourself right in the eyes. You speak gently to yourself, saying things that you wish someone else would say to comfort you. Speak to yourself as if you are the parent and you are comforting your child who is sad or upset.
You will definitely feel like an idiot at first… there’s really no way around that. But once you settle into it and start ignoring the weirdness of it, it can be really soothing. Doing this has single handedly turned a bad day around for me before. Sometimes you just really need to be comforted and if we’re being honest, nobody knows how to comfort you better than YOU do. They may try and it may work a little, but only you know exactly what you need to hear.
- Encouraging Quotes
Make yourself a collection of Quotes that have affected you positively in the past. Pull them out and read whichever ones you feel helped by.
- Books/Audio Books
Gather a collection of books or audiobooks that have successfully soothed or distracted you in the past. For some reason, my go-to book for when I’m depressed is a memoir of sorts written by Goldie Hawn. It’s called A Lotus Grows in the Mud and it’s just a beautiful and inspiring read. (No affiliation, just a big fan)
A collection of meditations is always good to have on hand. I usually find them on YouTube and save them to a special playlist for my bad days. I use them mostly at night when I feel bad and can’t sleep. But when I really feel like I need it I’ll go sit in my yard and listen to a meditation and let that and the nature calm me down.
Make a playlist for bad day music! Again, I usually use YouTube for this. I have a playlist for irritable days, one for sad days, and one for anxious days. There are certain songs that seem to really help me with certain moods. Make your own playlist or make multiple like I did if you want. Find songs that you know will uplift you and help your mind feel more at ease.
I know everyone definitely has vastly different taste in music, but I want to share a band with you that is my number one go-to for bad days. Especially anxious days! They’re called Elephant Revival and their music has helped me so much. This song, called ‘Breathe’ , is one that I will listen to over and over when I feel a panic attack coming on. I’ll put it on repeat and it calms me down really well.
- Ted Talks/Motivational YouTube Videos
Are you a fan of TED Talks? I love listening to talks meant to encourage and inspire. I like to save any uplifting talks that I find on YouTube to a special playlist to bring out on a bad day. There are even ones specifically about different mental health disorders. I really enjoy the ones about ADHD and find them super relatable and encouraging. Maybe try starting your own collection! You can also find plenty of motivational videos on YouTube.
- Movies/TV Shows
Have a movie or a couple movies or TV shows that are nostalgic or just make you feel good in general? Pull them out on a bad day, allow yourself to relax and let your special movies or TV shows cheer you up! My mom always had her special movies for when she was depressed. One of them was called Sense & Sensibility and I used to wonder how she could watch that movie so many times and not be sick of it! Turns out she was using it to self-soothe while depressed, and she knew it would help her. Very smart! There’s no shame in letting yourself relax on the couch for the day. Some days that’s exactly what you need.
My go-to for when I’m sad is a movie from 1995 called Now and Then. I don’t know why, but it’s a movie I watched as a child and it feels like it sort of shaped who I am. Watching it fills me with all these lovely feelings, makes me cry it out when needed, and just warms my heart in general. Perfect for a bad day!
Really anything that can distract you and/or fill you with positive feelings (and does not cause you harm…drugs and alcohol should obviously be avoided) is something you should have in your Bad Day ToolKit.
You can use these suggestions to get your toolkit started, and I’d also suggest letting someone you trust know when you’re having a bad day. Especially if it’s one of those bedridden days. You’ll want someone to be aware of what’s going on, that way if you need help cancelling plans or staying home from work or school, that can be more easily arranged. Plus it helps knowing someone’s in your corner.
I will probably write up more Bad Day ToolKit ideas in the future. I hope these helped you for now.
Until next time,
Keep Calm and Grow On