“This doesn't even feel like my birthday,” Grace pouted. It was her birthday, and she had gotten a slew of nice presents and a birthday donut and a promise of a birthday dinner at her favorite restaurant.
But I'd had a sleep attack around 8 in the morning (I have narcolepsy) and slept until 11:30, pretty much precluding any afternoon activities if we were going to be back to the restaurant in time for supper.
She fought back tears the whole way home from the post office and for a long time in the living room. I could see she was struggling, and I felt terrible for her, but I had things to do, and I didn't really want to go anywhere, and birthdays – while very important in our family – do not make the world stop in the rest of the world.
I tried explaining that I actually worked on Allie's last birthday which was mid-week; Grace's birthday was a Saturday, and I didn't have to work at all. I told her that she had the whole day to do whatever she wanted. She didn't quote Kris Kristofferson to me (“Freedom's just another word for ‘nothing left to lose.”), but I could see that freedom was not what she wanted.
She pouted for quite a while, and then she came upstairs, where I was working on our family's summer calendar.
“Mom, I was thinking,” she said through her tears.
“Oh yeah? What were you thinking?” I asked her.
“What if we went to lunch at the restaurant, and then we could go to that big pet store and pet the stingrays after that? And then it wouldn't matter what time we got back because we'll already have eaten.”
“That would be okay with me,” I said.
“Can you invite Manda and Pappy to lunch? I would like it if they would celebrate my birthday with me,” she said.
We did invite them; my sister came along but Pappy was sick and stayed home. We had a great lunch, and then the four of us drove to Lancaster (about an hour away) to the pet store where there is a large touch tank full of stingrays.
Walking through the pet store on the way to the touch tank, Allie spotted a teeny tiny kitten in a large crate on a table. As kids do, she begged me to adopt the kitten. I explained that we already have four cats, that we don't need another cat, and that we wouldn't be able to adopt that kitten right now today anyway.
“Well, actually,” interjected the woman behind the table, “he is eligible for an instant adoption, so if you're approved, you could take him home this afternoon.”
Oh, well, then. By this time, I had noticed that the little fella had a big, boisterous personality (exactly what we like) and that he was very playful and outgoing (also what we like). The lady behind the table said he loves to be cuddled and cradled like a baby (another selling point).
Meanwhile, my poor husband was waving his hands and mouthing “NO WAY” about fifteen feet away from us.
Eventually, I overruled him and paid the adoption fee and we left with the kitten whom the girls named Pickles. (And he is very, very precious. You should check him out on my Instagram where I am slightly obsessed.)
I tell you all about our kitten because he changed the course of Grace's birthday. On the way home, cradling her new kitten in the backseat, she said, “Mom, this was the best birthday ever!” and I know she meant it. She will always remember Pickles the birthday cat, long after her disappointment and sadness are forgotten.
I'm not saying that every bad day day deserves a new kitten. Certainly not, though I do think it would help.
But every bad day does deserve a second look, a little problem solving, and a chance at redemption. That's what this blog post is about, redemption. A bad hour doesn't have to define a bad morning or a bad day.
When you're done reading, check out 36 quotes and Bible verses for when you're having a bad day.
28 Ways to Turn Around a Bad Day
- Acknowledge your feelings. This may sound like therapist mumbo jumbo (and maybe it is, but hey, I've drunk the Kool-Aid), but it's really important that you take note of the fact that you are in a bad mood. You're angry or sad or disappointed or whatever else you may be feeling, and those feelings are valid and real. The key is to just feel those feelings, and then you will be able to move past them more easily.
- Figure out the reason. Maybe you know why you're in a crummy mood. Maybe you stepped in cat barf or you're running late or you got a speeding ticket. Whatever happened, acknowledge that. Then identify what is not the cause of your bad mood, and let those people off the hook. The key here is to precisely pinpoint what's causing your bad mood and learn from that experience so as to prevent it in the future.Now that you've identified the feelings and the cause of the feelings, try one or more of the suggestions below to turn the day around:
- Meditate on some positive affirmations. This set of 40 beautiful affirmations for Christian moms are printable. I laminated mine and meditate on them frequently, both on good days and on bad. They give me a starting point for my morning prayers and an attitude refresher when I'm feeling sad or angry or left out. The key here is to read the card and think and pray about it for a minute or two.
- Blow bubbles. What is she talking about? you're thinking, right? Well, hear me out. The key here is deep breathing, taking a long time to suck in the air and taking an equally long time to blow it out. Sure, you could just take a few deep breaths, but you could also blow bubbles and make the whole exercise a lot more fun.
