You ever have one of those days?
December 4, 2008 12:18 PM   Subscribe

I'm having an "off day" for no particular reason. Feeling grouchy & peevish. This is dumb. Please help me fix it.

Specifics are unnecessary, but basically a few things went wrong. Nothing major, mostly on the scale of "annoying". And there were some unrelated problems that all happened in a row- a small stack of irritating coincidences, starting in the morning and compounding all day, probably slightly exacerbated by my worsening mood.

I'm fully aware that I should just let inconsequential stuff like this roll off my back, and how lucky I am to be alive & healthy in a nice country & etc. But nevertheless, I feel grumpy, petulant, discouraged, and annoyed at myself for reacting this way. It's just a bad day, fer Pete's sake, get over it, right?

I have a few things I usually do to try and fix bad days, but suddenly it occurred to me that you probably have even better ideas. So, hive mind, what are your best strategies? How do you turn a bad day around?
posted by pseudostrabismus to Human Relations (53 answers total) 84 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer:

You're welcome.
posted by Dorri732 at 12:24 PM on December 4, 2008 [4 favorites]

You need a jump start. I recommend blasting Dolly Parton, as loud as possible.
posted by roger ackroyd at 12:25 PM on December 4, 2008

I blog/write and just bitch up a storm. That way I can be enraged without scaring anyone unnecessarily. It's amazingly therapeutic.

Also, I'd highly recommend running and/or kickboxing, or something highly physical.

I do also sometimes get so stressed out that I talk to myself. Specifically, in the deep privacy of my home, I'll put on some angry music and just start no one in particular, ranting about all the things that piss me off. My plants don't seem to mind.
posted by December at 12:26 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yes, something physical. Even if it's jumping in place.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:28 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

These kinds of moods can often be chemical. Try doing some pushups or go for a job to get some better chemicals moving around.
posted by crickets at 12:28 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

... joG. Go for a jog.
posted by crickets at 12:28 PM on December 4, 2008

Well... If it truly is just "one of those days" and nothing serious. I usually do a few things.
1) Listen to some angry music and scream. Then realize it's ok to be mad. I normally don't like this song but it's great for these times. Limp Bizkit - Break Stuff. If you don't like the song, at least read the lyrics.

2) Go hang out with friends to distract your mind. Or call a good friend just to vent and say hey, life sucks right now. But if you're in one of those moods you don't want to see anyone, then try watching tv.

3) Go to the gym and channel some of that energy into something physical. Just channel all that anger and frustration into trying even harder.

Whatever you do, just make sure you don't hurt anyone (including yourself).
posted by Wanderer7 at 12:29 PM on December 4, 2008

I dance to silly YouTube videos.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:30 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

May or may not be an option at any given time, but: a really good hug, and/or kiss, does wonders for me.

Alternate strategies I use: something physical like pummelling a punching bag or sofa and, when I run out of steam, immediately eating something really tasty. Physical exertion + bunch of grapes is my usual method for rapid cooldown.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:31 PM on December 4, 2008

I hang out with my cats and dogs. If you don't have any, go to the zoo. Seriously, it's great in winter - no crowds. Don't pet the lions, though.

I definitely, definitely recommend getting away from the computer and preferably out in nature. You don't have to go backpacking or anything like that - a nice walk along a lakefront will do just fine. I don't know Toronto at all, but maybe one of the answers from your first question will be suitable. After all, you did ask for pretty and colorful, and pretty colors brighten up any day.
posted by desjardins at 12:32 PM on December 4, 2008

I'll agree with music. Find something just as pissed off as you and and play that as loud as your ears will tolerate. After a couple songs just as angry, try something calmer or happier. You gotta feel the anger before it will go away.
posted by valadil at 12:32 PM on December 4, 2008

Best answer: This might sound like a horrible idea, but is there a moderately onerous task that you have been avoiding doing?

If so, do it. You can take your frustrations out on it (for example, cleaning a bathroom- I don't recommend taking your frustrations out on repairing a priceless vase).

