Turn a bad day around

When it is one of those days, where nothing I planned to do ever happened, and kids were needy or the house was messy, or sleep was lacking the night before, it is so tempting for me to just throw in the towel. My perfectionism kicks in and I give up. I tell myself the day is going so badly, why even try? Nothing I do is going to make a difference.

This mentality has usually led to me contributing to the problem, as if I want to make sure the day that was going badly, ends badly. It’s like I’m driving along a road, in a hurry to get where I need to be, and I pass a sign that says “Dead End” and I shrug and say, that can’t be right, and keep going. Then I see another sign “Warning: Cliff Ahead”, this pisses me off because this is the route I planned on using, there is no way there is a cliff. When I see the sign that says “Turn back now!” I just floor it, and then find myself broken and bleeding in a ravine at the bottom of the cliff. And usually by then my pride is so wounded by how stupid I’d been, I refuse to call for help.

Lately I’ve been realizing that I have the power to see the signs and turn around. There is nothing compelling me to make a bad day worse. So these are some of the tools that help me stay on the road, when I remember to use them.

#1 “Hit Pause”- So when I see that first “Dead End” sign (although around here it usually looks more like a toddler who didn’t sleep last night, or a grumpy preschooler who doesn’t want to get with the program) I can hit pause. I can stop and think about where we are headed, I can even turn around and choose a different route. I can hit pause and take a deep breath or even a mommy time out if I need it. There is nothing that obligates me to pound my head against the wall to try and force something that is not going to happen. I am the one driving my car, so I get to choose when to hit the brakes. I can be OK with the fact that a child isn’t co-operating and seek to determine the need or feeling behind the conflict instead of ignoring all the signs and driving off the cliff. I can hit pause at any time, even if I have already ignored several signs, even if I am at the edge of the cliff.

#2 “Just be”- I can relax and take my time. This is supposed to be a scenic route, not a race. I can have the mindfulness to enjoy whatever moment I am living right now, instead of being preoccupied with today’s destination, or tomorrow’s moment. Maybe that means that I’m not going to get to the laundry today. Maybe today won’t be everything I imagined it could be, but maybe it will be better. Either way, I can experience my day and my relationships best by letting go and living in the now.

#3 “Enough”- I can let today be enough. Seriously, it is OK if we have a simple meal instead of a grand one. It’s OK if I can’t afford to get someone the gift I really wanted to get them. Maybe we won’t have enough time to decorate the entire house in one day, maybe I won’t be able to have that heartfelt conversation I was hoping for. That doesn’t mean that today was not enough, that I am not enough. Honestly, I think this is one of that hardest ones for me to remember. It is still hard for me to believe that I am enough, but accepting myself and others for who we are, and accepting the day as it comes, is a powerful asset in turning a not so great day around.

#4 “Connect”- One thing that helps me remember to just be, and always seems to help a bad day get better, is connection. Connecting with the people I love, nurturing the relationships in my life. Maybe it’s just a hug. Or stopping everything to read a book or have cookies and milk together. Maybe it’s snuggling under the same blanket and watching a movie with my Hunnie, or lighting a candle again and again so my two year old can blow it out over and over. Whatever it is, caring for myself and the people close to me always helps the day get a little better and reminds me what really matters.

#5 “Ask for help”- This is important. This is what helps me remember that it is never too late. Even if I am already at the bottom of the cliff, it is never to late to admit I am overwhelmed and need some help. I am not invincible, and I don’t need to be. Honest communication about my needs helps. Maybe someone can reassure me that everything is going to be fine, that my efforts were noticed, maybe someone can just watch my kids for long enough for me to take a shower. And even if there is nothing anyone can do to help me achieve my goals, I’ve found talking about it helps me recognize what I was trying to achieve, re-evaluate what is reasonable, and start again. It is OK that I am not able to do it all, it is OK to ask for help.

What are some strategies that help you turn a bad day around?


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Re-post: I am Not My Parents
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  • Anonymous

    Thank you. I really needed this today.

  • Rachel

    Thanks so much for this beautiful post! It's been an over-the-cliff sort of week, and it's good to be reminded that it doesn't have to be that way. Your kids are lucky to have a mom who is so thoughtful about her parenting!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02717668814070848449 Regina

    For me, it is a huge help for me to take a break from the situation. I often find myself getting increasingly frustrated with my children when one of them is being less than cooperative. If I don't step out of the situation to cool down and get some perspective, then we'll plug off the cliff into a horrible, terrible, no-good day. I call it my "mommy timeout." Sometimes it means the kids run around wild for a bit, but it definitely helps me regroup and get perspective.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03117752360285429048 Jessica

    Excellent advice!! I know exactly what you mean about just throwing in the towel and assuming the day is "lost" because things start out poorly. My strategy is to reach for what I call my "happiness arsenal"–music, tea, naming my blessings, things that I know calm me down and put me in a better state of mind.