- Get a change of scenery. Taking a break from whatever is stressing you out does a lot of good. If your kids are causing the issue, go outside. If it's your boss, go to the bathroom. Take a walk around the block or the floor. The key here is to interrupt the thoughts and routines you are stuck in.
- Along those same lines, go outside. There have been scientific studies that have shown the benefits of just 15 minutes outside. Going outside refreshes and distracts you. The fresh air makes you more awake, reduces symptoms of ADHD in both kids and adults, improves both creativity and overall brain function, lowers heart rate, and reduces stresses of all kinds. (Reference) The key here is simple: just go outside and walk around!
- Journal. Taking the time to journal a little often helps with any problem. You don't have to write out whole sentences or paragraphs though, even a bulleted list will help. The key here is to take time to name what you're thinking and feeling and allow it to live on the page and get out of your brain. Writing is cathartic, trust me.
- Relieve the tension. When you're having a bad day, chances are good that your muscles are tense. You may have a headache thanks to all the tightness in your head, neck, and shoulders. One great way to relieve all this muscle stress is an exercise I learned in a middle school drama camp. It works best if you can lie on the floor, but it is still very effective even if you're stuck at a desk in a cubicle at work. The key here is to squeeze your muscles as tightly as you possibly can and then release them very slowly.
Begin by closing your eyes if you can. Next, starting with your eyes, squeeze every muscle you can control. Scrunch your eyes shut and furrow your brow. Then consciously relax those muscles. Move on to your nose and mouth. Again, scrunch and contract every muscle you can. Purse your lips into a frown, and grit your teeth. Then relax all those muscles. Next, your shoulders and upper back. Imagine the muscles getting as tight as possible, and then relax them. Move down your body in this way, constricting and then relaxing every muscle group. Don't forget your butt. By the time you've reached your toes, you will probably be feeling a lot more loose and relaxed. It's always worked for me.
- Make a cup of tea or coffee and drink it slowly. There is something soothing about making a cup of tea or coffee, breathing deeply as it brews to inhale the aroma, stirring and watching as the sugar or cream blends in, and then sipping it slowly as it cools. It's an exercise in mindfulness and being present in the moment. The key here is to be fully aware of everything you're doing and try to focus your mind on what's right in front of you.
- Do service. This comes from my OA experience. If you are stuck in your own head or having trouble with temptation or a rotten mood, you're supposed to reach out to someone to encourage them. Not to complain or vent, but to encourage and uplift the other person. The key here is to shift your focus from yourself and your problems to God and the work He can do through you for someone else.
- Give a compliment. This is sort of an extension of doing service, but it's a little different. Cheer yourself up by cheering someone else. Whether you call your best friend, text your husband, or send an email to a coworker, thinking about what you like in another person is sure to bring a smile to your face. The key here is to be genuinely appreciative of the person you're complimenting.
- Freshen up. Head to the bathroom and wash your face, reapply your makeup, and touch up your hair. Change your hairstyle if you want. The key here is to trick your brain into resetting by echoing your morning routine. You can even change your clothes if you want to.
- Shift your perspective. Your perspective can change everything. If you're stressed out about cleaning up yet another mess made by your children or husband, consider that they are alive, healthy, and vibrant enough to make messes. If your work is getting you down, think about how thankful you are to have a job that pays the bills. The key here is to shine a new light on the issue and illuminate how you're fortunate to have that “problem.”
- Practice gratitude. The practice of being grateful helps with so many different issues. Think about all the things you have and all the things you're grateful for, and record them in a journal or in Evernote or somewhere you can look at them again later. It may be hard to find things at first, especially when you're having a bad day, but you will find the thoughts come rolling in quickly once you get started. The key here is to shift your focus from your problems to your blessings.
- Turn on some upbeat music. We like praise & worship music at my house. (Well, I do. My kids like KIDZ BOP. Barf.) But whatever your particular brand of music preference, turning it up loud and maybe even dancing a little will change your mood almost instantly. You can't dance in a bad mood. The key here is to play upbeat music. Ballads and sad songs won't help.
- Pray. This should really be #1 on the list, right? God is our Comforter and the source of all peace and love in the universe. If you pray about this thing that's bothering you and your bad mood and bad day, He will answer. Cry out to Him and ask Him to change your day, change your attitude, and draw your heart closer to Himself. The key here is to open your heart to God's leadings and use His peace to turn your day around.