You'll get the thing done, and feel better for having done it. Listening to music also helps, as many have mentioned.
posted by charmcityblues at 12:32 PM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Go for a run/walk/swim what-have-you to get the blood flowing. Bonus is to do this outdoors. Then go home, take a nice warm shower with good smelling soap and get clean. I enjoy putting lotion on my feet and then immediately putting warm socks on (this always makes me feel refreshed, but that might just be a weird personal thing). Anyway, then you get yourself a pleasant beverage of choice and sit down with a paper and pen. Write down the names of people your really like, people who make the world a better place for you. Then write down some concrete things you could do for each of them that might bring them a little joy. Try not to focus on yourself or your bad day or why you feel upset. Focus on other people. This always helps me.
posted by RingerChopChop at 12:33 PM on December 4, 2008 [17 favorites]

I always go towards what ever is bothering me. Usually these moods for me are centered in a part of the body. I focus on that part of the body and just go to the bad place and sit there and let the stuff work itself out. Its fighting to get out and I give it all the help I can.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:34 PM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

Me, I use a beverage. Sure, it seems lame but within 30 minutes I mind the mood altering noticeably without any further thought than just drinking the beverage.

The ingredients for the drink at work are caffeine and, on a particularly bad day, sugar.
At home, usually it's alcohol.

A lot of times grumpiness is caused by low blood sugar; low blood sugar can make mild annoyances things that won't go away. So a Snickers bar or some form of sugar.

Sometimes bad moods are low energy, that's where the caffeine comes in.

For both of the above in a single punch, try Mt. Dew.
posted by arniec at 12:34 PM on December 4, 2008

I recommend a nice walk and some sushi - it always cheers me up. Or, if that isn't possible, how about a short nap?
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:35 PM on December 4, 2008

Best answer: Here's what I do when things go wrong: I grab a nice piece of paper and write down everything I wish I'd done/hadn't done, or that I regret, or that I want. It can be anything, as if I could literally snap my fingers and get it, or go back in time to change it, or whatever. I write down whatever is annoying or bothering me, basically.

Then, I go back through that list and jot down "I can't do anything about that" next to the entries that it seems I really can't do anything about... But, as I do this, I am making another list of things it seems I can realistically do right now to make my situation better (or make sure it doesn't get worse). Then I get to work on those things.
posted by Theloupgarou at 12:44 PM on December 4, 2008 [9 favorites]

For me, I actually find that trying to tell myself things like "I should just let inconsequential stuff like this roll off my back, and how lucky I am to be alive & healthy in a nice country & etc." actually makes things worse -- because all that may be true, but stuff still gets under our skin, you know? So trying to force myself to snap out of it, trying to cover up what I legitimately feel, just makes it all the worse, because then it kind of highlights and underlines the fact that I'm in a Mood.

I often find that just going ahead and admitting "alright, dammit, this is pissing me off" and having a mini little pity-party actually HELPS, because it's as if an inner part of my psyche was just waiting for me to admit that "this sucks!" And then that inner part of my pscyche has its validation, and says "thank you, that's all I wanted to hear you say" and goes away.

Sometimes sulking and letting yourself just be in a crappy mood is okay, you know? Going ahead and admitting to yourself that "you know what, fuck being noble, this sucks" is okay. Trying to tell yourself "Oh, come on, snap out of it, this is nothing," may be counterproductive.

...It's worth a shot, anyway. But it always works for me. It's a sort of Zen approach to moods -- accepting what you feel in a given moment -- and it does tend to make my moods evaporate pretty quickly.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:46 PM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

posted by cucumberfresh at 12:51 PM on December 4, 2008

I find that I'm happier when I'm more willing to express negative emotions, rather than keeping them bottled up, even if they're ridiculous. Like, "bob, your oatmeal stinks." I don't say it in an angry way, just a matter-of-fact way. If I don't say it, then it just festers, and I get pissy. Basically, give yourself permission to be annoyed/pissed off/angry, rather than beating yourself up for it.

Also, exercise does wonders.
posted by mpls2 at 12:54 PM on December 4, 2008

posted by pixlboi at 12:54 PM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Here is a list of the things that I employ when having a bad day or need a kick start: a pedicure, a very good cup of coffee, a hot bath, a glass of wine, a brisk walk, a new magazine, a cuddle with my dog, a long hug from a good friend, a walk through an antique mall. I hope tomorrow is better.
posted by sulaine at 12:56 PM on December 4, 2008

Sometimes when I'm in a foul mood I find that I just need to distract myself with something pleasant but easy (like watching a movie, or baking, if I'm at home) and wait for it to pass. I'm fortunate in that for me it always does pass; I hope it is the same for you.
posted by needs more cowbell at 1:04 PM on December 4, 2008

Away, melancholy,
Away with it, let it go.

