6 Tips for Coping With a Bad Day

A bad day. Everyone has them. You know, the kind where you rip your stockings, spill coffee on your pants, and then get stuck in a traffic jam Ö While you may not be able to avoid such an ill-fated chain of events, you can control how you respond to such situations, and employ these easy strategies to help keep your stress levels in check.

6 Stress Management Strategies

Here are six simple expert-recommended methods to help you cope with whatever life throws your way:

  1. Just breathe. It sounds simple, right? Breathing is just an essential part of being alive. But it also brings some soothing properties that can be great to consciously employ when your stress level is high. "The increase in oxygen [when you take deep, cleansing breaths] has a profound calming effect on our body and mind," says Michelle Lewis, LCSW, the Owner/Clinical Director of Salt Lake Weight Counseling in Salt Lake City. "Many of us stop breathing, or don't breathe as deeply, when faced with stressful situations," she says.

    Her fix: download relaxation exercises (many free apps are available) to your phone and just pop on your headphones when things donít go as planned. Another approach involves simply "closing your eyes, and breathing in your nose, and out your mouth. Visualize the breath as it comes through your nostrils, sinuses, throat, and down into your chest. Then picture the breath as it comes back up and out," Lewis suggests.

  2. Accept the inevitable. Rather than trying to will away your bad day, sometimes it can help to just accept the challenges and allow yourself to be in the moment. "Let's say you're commuting to work and your train is delayed or you get stuck in traffic," says Joy Rains, the Bethesda, MD-based meditation expert and the author of Meditation Illuminated: Simple Ways to Manage Your Busy Mind. "Perhaps you might tense up all over. Maybe your inner voice is saying something like this: 'I can't believe this is happening! I'm going to be late. I should have never taken this train, or this route.'"

    Instead of fighting circumstances, Rains suggests just going with the flow: "The delay has happened and that's not going to change. Acknowledge your response to the event. You may be angry, frustrated, or anxious. Note your feelings, then try to release them."

  3. Make good use of your time. Maybe you want to learn a new language, or increase your leadership skills, but you can never find the time to try to achieve these goals. Getting stuck on the commuter rail or in traffic can offer a perfect opportunity to educate yourself by listening to audio tapes of motivational speakers that inspire you, informative audio documentaries, audio books youíve been wanting to read, or a language instruction course, say health coaches Michele Periquet and Firouze Zeroual of Los Angeles, creators of a personalized diet and lifestyle program called Reset Yourself. When you look at these kinds of situations as an opportunity to do things that you otherwise might not have been able to try, you can make something good come out of your bad day.
  4. Have a back-up plan. "Although we donít plan for bad days, we can have a plan when one arises," says Julie Kaminski, who has a masterís in counseling, and is also a licensed wellness coach, group fitness instructor, and certified personal trainer in Lebanon, NY. She says with a fall back plan, you can have more control of the situation and this can minimize stress.

    "If/then" statements are helpful in these situations, says Kaminski: "For example, when I have a bad day/get stuck in traffic/things go wrong, [try saying] 'I will ____ (fill in the blankóbehave in a certain way, say a certain thing, think a certain thought) so that I can achieve ____ (the goal)'. The great thing about 'if-then' statements is that they are personal to you: You fill in the blanks of what will work for you! The key is to have your plan in your back pocket, ready to go when needed." You plan might include knowing who to call to pick up your children or feed your dog when you get stuck.

  5. Vent your frustration, then move on. "There are dozens of apps [such as Vent, Whisper, and Secret] that allow you to share your secret innermost thoughts safely and securely. Get your frustration off your chest and then move on," says Roy Cohen, a New York City career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide: Success Secrets of a Career Coach. If venting remotely isnít enough, another option is to "call your go-to person for comfort, guidance, insight, or simply to complain. This is the person you save for that rare occasion when you are about to have a meltdown. But be sure not to over burden this individual. Reciprocity is key to maintaining a mutually supportive relationship," he stresses.
  6. Avoid binging on sugary foods. "When you're stressed, it can be tempting to reach for comfort food, such as a sugary treat, but this is one of the worst types of thing you can eat if you want to relax," says Kevin Meehan, LAc., MS, NCCAOM, NCCA, and founder of Meehan Formulations, a maker of alternative health products in Jackson, WY. "Consuming foods which are high in simple sugars will generally quickly spike our glucose [a form of sugar] levels. The saying 'what goes up must come down' applies well to this scenarioóthe faster the surge, the faster the decline," he points out. "When we create a low blood sugar environment, we also tend to experience low energy, fatigue, and malaise. The best way to avoid this is to consume more complex carbohydrates [like an apple, almonds, or a protein bar]. Complex carbohydrates liberate their sugars slowly into the blood stream, while the simpler ones flood the system faster, consequently creating a blood sugar spike, which leads to a hypoglycemic [low blood sugar] state."

Put it into Perspective

If, despite your best efforts, your bad day feels overwhelming, try to put the situation into perspective and not let it throw you off course. Maybe you spilled your drink, banged your elbow, or burned the dinner. While these things can be frustrating, when you think about it, they are just little blips in your day, so donít let them become huge setbacks in your mind. Remind yourself that tomorrow will be a new day, and hopefully things will go more smoothly then.

Julie Kaminski reviewed this article.


Cohen, Roy. Email interview, March 20, 2015.

Kaminski, Julie. Email interview, March 24, 2015.

Lewis, Michelle, LCSW. Email interview, March 25, 2015.

Meehan, Kevin. Email interview, March 21, 2015.

Periquet, Michele, and Zeroual, Firouze, Reset Yourself. Email interview, March 21, 2015.

Rains, Joy. Email interview, March 20, 2015.