We all have ‘bad days’ from time to time. Where everything spirals rapidly out of control, you’re tired before the day even starts, and grumpy and irritable seems to be your default position. I’ve had my fair share of these suckers over the last few years, so I know exactly how you feel. But I’ve discovered that just because a day starts off badly, it doesn’t have to end that way. Here are 5 Things to do when you’re having a bad day to turn it into a good one. (Or at the very least, a BETTER one!)
“Have a nice day!”
Let’s be honest, we all have bad days sometimes. Am I right? From the moment you step out of bed and get stabbed in the foot by a teeny tiny little dolls shoe, through to tantrums over breakfast because you didn’t know your toddler wanted her banana whole and not cut up. (Even though that’s how she wanted it yesterday!)
Your toddler’s behaviour feels like it’s out of control, and you feel helpless to do anything about it. On top of that, your usually delightful baby is teething and unhappy.
It’s all seems a bit of a struggle, and it’s not even 8am yet!
On days like these, motherhood feels like it’s slipping away from you. You feel incompetent, unqualified and alone, telling yourself you’re the worst mother in the world. And wondering how things got so out of hand so fast.
Does anyone know what I’m talking about right now?
Is it even possible to fix a bad day once it starts, or should you just resign yourself to it, let it run its course, and hope for a better tomorrow?
See related post: 4 Things “mum-of-two” me wishes she could say to “mum-of-one” me
A bad start
Last week, I had one of those days!
I had an intuition right at the start of the day that it was going to be a bad one, that I was in for a rough ride. At that point, I should have hit the pause button before proceeding. I should have taken a moment to stop, and breathe. To pray. God knows I needed to do that. Literally.
But I didn’t.
I was too busy.
I needed to leave the house by 9.30 and had a lot of things to do in order to make that happen. There was definitely no time for exploding nappies, projectile vomiting or challenging toddler behaviour.
By 9.15 ultimatums were flying around the house like pound notes at a Greek wedding.
“We’re not going out!”
By 9.30 I had cancelled the outing to our beloved parent and toddler group. I had foolishly threatened my toddler that if she didn’t tidy up her toys she would not be going. Her response had been to deliberately throw more toys across the room and kick them out of sight and reach.
As much as it pained me, I had to follow through with my words.
Epic. Mummy. Fail.
See related post: 16 Ways to Encourage Your Toddler To Tidy Up
To be honest, I think I was more upset about the cancelled plans than Zoe. I had been looking forward to catching up with my mummy friends and having some adult conversation. Instead, I felt stuck at home with a stropper threenager and an unsettled baby.
Now I think about it, Zoe was not the only one in a bad mood that morning.
The morning continued to deteriorate from there.
In need of some “me” time
By 10am I was ready for some space. Craving some peace and quiet. Some ‘me’ time.
And finally I had it as nap time finally arrived. (Theirs, not mine, I hasten to add).
Having dispatched my little loves to their separate bedrooms, I sat on the sofa, and thought about what a disaster the morning had been. Then the tears fell. Tears of frustration, of exhaustion; physical and emotional, of guilt that I hadn’t handled things better.
And, if I am being completely honest with myself,tears of self pity.
In short, I was having a bad day. And I needed to fix it before it went from bad to worse!
Let’s assess the situation
At this point in the film of my life, the professor would pause the footage of my morning shenanigans, and ask this question of his students:
‘Where did it all go wrong?’
As I sat there, hot tears dripping off the end of my chin, I started to ask myself the same question. Why could I not seem to get my toddler to listen to me? How did she manage to push all my buttons and get me all in a tizz? Why was I so grumpy and impatient with her?
Can you see how many of the questions involve the words: ‘I’ and ‘me’?
Students, I think we may have got to the heart of the issue. And I think it is a heart issue. My heart to be precise.
I can’t really place the blame on her. After all, she is only a toddler.
Pushing boundaries is in her job description.
Ignoring instructions is her default position.
But me on the other hand? Surely I have enough years of life experience behind me, of being under pressure and keeping a clear head, of handling difficult situations and people whilst remaining patient and kind, that I should be infinitely better at handling mornings like these, with my precious daughter, whom I love so so much!
You would think so!
Patience is a virtue…
Recently, I have been reading a lot of awesome posts about how to be more patient as a mum, how to shout less, how to be kind rather than cross, how to be a more ‘fun mum’.
As I sat there on the sofa, thoughtfully, and a little prayerfully, reviewing what had gone wrong that morning, I decided that something had to change.
It would be very unlikely that my toddler would wake up from her afternoon nap a transformed child. There would still be dramas and struggles to come.
No, the something that needed to change? That was me.
I knew that to some extent at least, I would have little control over the actions of my toddler. But I could control my actions. I had the power to decide how I would respond to any challenges that come along. Would I respond with grace or with a grump? Would I be patient or pedantic?
