10 Ways to Overcome a Bad Day at Work

Everyone has "one of those days" occasionally. Since this is a normal, acceptable part of work, it's important to strategize how you manage after a challenging day at work because it can have impact on a multitude of levels both at work and at home.


Here are 10 ways you can stay resilient, positive, and productive after a bad day at work:

1. Something good happened.

Too often when something negative happens at work—didn't get the contract, customer is upset, or some other bad news—we let this event contaminate the entire day, but in reality, there are good things that happened too.

Was it a bad day? Or was it a bad 5 minutes that you milked all day?

2. Limit your complaining time.

Acknowledge the challenging situation, but limit your complaining. I give myself 45 seconds a day to complain – the way I figure it is since complaining does not lead to anything productive and is a time and energy waster, why do it at all? However, it seems we all "need" to let off a little steam from time to time. It has taken me years to get down to only 45 seconds a day of complaining and there are days that I exceed 45 seconds. Perhaps you could start with a 10 minutes per day limit. No one wants to be known as that person whose best quality is their ability to complain.

Complaining is a zero-return investment.

3. Keep track of things that go well at work.

Keep a collection of all the positives things that happen at work like thank you notes, testimonials, and stories about customers or coworkers showing you appreciation. Keep notes in an easily accessible folder or journal so you can pull them out and read them when you're having "one of those days". This will remind you that not all days are bad and good things happen too. 

Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.
— Dr. Seuss

4. Let some steam off.

You're not expected to internalize every negative thing that happens—even when it's in the middle of the work day. So instead of complaining or letting your feelings bottle up, give yourself permission to let off some steam. Take a break, go for a walk, do some deep breathing, or do something else that allows you to feel more relaxed. When you get into the habit of doing this, you'll respond to negative situations more positively and you'll be less likely to get thrown off by setbacks.

It is not the load that breaks you down it’s the way you carry it.
— Lou Holtz

5. Seek out a different perspective.

Sometimes we get caught up in our own world. This can make it difficult to gain a proper perspective. A great way to shift your perspective is to call a friend who can help you think about the situation more positively.

Question: Why does the baby like to be picked up? Answer: Same reason you like to be picked up – a change in perspective.

6. Take the long view.

Do your best to take the long-term view with the understanding that tomorrow is a new day and nothing stays the same for too long.

It might be stormy right now but it can’t rain forever.

7. Do something uplifting.

Do something you know will uplift your spirits automatically. What are your go-to mood boosters; is it an uplifting song, inspiring talk, movie or video?

Don’t be discouraged. It’s often the last key in the bunch that opens the lock.
— Unknown

8. Do your best not to bring it home – create boundaries.

Since most people find the line between work and home blurred, it is much easier to say, "leave your problems at work" than it is to do it. However, strive to have the mindset that work challenges have no place at home and vice versa. After a bad day at work do your best to consume yourself with your family or a hobby so you can give the bad day a rest and you don't contaminate your family unnecessarily with rehashing it.  When I let work leak into my home life too much it creates problems at home and when I let home leak into work it creates problems at work.

Don’t allow problems that began in the kitchen follow you to the dining room.

9. Exercise.

It could be as simple as getting out of your office and going for a brisk walk. A good sweat at the gym whether that is playing a sport like tennis, basketball or going for a run, or any kind of movement can be stress reducing and take your mind off your challenge.

Bad days make for great workouts.

10. Journal and take time to reflect.

Writing out frustrations and trials can also be therapeutic. When I think on paper it helps me get out of my head and I am able to come up with solutions that are helpful. Research is showing that not only does regular journaling improve your emotional well-being, but writing out your feelings can benefit your physical health as well.

Journaling is like whispering to one’s self and listening at the same time.
— Mina Murray

Bonus: Tackle manageable doable task.

Don't let the setback ruin all of your productivity. Perhaps you can't take on a big heady project, but maybe you can get through some paperwork or organizing that will be helpful.

Please add to the conversation—comment below or on Twitter at @gregbellspeaks.