- Watch some silly videos on YouTube. These can be videos of babies laughing or cats being jerks or whatever makes you happy, but the key here is to interrupt your negative thoughts with laughter. Choose whatever you know will work for you.
- Make something. I don't know about you, but being creative makes me very happy. Take a look at the crafty materials you have, search Pinterest, and find something that you can create in the time you have. Maybe you work on a crochet project, maybe you make a popsicle stick project, maybe you paint or draw. The key here is to do something that you love and to celebrate the finished product.
- Hug someone. Hugs are magic; they inspire feelings of attachment, connection, trust, and intimacy among adults as well as children. Hugs lower heart rate, blood pressure, and levels of stress hormones in the body. (Reference: Psychology Today) The key here is to let yourself go and enjoy the moment and the feelings that come along with the hug.
- Read the Bible. God's word is chock full of inspiration words for living. Try 36 quotes and Bible verses for when you're having a bad day, 10 Bible verses for when things are hopeless or 13 Bible verses for times of stress or search above for Bible verses. I've written tons of thematic posts that might be helpful to you today, including on disappointment, anger and resentment, and anxiety and worry. The key here is to get into God's word and all Him to speak to you through it.
- Clean something. I don't know about you, but living in a cluttered and dirty mess gets me down, way down. When I feel really bad, especially really angry or frustrated, it helps me tremendously to clean up and make my space a little nicer. I don't know what it is about cleaning that clears my head and calms me down, but it never fails. The key here is to tackle a project small enough that you can make a big difference in whatever time you have available.
- Take a nap. Naps are magic. They refresh both your mind and body and leave you with a general sense of peace and calm. Whatever was bothering you might still be there, but you get a fresh start on the day with a whole new outlook. After your nap, you might also consider freshening up which was listed above. The key here is not to sleep so long that you wreck the night or feel groggy.
- Paint your nails. Painting your finger or toe nails forces you to slow down. It forces you to sit still for a few minutes and just relax and wait. You can practice your breathing during this time or read a good book or pray. The key is to relax, enjoy your solitude, and do something that will refresh and recharge you while you wait.
- Light a candle and watch the flame for a couple of minutes. There is something special about lighting a candle; that's why it is done during some religious ceremonies. The flame itself, flickering and dancing, is soothing and calming. The scent is a bonus that always adds to my feelings of peace. The key here is again, to sit and enjoy the moment.
- Diffuse essential oils. I don't diffuse oils as much as I used to because there have been some concerns raised about the safety of diffusing around pets. But essential oils definitely have mood-lifting qualities that can work, so if you don't have pets, throw some of your favorites into your diffuser and turn it on! The key here is to diffuse comforting, uplifting oils that will make you feel good.
- Soak up some time with your pet. Cuddly, furry pets like cats and dogs are preferable here, but any pet really will do. Stroke his fur and notice the softness. Scratch his ears and enjoy his purr or happy panting. Play with him. If you only have a fish, spend a few minutes watching him swim. The key here is to be mindful and present with your pet and forget about your troubles for a few minutes.
- Read a story to your kids. I love stories, and my kids love to be read to. Choose a happy book like Bear Stays Up for Christmas or Click Clack Moo. Bear Stays Up is a Christmas book, but the ending is so heartwarming and wonderful that I keep it out all year long. It reminds me that goodness and kindness gets rewarded, no matter how much life may make me feel otherwise. The key here is to get lost in the story and enjoy the cuddle time with your kids.
- Look up silly jokes on Pinterest and read them to your kids. Pinterest has the best jokes, seriously. I don't know where people come up with all this corniness, but I love it. My boss loves it, too, and we all try to share silly jokes on our weekly team meetings. I'm sure you've heard that laughter is the best medicine, so find some jokes and giggle with your kids. The key here is to tell lots of jokes and laugh yourself silly.
And, if all else fails, adopt a kitten. That's guaranteed to work.
(Just kidding. Please don't adopt a pet on a lark. You need to be fully prepared to make a possibly 20 year commitment to that animal and its proper care if you are even going to consider adopting a pet.)
A thought to leave you with: Sometimes, life is hard. Situations are hard, days are hard, weeks and months and years can be hard. Sometimes the things on the list above won't fix what ails you. (I'm thinking back to the days when my mom was dying of cancer.)
In those cases, maybe nothing will help. But what I do know for sure is that focusing on this moment, these feelings, and your own well-being will guide you and lift your spirit. God doesn't want you to live in mourning or overwhelm or frustration. He wants you to live in freedom and peace. I'm praying for that for you this day.
© 2018, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.