Time to start over
In that moment, I decided that it’s never too late in the day to ‘start over.’ And if I was serious about wanting things to change, then to paraphrase a famous Gandhi quote, I would need to be the change I wanted to see.
Here are 5 Things to do when you’re having a bad day . 5 ways you can stop a bad day in it’s tracks and send it packing. All very simple things you can do to help you start over when the day is not going the way you would like it to. And you should.
You don’t have to simply ‘ride out’ the bad days, when you have the power to change them.
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The first thing you can do when you’re having a bad day is pretty simple: Smile.
According to Dr Michael Lewis, a psychologist at Cardiff University, “Simply using the same muscles as smiling will put you in a happier mood.”
Or as Charles Darwin suggested “our facial expressions may actually intensify our feelings”.
Other studies have shown that people with the physical inability to smile, (could you imagine?) often suffer more from depression than those who are able to smile.
I will not go into all the details, (you can read all about the benefits of smiling here), but suffice to say, scientifically speaking, the physical act of smiling can of itself make you happy. Or at least, happier.
Wow. Mind blown.
Who just smiled?
So, next time you’re having a bad day, or even just a bad moment, check your face. Are you scowling and frowning? Is your face tense and angry? Are your shoulders hunched? Has the twinkle gone out of your eye?
Relax those facial muscles, lower your shoulders, release the tension. Or to put it another way, turn that frown upside down. Smile girl!
I don’t know about your little ones, but I think Zoe responds much better to a smile, than a snarl. Understandable really. Who wouldn’t?
Simples. It is worth a go.
The second thing you can do when you’re having a bad day is this: Pray.
That particular bad day started off with a feeling that it wasn’t going to be a good one. In that moment, very early in the day, I observed that I should have taken a moment to stop and pray before it unravelled.
But instead I rushed headfirst into the drama. Tired. Short tempered. Busy. Unprepared.
Sitting on the sofa that day, I remembered a poem by Grace L. Naessens that I used to have on a poster in my room when I was younger:
I Didn’t Have Time
I got up early one morning
And rushed right into the day!
I had so much to accomplish
That I didn’t have time to pray.
Problems just tumbled about me,
And heavier came each task.
“Why doesn’t God help me?” I wondered.
He answered, “You didn’t ask!”
I tried to come into God’s presence;
I used all my keys at the lock.
God gently and lovingly chided,
“Why, child, you didn’t knock!”
I wanted to see joy and beauty,
But the day toiled on, gray and bleak.
I wondered why God didn’t show me.
He said, “But you didn’t seek.”
I woke up early this morning,
And paused before entering the day.
I had so much to accomplish
That I had to take time to pray!
Nipped in the bud
I cannot help but wonder how much of my morning’s dramas could have been avoided if I had simply prayed first.
Maybe Zoe would have still ended up throwing toys, but I am sure that my heart would have been in a better place to respond with patience and grace.
And surely that’s half the battle, isn’t it? How we respond.
Prayer isn’t limited to a morning routine.
I can invite God to be involved in what I do throughout the day, seeking His strength when I am worn out, and being continually filled with grace to handle situations with kindness and love.
3) BE INSPIRED
The third way you can turn a bad day around is to be inspired.
Who doesn’t like to be inspired? I’m inspired every day by something.
I love to hear other people’s stories and be encouraged to try something new. Being inspired spurs me on, encourages me to try new things and helps me see the bigger picture as a mum.
There are three main things that inspire me:
1. Other mums
Reading about how other mums overcome their struggles of motherhood is inspiring. It is so reassuring to know that my own doubts and fears are not unique to me. The community of mums out there is a great source of encouragement.
We’re all in this together. None of us are immune from having a bad day.
See related post: Winging It Through Motherhood
And if we listen to each other, we find a huge source of wisdom at our disposal. Let’s learn from those who have gone before us, who have experienced the same struggles we have, and who have overcome these challenges.
This sense of community with other mums can also be found in the amazing blogging community. I sincerely hope that you not only enjoy reading my posts each week, but that you also feel encouraged and inspired by my mistakes and lightbulb moments.
I would love for you to join the growing community over at Mum About The Home, and be kept up to date with all the news and latest posts from my neck of the woods. If you’d like to stay in touch, you can subscribe here.
Since I started this blogging adventure, I have come across some really inspiring mum bloggers. Two of my absolute favourites are The Better Mom, and Her View From Home. Honestly, if you take nothing away from this post, other than to fall in love with these wonderful blogs and get seriously inspired, I will be happy!
2. The Bible
Even more than the encouragement I get from hearing other mum’s stories, I find reading the Bible a great comfort and strength in the face of motherhood challenges.
It’s truth reminds me that there is a bigger picture than this snapshot of a moment I am living right now. It grounds me in the knowledge that I am not in this struggle alone. It’s words give me perspective and hope.
When I feel so completely exhausted, and like I have nothing else to offer, I hear these words being whispered into my heart: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
When I feel like I have no idea how to respond to a situation I’m facing, I am reminded of this call: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
It also shapes me.
