Bad Days – It's all in Your Head

Have you ever had a really bad day? Of course, that’s a ridiculous question. We’ve all had really bad days. Sometimes, the bad days truly are bad – some circumstances are just awful..things happen to all of us occasionally, such as the death of a loved one, losing your job, a falling out with a close friend. Fortunately, these events are less than common for most people. These kind of bad days, though terrible, are few and far between.

So, if that’s the case, then why do people seem to have so many “bad” days? Why do so many people talk about how “stressful” and “challenging” and “irritating” and even “horrendous” their day has been? If nobody’s died, your job is still intact, your friends still love you….what is it that’s dragging you down?

Most of the time, people’s bad days revolve around their work. What I’ve been observing lately is that people who are stressed and challenged and irritated are that way because of something that’s happend through the course of their work day. Ever notice how fewer people tend to have “bad” days on Saturday? Yah.

You might respond to that question with “Well, not everyone likes their job.”. In fact, it’s true that some people downright hate their jobs. I can see how it would be difficult to have a good day in that situation. I’ve had jobs I hate. I know what that’s like.

But here’s the thing. I believe that 99% of the “bad” days we have don’t really exist. Yup. 99%. (1% is reserved for catastrophic situations like natural disasters.) Why’s that? I’ll show you.

It’s all in your head. Ever had a day when you wake up in the morning and your mind is immediately racing with all of the worries you have for the day? “What if my computer crashes during my big presentation?” , “What if the boss hates my designs?”, “What if nobody shows up for the conference?”, “What if that agent doesn’t call me back in time for tomorrow’s shoot?”. The next time you have worries about your day, write them down. Then, at the end of the day, go back and review your list. Odds are, most or all of the worries that woke you up with did not happen. You can’t predict the future, so stop trying. You can only control the now. Stop worrying so much. You’ll have far fewer bad days.

You wouldn’t talk to ME like that. The problem with stress is that it compounds. The minute a stressful moment pops up in your work day, your brain automatically goes in to fight or flight mode. You either want to defend your every move or run and hide under the bed till the storm blows over. Thing is, all this stuff is – you guessed it – mostly in your head. Example – you have to present your design wireframes to your boss this morning. Your boss is notoriously picky. You walk through the scenario over and over in your head. You’ll walk in. Show him the designs. Your boss will go into a rant about how you don’t understand the concepts or even the basics of how this company is run, and you’ll never understand. In your head you think, “oh, here he goes again, what a jerk, he is such a bad communicator”. All the excuses why it’s your bosses fault. You feel like the worst designer in the world. You frickin’ no talent hack. Loser. You’ll never get anything right. The pit in your stomach grows.

Oh wait. You haven’t even had the meeting yet, and you feel awful. Imagine if you said any of those things to someone else. A colleague, family member, friend. Calling them a no-talent hack. A loser. Of course, you’d never do that! But we do it to ourselves all the time. We make up entire scripts, play out the entire episode before something even happens. When you think about it, it’s pretty ridiculous.

Next time you find yourself making up the script, stop. Take a minute. Think to yourself…would I talk to my Mom like this? My brother? My wife? My friends? If you can’t imagine doing it, then stop talking to yourself like that. Immediately. Stop making up stories and assumptions. If you go into a situation with a clear mind, 9 times out of 10 it will be more favourable than you can imagine. It works. Just try it.

Like I said, we all have bad days. Sometimes it’s out of our control. But most of the time, deciding whether our day is good or bad is simply about adjusting our view. Get out of your head. Get into your life. Once you’re there, the possibilities are endless.

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  • May 6, 2009 at 7:28 am

    Great line Suze: get out of your head; get into your life.

  • May 6, 2009 at 7:28 am

    Well put, Sue. A lot of people don’t realize that mental health is the same as physical health – sometimes it takes some effort!

  • May 6, 2009 at 7:37 am

    I think you’re onto something here, Suze. I have a friend (a psychiatrist – and no, he’s not my friend just to see what makes me tick!) who is fond of saying the self-talk – what we tell ourselves – is the single most influential thing we hear all day, every day.

    Your advice about “getting out of our heads” is exactly what we need to shake a few things loose and maybe head off in a more productive direction.

    Tip o’ the hat to ya!

  • May 6, 2009 at 8:32 am

    I’ve noticed that just being aware that it’s all in my head is helpful. Then when I start to go off on a self-mutilation tear, I’m more apt to notice it and get out of there. Yesterday I thought I was having a bad day (in my head I was worried about this and griping about that and in self-defense mode about another thing), and suddenly realized that all I was doing was standing in the store with my husband. We were in front of the British food section, and there was a can of spotted dick and, of course, we were suddenly giggling like we were 8 years old. Do you have any idea how much funny British food there is out there?

    So thanks for the reminder! Awareness wins!

  • May 6, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    You can’t predict the future, so stop trying. You can only control the now. Stop worrying so much. You’ll have far fewer bad days.

    Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is not here. Live now.. Look at the birds if you want or watch that YouTube video if it makes you happy at the moment. Just do it, stop worrying because you have no control…Enjoy likfe and let it happen in…

    Great post! Got me feeling good 🙂

    Jim Gaudet’s last blog post..Tuts Plus – Mad Skills

  • May 8, 2009 at 6:22 am

    I love your saying too, Get out of your head and into your life.

    Those things that go on in the old head I call tapes playing, things we were told over the years that still are running in the back of our brains. We become so used to them that they are very quiet but a constant force playing over and over again.

    Once you recognize that little negative inner voice you can conquer it by simply saying in your head, and visualizing, a big red STOP sign and telling the voice to stop. Put the positive in there.

    I love my job! I am lucky enough to deal one of the passions of my life Antiques. When I wake up in the morning my attitude is what can I sell today, what can I learn by doing research on an item I want to sell. Have I had any sells today?

    I usually start my day off with Twitter while taking pictures to process for my shop. The friends I have there are upbeat and it is the best way to start off a day I can think of. Besides the great joy my little dog gives me when we wake up to start the day. If you can surround yourself with positivity it will last the whole day through.

    Great article!



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