How to deal with the grumps?
September 23, 2009 4:55 AM   Subscribe

How do you get over the grumpies... while stuck in an office?

I'm cranky. I have been for a couple of days. I think it's just a combination of being deeply uninterested in my job (which I know I'm lucky to have), being freaked out by applying to grad school (which is something I really want to do), and being repeatedly woken up in the middle of the night by this bastard mosquito who I can't seem to kill. I'm getting pissed off at my roommates for no reason and sad about a breakup that happened months ago. I'm, as I type this, trying to convince myself that getting out of bed isn't the worst idea I've ever heard.

I've read older threads like this, which has some great advice (beer sounds especially good right now [ugh, it's not even 8 am]), but I'm stuck in my office all day, and then I have class all evening.

If I were still in college, I'd take the afternoon off and hang out with friends or take a nap or go to the gym. What do real people with real jobs do when they've got the mean reds?

*note: I'm in absolutely no danger of self-harm, and I know I'll get over this mood in a day or so on my own. I'd just like to, you know, not fume and sulk all day.
posted by oinopaponton to Grab Bag (25 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I found this quite uplifting recently. It's basically... reframing things so you choose to be happy.
posted by b33j at 5:09 AM on September 23, 2009

I read this article about Marshall Goldsmith. Probably have done so several hundred times now but it makes me feel better about things, always.
posted by Cuppatea at 5:33 AM on September 23, 2009

I was/am in the same spot (sans mosquito). It got to the point where my boyfriend was getting pissed off that every morning began with 'Do I have to go to work? Really?' I barely held it together while he was out of work. Then, when he got a job it got worse, since I couldn't find it in myself to justify the financial 'benefit' to sitting at a desk for 8.5 hrs.

Since it lasted months and months, I ended up going to therapy. It's helping. I was lucky to find someone who is acting half as therapist and half as academic advisor.

I still hate my job. I'm typing this from it, though. My tips for 'at work' time for myself include 1. Make sure you're not doing more than your job and TAKE YOUR BREAKS - actually leave the immediate area for 10-15 minutes when you can and 2. websites like, a pile of origami cranes that I've made while I'm on the phone, and really cheesy-awful reading during lunch.

The beach reading was suggested by my Doc - she said not to read anything 'smart' that wasn't immediately related to what I was doing academically, since it was important not to trick myself into procrastinating away from application duties. If I'm reading something with dragons or anything where the author's name is bigger than the title, I can't convince myself it has anything to do with my new program application.

Oh, if you can, actually take an afternoon off if it's really bad. You'll have to plan it in advance, but a short Thursday or Friday to look forward to can help the rest of the week.
posted by cobaltnine at 5:37 AM on September 23, 2009 [3 favorites]

get drunk after work
posted by mary8nne at 5:38 AM on September 23, 2009

What do real people with real jobs do when they've got the mean reds?

I pull mild pranks.

A common staple is rearranging office furniture or someone's desk. Just a little bit, you don't want to piss people off, but you do want to have fun.

Rubber band shootouts along with paper airplane making competition works too.

Print out pictures of Dramatic Hampster and put them in everyone's desk, with an amusing quote on it. "Chairmen Hampster is watching you make cold calls" worked for me.

Also, it never hurts to re-act scenes from Office Space.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:53 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

I pretend I have an appointment or meeting, then go for a bike ride.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 6:35 AM on September 23, 2009 [5 favorites]

My situation is slightly different in that I really like my job and the people I work with and, furthermore, it's part time and my hours are flexible enough for me to take time off pretty much whenever I feel like it.