When I take the time to meditate on it’s words, something amazing happens: heart transformation. Forget self help and mindfulness, God’s help and a renewal of the mind is what is truly needed to make a lasting difference!
Hannah, Mum About The Home
Forget self help and mindfulness, God’s help and a renewal of the mind is what is truly needed to make a lasting difference!
Only when I turn to him, and cry out for “help” does my day truly start to recover. And it starts with me!
3. Other encouraging books
As well as the bible itself, there are other good books out there to encourage you to keep going. One such book is ‘Unshakeable’ by Christine Caine. This book of 365 daily devotionals will encourage you to keep going in the very shakeable world of motherhood. Anchored in the knowledge that we have the Kingdom of God within us, and that Kingdom is unshakeable.
What other books have you found helpful?
Another helpful thing you can do to when you’re having a bad day is to breathe.
I know how silly it sounds. Of course you need to breathe. Otherwise you’d be dead, right. Well, yes, you have a point there. But there’s more to it than that.
I read a great article recently by Lauren, who blogs over at Military Wife and Mom, talking about some breathing exercises she uses to help herself fall asleep quickly. It’s worth a read!
Although these exercises have been designed specifically with sleep in mind, the effects of slowing your heart rate and increasing oxygen to the bloodstream is also beneficial when you need to calm down.
Let’s face it, anything that helps us to relax, when dealing with frustrating toddler behaviour, is a good thing.
Sometimes, we just have to stop, pause, and breathe.
Next time you feel the smile slipping from your face, and you know the scowl is on it’s way, stop. Take a deep breath, and another one, and another. Keep going. Close your eyes if you need to.
Your toddler may wonder what you’re doing. Ha, if your little one is anything like mine, she’ll probably copy you. And if you’re both sitting there having a self imposed ‘time out’ to stop and breathe, that can’t be a bad thing can it?!
5) FORGIVE QUICKLY AND MOVE ON
Finally, the fifth thing you can do when you’re having a bad day is to forgive quickly and move on.
Sometimes, Zoe’s behaviour really winds me up.
Puh-leaze, would you just stop jumping on your bed! (Time for me to practise those breathing exercises I just told you about.)
It’s like she knows exactly how to get a reaction, and she relishes her power over me.
In reality, although this might be how it feels to me, the chances are, she is not deliberately going out of her way to wind me up. (That is just a happy coincidence!)
If your experience is anything like mine, Zoe tends to move on super fast from whatever drama she is in the middle of. She can be throwing toys around the room one minute, ignoring my every attempt at intervention, and the next minute she is quietly sitting down on the sofa reading a book.
AS IF NOTHING HAD JUST HAPPENED!
I, on the other hand, still have smoke coming out of my ears.
“Stop it!” (That’s me talking to myself)
Let it go
Sometimes, immediately after a conflict, a precious moment arises. It’s the calm AFTER the storm. But if I am still smarting over the altercation that just took place, I risk missing it completely. This is definitely the treasure in the trials that I talk about throughout my blog.
I do not want to miss these precious, relationship-building moments with her just because I’m still feeling annoyed over a previous silly conflict. (Of course, there is a place for discipline, but that is a separate issue).
I need to stop stewing.
Forgive quickly and move on. Go and sit on the sofa, cuddle up and read that book. And enjoy the sweet innocence and desire to spend time together.
This is grace in action.
Is it undeserved favour? Yessir!
Do I find it a struggle to ‘get over myself’ and give her a cuddle? If I’m honest, yes.
Is it the loving way I’m treated by my heavenly daddy each and every time I throw a tantrum one minute and then ask for his help the next? Absolutely.
So there you have my 5 Things to do when you’re having a bad day . Easy huh!?
Back to that bad day
For those of you who are wondering how the rest of that day panned out, after my revelatory sob-fest on the sofa, it got better. Not sparkles and rainbows better. But a drastic improvement on the first half of the day. That’s a win in my eyes!
It turned out to be an OK day, rather than the awful day that it was heading towards.
But better than that, after this low point with the ugly crying on the sofa, I have been much more deliberate and intentional in my desire to not revisit this mess.
What about now?
It has been several months now since this ‘bad morning’ happened. Whilst we have still had some challenging moments along the way (that’s motherhood for you) implementing these changes has preventing these from gatecrashing the whole day.
You can’t take the trials out of motherhood. That’s not a realistic expectation, and if you’re hoping to do this, I’m afraid you will be very disappointed along the way. But you can search for the treasure amongst the trials. It’s right there, if only we want to see it.
I’m sure that just like me, you have some super challenging times as a mum. What do you do when you feel like you’ve reached the end of your capacity? Do you write off the day as ‘one of those days’, and eagerly look forward to the next day, hoping it will be better? Or do you do something proactive to try to nip it in the bud?
I’d love to hear from you either way.