Are not the trees green,
The earth as green?
Does not the wind blow,
Fire leap and the rivers flow?
Away, melancholy.

The ant is busy
He carrieth his meat,
All things hurry
To be eaten or eat.
Away, melancholy.

Man, too, hurries,
Eats, couples, buries,
He is an animal also
With a hey ho melancholy,
Away with it, let it go.

Man of all creatures
Is superlative
(Away melancholy)
He of all creatures alone
Raiseth a stone
(Away melancholy)
Into the stone, the god
Pours what he knows of good
Calling, good, God.
Away melancholy, let it go.

Speak not to me of tears,
Tyranny, pox, wars,
Saying, Can God
Stone of man's thoughts, be good?
Say rather it is enough
That the stuffed
Stone of man's good, growing,
By man's called God.
Away, melancholy, let it go.

Man aspires
To good,
To love

Beaten, corrupted, dying
In his own blood lying
Yet heaves up an eye above
Cries, Love, love.
It is his virtue needs explaining,
Not his failing.

Away, melancholy,
Away with it, let it go.

Stevie Smith (1902-1971)
posted by jeeves at 1:04 PM on December 4, 2008 [4 favorites]

I like to go for a brisk walk with headphones on, listening to loud music (sometimes feel-good, sometimes hate the world stuff) and singing out loud. Don't mind if people look at you, they're admiring your looks/style/singing voice/taste in music. It ALWAYS works for me.
posted by Night_owl at 1:05 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've been using those puppies a lot too.

Otherwise, eat (something to get blood sugar up but not something so sugary it'll crash later).

And make sure you get to do something active later today-- I like an activity that requires a fair amount of concentration (climbing, dancing, etc) so that it takes your mind off whatever stupid things have happened.
posted by nat at 1:07 PM on December 4, 2008

I get bad WEEKS sometimes (yay for PMS). The only thing that really worked is laughter. I got a bunch of friends who crack up like hyenas, and I usually crack up with them, which gets my spirits up a bit.

Sometimes I go down to the local comic store and read a book, getting lost in storyland, which makes me feel better, albeit a bit confused between reality and fantasy for a while (yeah, I'm REALLY into graphic novels). Plus, the store has a kitty who likes to lay in my lap (AWWWW...) and knead my legs with untrimmed claws (OWWWW...).

And then there's metal music...
posted by curagea at 1:15 PM on December 4, 2008

posted by mandal at 1:16 PM on December 4, 2008

Go to sleep early. I find that I often (but not always, unfortunately) feel better the next day.

I also try to remind myself that no matter how low I'm feeling, it always gets better eventually: "This, too, shall pass."
posted by cider at 1:17 PM on December 4, 2008

Take a dog for a walk. It will get you out in the fresh air and sunshine, which will make you feel better. It will get you moving, which will get the good chemicals going, which will make you feel better. You'll be doing good for another creature, which will make you feel better. Other people will smile at you and the dog, which will make you feel better. And it's free.
posted by HotToddy at 1:22 PM on December 4, 2008

If I am pissy about something I listen to the Beatles. Always works. Or you might dig through YouTube for some good Monty Python clips. If you play an instrument, spend half an hour really wailing on it.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:25 PM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

Think of many creative ways you can intimidate, sabotage, or even mildly hurt your enemies. Like using something to shank someone right in the ass with. Perhaps broken glass from a bottle of your least favorite beer? Using knives to stab people is oh so 1970's.

Don't do this stuff, of course, but just thinking about it should release some tension.
posted by sixcolors at 1:30 PM on December 4, 2008

Best answer: Toronto, huh? [Checks Toronto weather] Yep, looks like the weather up there has been pretty crappy today. I've come to the realization just in the past five years or so that my mood is more connected to the weather (and the amount of sunshine specifically) than I like to admit. When I'm having a day like that, it's usually on an overcast or rainy day. I almost never feel like that on days with bright sunshine, even if the bright sunshine is coupled with bone-chilling cold. What makes it worse is that all the good "get outside and get some sunshine" suggestions can't be done on days like that. I don't really have an answer as to how to fight it, except that just noting that the weather may be partly responsible seems to help a little bit.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:35 PM on December 4, 2008

I put really loud music on, not angry music, but happy music (anime for me, YMMV) and do a really thorough cleaning. It's a good combination of busywork (so I don't feel restless), upbeat songs to actually lift my mood, and not too intellectually taxing so I can still think about whatever I need to think about.

