In a recent interview on Dax Shepard's podcast, Armchair Expert, his wife Kristen Bell shared a tip for combatting her depression: Before she allows herself to succumb to negativity, or get into a really bad mental space, she goes through a "to-do" list of action items she can do to make herself feel better. We aren't suggesting that a simple checklist can pull someone out of depression—but the idea of being proactive in the face of negativity appealed to our entire office, and inspired us to create our own checklists to go through when we start to feel down or anxious:
1. Get moving: A few weeks ago, I woke up in a foul mood for no reason I could identify. I simply felt stressed and on-edge. Because I had already been planning on going for a walk, I went through the motions of getting ready. I put on workout gear, queued up a podcast, and headed out the door. Maybe it's because I had built-up tension I wasn't aware I need to release, but I ended up speed-walking, completing my regular loop in a fraction of the time. By the time I arrived home, I was practically euphoric. The combination of fresh air and exercise completely flipped my mood, and lasted the entire day.
2. Shift perspectives: On a recent Saturday, G was out on an hours-long bike ride, and I was back home with Sloan—who was in a bad mood, and testing my own. Rather than join her in sulking, or push back against her bad behavior, I decided to shift my perspective and pretend I was babysitting her, dropping the rules I'd normally enforce as in "mom mode" like zero screen time and a healthy, homemade lunch. We ended up ordering-in ramen, listening to (and singing along with) Frozen, doing puzzles together, and watching an episode of her favorite show. The shift was entirely in how I processed the afternoon—from rule-following mom, to fun-time babysitter—but it was exactly what we both needed in that moment.
3. Self care: When in doubt, indulging in luxurious self care practices never fails to improve my mood. I'll pop open an expensive face mask, give myself a manicure, do my hair, and get in a bath with my favorite 'bath truffles' (and, more often than not, Sloan too).
1. Walk around the block: Getting outside is often the last thing I want to do in the moment, but my mood always improves once I'm out there. At this point, I have go-to routes from the office and home that only take ten minutes. I'll put on a podcast or meditation app like Headspace, and though I usually only have time to head out for a few minutes (especially if the anxiety is stress-related), I always feel like a completely different person by the end.
2. Journal: Anything that inspires creativity makes me feel better—but feeling creative is almost impossible when you're down in the dumps, which is why I often follow Julia Cameron's advice to do something called "Morning Pages." The idea, from her book The Artists Way, is that you write three pages by hand, about whatever comes to mind. Often, I write about whatever's making me feel anxious, and just the act of getting it on paper helps diminish it into a problem with a clear, actionable solution. Other times, I end up writing fiction, or jotting down ideas for blog posts, which helps me refocus my attention onto something productive and enjoyable.
3. Spend time with friends: At the end of a long day, my instinct is to head home and curl up with a book or movie, solo. But any time I talk myself into stopping at a friend's house, I never regret it. Simply being with friends, catching up over a glass of wine or cooking dinner together, never fails to give me energy back, and makes me feel instantly better.
1. Book a trip: A few months ago, I was having a particularly blah day. I got a parking ticket, was way behind on my to-do list, and felt homesick for New York. My boyfriend suggested that we check the price of round trip tickets to NYC, and lo and behold, they were so much more affordable that usual (it mayyy have had something to do with the destination being on the East Coast during the winter). We booked the flights, and with something to look forward to, I was instantly put in a better mood. In the future, I might not commit to something so far away, and instead book a staycation or even a reservation to a pricer restaurant I wouldn't otherwise visit.
2. Bake: This has always been my go-to way to self-soothe. My go-to's are classic Peanut Blossoms or if I'm in need of a quick fix, I whip out the Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownie Mix (since I have a Costco-sized box in my kitchen at all times), which, in my humble opinion, are the best batch of brownies I've ever had.
3. Read: I spend so. much. time. on my phone (kind of a necessity when your job is in social media), and I recognize that more often than not, my blah days tend to happen when I'm glued to a screen. Reading a novel (not on a Kindle or an iPad) is one of my favorite ways to unwind and remove myself from any bad juju. I'm currently reading The Secret History by Donna Tartt, which I've been told is even better than her other, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Goldfinch.
1. Full body cuddle with Alexa: There's nothing better than cuddling with my husky girl when I've had a bad day. Giving her millions of kisses and pets makes me feel better almost immediately! I love when she flips onto her back with her paws in the air; it's the funniest and most precious thing in the world.
2. Take a long shower: I don't really believe in astrology, but apparently I'm a "water sign," so maybe that's why taking a long shower is so relaxing to me? I do some of my best thinking in the shower, so it lets me clear my head and detox from the day (I usually shower at night for this reason—showers don't wake me up, they put me to sleep!).
3. Re-watch a few episodes of my favorite TV shows: When I'm feeling bummed, I re-watch my favorite TV shows: the ones where I know the characters so well they feel like old friends. Sometimes I just need an episode or two, and sometimes I'll go for an entire season. My shows are Buffy the Vampire Slayer (not ashamed!) and Sex and The City.
1. Go see a movie: When I'm down about something, I can sometimes go into an obsessive spiral, going over each excruciating detail of whatever is making me feel poorly that day. When I start to see the signs, I instantly look up movie times. Being fully immersed in someone else's story totally pulls me out of my head, and usually gives me the cathartic cry I need.
2. Tackle tasks: Focusing on a task also works for me. If I'm feeling down, I'll seek out a new recipe or start to clean. Soon enough, I'm listening to music, laughing with my boyfriend, and completely forgetting about what I was obsessing over before.
3. Treat myself: I live for the drama, and sometimes the best solution to a bad day is totally pampering yourself and giving in to your emotions. Whether it's booking a facial or ordering in my favorite sushi, that rom-com "treat yo self" mentality makes me feel like a new person.
Do you have any key strategies for getting over bad days? Let us know in the comments!