  • Awakingsleep

    My 5yo daughter and I actually say, "this started out as a really bad day; let's start our day all over again!" and we take a deep breath and blow it out in a goofy exaggerated way. And then we try again.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04020053333476605856 Drea

    I don't have any kids myself, but when I have a rough day, I usually pick up a favorite children's book (I'm an avid reader). For some reason, reading those stories take me back to a happier time.

  • Anonymous

    Hi there. I'm new to your blog, but I have found your writing intriguing and beautiful, and many of the experiences you write about are remarkably similar to some of my own.

    I am a 25-year-old wife and mom. I was married at 19 to a wonderful man, and we now have 4 beautiful kids, ages 5, 4, 2 and 1. My husband and I both grew up in families who's lifestyles were very similar to what it sounds like your childhood family's lifestyle was like. He is the oldest of 11; I'm the oldest of 6. I wore dresses exclusively from the time I was 8 until just recently. My siblings and I were homeschooled and didn't have lives outside our home. We didn't listen to any secular or contemporary Christian music, didn't read fiction, didn't do anything that was age-segragated. We attended "normal" churches (mostly conservative Baptist or non-denominational) off and on and then home-churched with a couple other "like-minded" families (this home-church group is where my husband and I met). I didn't have any friends my own age and I was never encouraged to pursue anything more than a high-school education, and really didn't even get that. Birth control of any kind was wrong, a young girl trying – or even wanting – to look beautiful was wrong, and believing anything other than what dad and mom believed was wrong.

    Since our marriage 6 years ago, my husband and I have changed a lot. We recognize that our parents' lifestyle choices were largely fear-based and we've chosen to do things differently. I now wear pants, make-up and jewelry…I love it and so does my husband. We dance to country music. We enjoy wine at our dinner table. We talk with our little girl about being a mommy, but also ask her what else she might want to be someday. We adore our kids and are grateful for each of them…but we're not planning on having more right now because we want to raise the ones that we have WELL.

    All that to say, I think I've had a similar journey to yours. But one thing that I've yet to run across in your writing is what you believe about the Gospel. What do you believe about Jesus Christ and his work for his people?

    I have more to say…see the next comment!

  • Anonymous

    This comment is a continuation from one above…I hope this is understandable!

    Although I know my parents didn't believe that our lifestyle saved us, they did think that it earned us some sort of extra merit in God's eyes. But, even though it was a blurred, fuzzy, incomplete picture, my parents did recognize the truth of the Gospel. They new they were sinners and the only way to be right before God was through the blood of Jesus. And, by God's grace, I believe it is the Gospel and the slow but steady recognition of the JOY and LIBERTY that we have because of Jesus Christ that has freed us from the bondage of our old lifestyle. Not only my husband and I, but also our parents have changed. We realize that all the "things" we were doing before are not even biblical and certainly don't earn us anything in God's sight. It is ONLY because of Jesus' work on the cross that we can stand before God and have a real, vibrant relationship with him. And that relationship infiltrates EVERYTHING I do…down to the food on our table, the way I clean (and don't clean!)our house, letting my kids stomp in mud puddles, and the happy red color I paint my toenails.

    All throughout the ridiculous, messed up time that my childhood was, His grace was holding us. And having lived through all that crap and seeing the truth about it on the other side only makes his grace more beautiful.

    My heart breaks as I read your story, because I can relate to it. I know the pain of feeling like you just can't be good enough, feeling like you're sequestered from everything and everyone around you, caged from real happiness. But I also know that the only freedom I have found from these chains is Christ.

    So I guess my question for you is what DO you believe in regards to the Gospel? I pray that you find true rest, acceptance and joy in him if you haven't already.

    Very sincerely,

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Hey Jessica, I'm still figuring out what I believe or don't believe. You can find what I've written about that journey in the categories on the side of my blog.

  • http://pathofthebeagle.com The Beagle

    >> What are some strategies that help you turn a bad day around?

    1) When I stop to marvel at the fact that I am even conscious enough to be depressed, the depression goes away. I blogged about this here: http://pathofthebeagle.com/2011/08/13/on-losing-almost-all-of-my-future/

    2) When I stop long enough to see the beauty that is almost always before me, life seems too glorious to be depressed. See http://pathofthebeagle.com/2011/11/07/beauty-on-its-own-terms/

    3) Sometimes I just to say, "You know what? Life is too short to waste it on being depressed. I'm going to think about something else." Sounds stupid, but it works for me.