Alternatively, I pull up my favourite comedians. Or watch The Daily Show.
posted by Phire at 1:36 PM on December 4, 2008

Sleep on it.

You can't "fix" a bad day but you can look forward to the fact that if you rest up, the next day will be better.
posted by kittyprecious at 1:41 PM on December 4, 2008

A bath drawn as hot as my skin can stand and one of my favorite books. (I favor Zelazny or Pratchett in these situations.)
posted by Scattercat at 2:02 PM on December 4, 2008 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Also. Think about this problem from a distance for a moment. What you're trying do is break a bad cognitive loop. The process is about the same whether you're irritable, angry, moody, or depressed: you're looking for mental occupations that function as the equivalent of hitting a reset button, or tweaking a chemical switch from the outside. You need an all-consuming distraction. Bonus points if it has additional mood-boosting effects on your biochemistry.

Exercise (in sunlight if possible, but not required) is a very fast tweak for most people. Ideally, it should be at least moderately strenuous in order to really disengage that mental feedback loop. I speak as someone who hates to exercise: a strenuous uphill walk reliably provides mental relief.

Meditation works quickly if you have the ability to consciously disengage. Even if you don't, five or ten minutes of it can make a difference. If you can't meditate, then find an activity that simulates that type of disengagement. The more concentration it requires, the better, but don't pick something difficult or frustrating.
  • Cook, mix a cocktail, or brew coffee or tea from scratch.
  • Sit down somewhere with a pad of paper and a decent pen and draw something you don't normally draw, like a water faucet.
  • Craft things, like carpentry, knitting, car repair, origami, and the like work pretty well.
  • Do a few Sudoku puzzles or a word search. Find an online Flash game that will occupy you for at least five or ten minutes, or play other video games.
  • Brush your teeth, then spend some time flossing.
  • Walk somewhere you'd normally drive to.
  • Write. It doesn't really matter what you write about.
  • Fix something, knit something, clean something. Fold a bunch of paper cranes.
  • This is seriously underrated: take a nap.
Change your environment. Get away from where you are right now as a further break to mental associations. It doesn't necessarily have to be a fun destination. Get out, go to the drugstore, and pick up a new toothbrush or a different type of soap. Part of the reason exercise works is also the change of scenery.

Doing something nice for someone else can significantly boost mood, and fast. This sounds treacly and inspirational, but nevertheless, it works in a large number of people. It doesn't have to be a major gesture. Talk to the tired-looking cashier at the drugstore for a while, or make a donation online. Or make an appointment to donate blood.
posted by jeeves at 2:09 PM on December 4, 2008 [25 favorites]

I feel grumpy, petulant, discouraged, and annoyed at myself for reacting this way.

In my experience the best thing to do is just deal with it until bedtime. Most likely you didnt sleep well. If this is chronic then you should probably get tested for sleep apnea or start going to bed earlier, cutting out caffeine after 2 or 3pm, and not eating after 8 or 9.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:28 PM on December 4, 2008

Best answer: When this happens I declare "day bankruptcy." I stop, take a deep breath, and figuratively start the day over. I mentally draw a line behind me and say to myself, "Okay, that was Monday A and it sucked. Now it's going to be Monday B."

Bad stuff has a way feeding on itself, because bad stuff makes you angry and the anger makes more bad stuff happen. You get up late, which makes you all agitated, and then on the way to work you deal with a rude fellow-commuter, and it becomes a Thing because you're already agitated. That's when you declare the do-over.

It may sound silly but it actually works for me.
posted by Tin Man at 2:35 PM on December 4, 2008 [16 favorites]

Also, watching this guy's bad day does it for me:
posted by December at 2:37 PM on December 4, 2008

Best answer: I tend to go to bed early, if only so that nothing else bad can happen. Watch or read something comforting that does not leave scope for you or anyone else to fuck up.

Also, contain the bad mood. I had a few days like this recently and really had to tell myself that I could either smile and be patient (with my housemate, coworkers, newsagents staff, whatever) or keep to myself. No snide remarks, no snapping, no gritted teeth and eyerolling - postpone ultimatums, criticism and voicing discontent until a better day.

