A bad day to one person looks very different to another person. For one person, it could look like a series of annoying incidents such as being late, forgetting about something important, dropping something, tripping or having other irritations. For others, it could look like depression, anxiety or stress reaching a critical point.
The problem with lumping all types of horrible days together is that surviving the first type of bad day is a lot easier than surviving the second type of day. When we are having one of ‘those’ days, we usually know that tomorrow will come and that things will right themselves. When we are in crisis mode, we are literally in crisis. Trying to talk yourself out of a major panic attack, depressive slump or total state of overwhelm is not as easy as looking at motivational memes and having a hot bath.
I have been through both types of awful day. I’ve had a day so bad that I was not sure I would come out of it alive (and I’m not waxing lyrical here, either). I’ve also had frustrating days that passed quickly enough. The way we deal with crisis days is hugely important. Treating this type of day as any other type of bad day is a very dangerous thing to do and rather than dismissing your state of crisis, it is essential that you know how to handle such a day so that you get the help you need.
Surviving a Bad Day
My bad day happened about six or so years ago. I had been freelancing a while and trying to get through major depression at the same time. I was working all hours – often pulling all-nighters. It was after one such all-nighter that I hit the worst point in my life. At around 5am, I gave up. It felt like everything was just too much and I could no longer keep slugging forward. Everything was uphill and everything was just too exhausting.
I took at bath and then I took a few too many of my meds. I did not make a serious attempt. I did not want to end my life – I just wanted things to stop for a while. Then, I did the most sensible thing of all and called my mom. She came over and we talked and she made me realise that there is ALWAYS a way to get through anything – even the worst points of our lives where we feel like there is no hope at all.
That day was a turning point on so many levels. My parents had brought an old house out in the Cape countryside a few years earlier and they were fixing it up for their retirement. We decided that after my lease was up in the house I was renting at that point, I would move out to the countryside and act as a caretaker of sorts. I know that not many people get that sort of exit strategy and I am eternally grateful that I got to step back.
But… here’s the thing. Although my escape to the countryside played a huge role in overcoming depression and burnout, it was only one part of the process. I also learned how to deal with future bad days in a way that was healthy and constructive. Here are some of the coping strategies that I learned from my bad day…
Talk to someone.
This is one of the hardest things to do when you are in crisis mode. Reaching out can seem almost impossible. If you do not talk to someone – anyone – it will be harder than ever to get help. Call a friend, a relative, a priest, a therapist, a doctor, a coach or anyone else that can be there for you. Even if all you can say is that you feel awful, you are taking a big step simply by telling someone you are not ok.
Step back a bit.
I was so lost in myself that day that I was battling to see things clearly. The project I was working on was not going quickly because I was too tired, stressed and overwhelmed to write as much as I would usually be able to churn out. I hadn’t even managed to finish on that morning. When I was able to step back a bit, I realised that my own health was more important than any project. I also realised that things were not the absolute end of the world, even if they felt that way at the time.
This one is easier said than done. When I am stressed, my breathing typically gets shallow. I have to make an effort to breathe deeply. Over the years, I have found some great breathing exercises that have helped with stress and anxiety. Guided breathing meditations, yoga videos focused on breathing or even just deep breathing, counting as you inhale and exhale will all help your body and mind to find some calm.
Be gentle with yourself.
I felt like the biggest failure that day. I remember crying to my mom about how I was never going to get anything right. I felt like I was missing some critical life coping skill that everyone else seemed to have but me. I’ve always been hard on myself and it was very hard to un-learn that. In time, I have learned how to be gentle with myself. Now, when I am in potential stress situations, I can tell myself that it is ok and that I am going to be ok. It makes a HUGE difference.
Finally, we have the most important strategy of all. I am a firm believer in conventional and alternative medicine. I think that we have forgotten the original roots of holistic healing. I took antidepressants for my depression and I even take calming medication now for my seizures. I see a therapist once a month and out in the countryside, my amazing GP was the one who helped me wean off the antidepressants. Getting help does not make you weak – it makes you smart. Trying to deal with everything alone makes you weak, ironically. It wears you down and makes it easier to pile on more and more stress until you cannot cope anymore. Get help with your bad day. Don’t wait for an even worse day.
If, like me, you have experienced bad days like these, I’m sorry that you have had to go through that trauma. If you are looking for ways of dealing with a bad day, I hope these strategies help.