Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Four Ways to Decrease Stress and Feel Better After a Bad Day

We’ve all had bad days.  Maybe your boss chewed you out at work, or maybe you lost something important or forgot to save a key document before your computer crashed.  Basically, something happened that just plain sucks.

A lot of people will tell you to just “let go” of that bad day and “move on,” or offer some other hopelessly upbeat advice without any explanation of how, exactly, you’re supposed to do so.  Up until a couple of months ago, this list would’ve been comprised of “bourbon, beer, vodka, and wine.”  However, since I’ve been trying to cut back on booze recently, I thought it might be helpful to give you four of the healthier ways that I deal with stress or just a shitty day.

1. Play a Board Game or Otherwise Hang Out with Friends

This is probably my “go to” option.  Ideally, you’d slot away some time to sit around with some friends and crack a bottle of wine (to share!) or a couple of beers and talk about stuff completely unrelated to whatever is bothering you.  This shouldn’t give you license to turn the gathering into a “bitching” session for whatever has gone wrong, but should instead be used as a way to distance yourself from whatever happened.  Board games are perfect for this situation, as they involve active, creative thinking about a completely unrelated topic.  Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan are my favorites, but basically anything but Scategories will work; I’ve seen friendships and relationships taken to the brink during games of Scategories, as people can argue over whether or not two adjectives describing a given word (“Tired Toothless Tigers”) count as a point each.  Save yourself the hassle and stick to something else.

2. Write Something or Do Something Else Creative

I’ve found that writing something, be it a blog post or part of my novel or just writing stream-of-consciousness in a journal really helps me to clear my head.  Maybe this is because, you know, I’m a writer, but I think it applies equally to painting, drawing, writing poetry, or whatever your favorite creative outlet is.  I know it’s easy to come home, take out a pint of ice cream and watch a “feel good” movie or some reality TV to make yourself feel better about the world, but it’s far healthier to put any residual negative feelings toward actually creating something.  The sense of accomplishment you derive from whatever the end product is will make you feel much better about yourself and the way your day is going.

3. Meditate

“Pfft.  Whatever, man, you’ve lost it.  What kind of New Agey bullshit is this?”  Scoff all you want, but I’ve found that a meditation session can really clear your mind and make you feel a lot better.  How do you meditate?  I actually use a CD with a routine on it.  My go-to is the Healing Waterfall II, but here’s a blog post with a few more ideas for tapes if you like variety.  They might seem a little corny at first, but keep an open mind, and actually follow what they tell you to do, and you’ll start to feel better.

4. Exercise

When I’m feeling a bit sluggish, I pop in one of my workout DVDs and work up a good sweat.  It forces me to focus on something different, while producing plenty of mood-elevating endorphins that make me feel much better.  This has the added benefit of making me look and feel better the next day, too.  The only drawbacks?  Be sure to drink plenty of water and get your electrolytes from a low-calorie source, like G2 .

So next time you want to just wallow in self-pity after a particularly draining or horrible day, try one (or a few) of these strategies instead.  Sure, they require a little more effort, but I guarantee you’ll feel better in the long run than  if you just sit around like a lump of shit, watching more boring, mind-numbing TV.

Do you have something that helps you cope with stress or bad days that I’ve left off the list?  Wondering why I didn’t include bourbon?  Let me know in the comments.

D.J. Gelner is a writer, entrepreneur, and recovering attorney in St. Louis, Missouri. You can e-mail him at Follow him on twitter @djgelner. Friend him on facebook here.


  1. My Go To's: Friends, exercise, walks outside when it's nice out, calling friends/family to catch up on their lives and distract you from yours, and the occasional good cry while listening to depressing music (preferably while hugging your dog) followed by nap - whatever, sometimes it's nice to wallow. And booze.

  2. Yeah, I wanted to use the dog one, but I figured not everyone had that option. Have you ever considered listening to "Sunshine on My Shoulder," or some similarly more upbeat music?


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