Otherwise, making myself go to the pool for an hour or bundling up and going for a long walk with my iPod will reset the clock for the next day, even if they don't help immediately. My natural long walk route takes me down to the sea, and it's hard to stay angry beside the sea. (Avoiding known irritants - such as, say, an aqua-aerobics group taking over half the pool - is vital.)
posted by carbide at 2:46 PM on December 4, 2008

blast some loud angry metal or rap and clean the bathroom or the kitchen or the grubbiest room you have. you get sweaty and really work out the anger at the stupid fucking mildew that will not go away!
posted by misanthropicsarah at 3:04 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh, also, it's no harm amassing a few things that act as automatic pick-me-ups. For me, one is a perfume that smells like clean laundry and old-fashioned scent (like eating your feelings but without the food), and another is this video. One man's one-liner is another's Rosalita, etc, and neither has to make sense.
posted by carbide at 3:17 PM on December 4, 2008

I call my sister up and whine and complain about my stupid day and she gently pokes fun at stupid old me until I feel better. This isn't something we can really plan, but it's our dynamic and it seems to work well. I know she cares about me and is NOT making fun of my problems and she can sort of give me a little perspective that I'm just in a snit, that I've been in snits before and that this one, like the ones before it will pass over me, more quickly if I just let it go.
posted by jessamyn at 3:26 PM on December 4, 2008

When I get in these moods, I bake, cook or clean. It just gets the energy out and the final product benefits everyone.

Hope you feel better!
posted by spec80 at 3:36 PM on December 4, 2008

Go for a good hard walk, preferably uphill.
posted by flabdablet at 3:49 PM on December 4, 2008

Suggestions (in no particular order)
- Cute Overload
- Playing rock band drums, especially more punk-y songs where you can go BANGBANGBANGBANGBANG
- A good night's sleep
- Delicious delicious takeout food
- Making cookies, then bribing people to come over for cookies
- Reading about something or someone completely unrelated
- Dressing up, especially if I'm by myself at home
posted by mismatched at 4:42 PM on December 4, 2008

posted by mandal

posted by cider

posted by HotToddy

posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit
It's uncanny how that little run of posts seems to describe my evenings.
posted by mandal at 5:15 PM on December 4, 2008 [3 favorites]

When I'm there, in that place, I buy a few pieces of china or glassware from the Goodwill store, then take them over to the dumpster and break them. It's cheap, nobody gets hurt, and I've found the thrill of smashing stuff is positively mood altering.
posted by mcbeth at 11:28 PM on December 4, 2008

I had the same off day yesterday, pseudostrabismus. Know what fixed it for me?

posted by LN at 5:57 AM on December 5, 2008

And hanging out with my man. :)
posted by LN at 5:59 AM on December 5, 2008

I usually nap - even for 20mn or so. I find that I sometimes can reset my day this way.
posted by motdiem2 at 6:06 AM on December 8, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. The next day was better and the day after that, better still.
Here's what did/does it for me:

Put on an energetic CD you loved in the 1990s. For me, this is the Barenaked Ladies. Sing along. Something about singing makes everything better.
Throw a batch of something in the oven (I keep powdered cookies on hand for this) and then clean the kitchen while they bake.
Have a conversation with a dear friend, but rather than discussing my problems, try to help her solve one of hers.
Push-ups or a run.
Watch The Office or 30-Rock.

In this case, I realized tha tmy bad mood spawned when someone frantically and tactlessly told me that something I did was going to be re-done. The person offered a pretty vague reason why, and their reason- which sounded lame to me- put my back up & sent me off on a trail of misplaced irritation, feeling that I was being unfairly blamed for something that wasn't my fault.

As it turned out, their vague explanation sounded maddening due to imprecise language on their part- the person simply used the wrong word to explain what they meant, and I was all- "But X is totally fine! How dare they!" When in fact they meant that Y was the problem, which it legitimately was. What they said sounded unreasonable and annoying- what they meant was actually fine. Looking back, I'm glad I had the bad mood in private! I sponged up my own negativity while I avoided addressing the issue, so by the time I got back to investigating the problem, it was old news and I was able to do so without showing my irritation- which of course turned out to be misplaced anyway. If I had tried to actively deal with the "problem" right then, I would have made a mess of things by showing my peevishness. So... it was worth it after all? Annoying, though. At least I got cookies and a clean kitchen out of it.

Thanks for the advice, hive- there's tons of good stuff up there, and I appreciated the perspective and well wishes.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 4:31 AM on December 9, 2008

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