That said, I get the grumps something fierce sometimes. Most often this is when I'm not getting a decent night's sleep (which happens a lot… I'm something of an insomniac). The most important thing for me is to remember that the main reason I'm grumpy is that I'm tired. Things that normally only annoy me a little bit turn into fetid gales of irritation which pull me along into depression. What I do is remind myself that the reason I'm so grumpy is that I haven't gotten enough sleep. One good thing is to take a little break and call a friend and just chat for a bit. That usually improves my mood and helps to divert my thoughts out of the vicious circle they keep turning in. Also, prioritizing the parts of my job which I like doing versus the ones I don't like (and then doing those disliked things later because having a pile of shit to go through won't improve anyone's mood).
posted by Kattullus at 6:36 AM on September 23, 2009

I gotta say, this makes me smile every time:

Baby Gives the Evil Eye
posted by backwards guitar at 6:36 AM on September 23, 2009

2nding getting away from your desk for a few times a day, 10-15 mins each, if you boss allows. If you've got delightful & crisp fall weather like I do, get out there and enjoy it during the day. A few brisk walks throughout the day really brighten my mood and give me a burst of energy. It doesn't have to be a walk to get coffee or anything, just a stroll around the block. (Although coffee is nice if you can spare a few $$ :)

I would also suggest packing treats in your lunch. I am like a little kid and I love having a few cookies or candies in my lunch bag, especially when I've forgotten that I brought them in the first place and I discover them mid-afternoon.
posted by sararah at 6:43 AM on September 23, 2009

I go to I Can Haz Cheezburger(or related sites) and print out a lolcat or other humorous macro. Hopefully one apropo to the office.

This one is one of my favorites, and seems appropriate to your situation.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:43 AM on September 23, 2009

It's been said already in the question you linked to, but I was going to repeat: music. No no no, not the cranky grumpy stuff - put it on random if you can't bring yourself to actively choose something more perky - but I find I can wind up bopping away quite in spite of myself given a good change in my aural landscape. Especially, also, when I find myself listening to something that reminds me of a better time: I notice that can really serve to kick my ass out of that rut.

Obviously if you're shitty as hell you could fail to enjoy anything, so additionally I'd add: sometimes you also just have to be willing to be aided in feeling differently.

Which is not always as easily done as said... but it's a work in progress.
posted by springbound at 6:54 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

(Also seconding lolcats.)
posted by springbound at 6:57 AM on September 23, 2009

I recommend listening to bad, trashy, you'd-be-ashamed-if-anyone-knew-you-liked-this type dance music when you go home and dancing your ass off, even if you look like a surfer having a seizure when you dance. I know I look like a total fool when I do it but it makes me feel better. As for grad school, listen to a little "Put your back into it!", do your apps and suck it up. If you want to get through grad school, you will. If you're apathetic, do something else. I'm 60k in debt for grad school and if I didn't want it 100% I'd be really frustrated and pissed off. Good luck.
posted by ShadePlant at 7:01 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nthing music. I load up YouTube and listen to long playlists of fun stuff.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:01 AM on September 23, 2009

Have your absolute favorite food or drink for breakfast, even if it's lasagna or steak. It's a good reason to get out of bed and something to look forward to. +1 if you can wait until you're at your desk to eat it.
posted by desjardins at 7:11 AM on September 23, 2009

I listen to comedy shows on headphones. Lately I've become a fan of The Best Show on WMFU, which is available as a podcast. Because of the show length (approx. 3 hours!), one or two episodes may be all you need to stay amused all day. Briefer 'best of' segments are also available, which is how I got introduced to the show format before listening to the full episodes.
posted by gyges at 7:18 AM on September 23, 2009

I once noticed that these days were worse when I didn't have coffee in the morning. I don't have it every morning, but if I was going to have one of these days, it would be a coffee-free day. Get a big mug and watch your disposition improve, while you employ the other good solutions suggested already.
posted by theredpen at 7:42 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

I clean my desk, or another part of my office. That refocuses some of my nervous energy and gives me a sense of accomplishment.

Also on that track, I find tasks that give me a clear count of Stuff I Got Done Today (like, say, reformatting directory entries or cropping photos) so you can say, "I did 162 yesterday!"

I read Project Gutenberg, particularly semi-fluffy comfort things like the Anne of Green Gables series.

I go to the bathroom and play solitaire on my iPhone, enjoying the fact that nobody can barge into the stall.

Of course, that's what I do when I'm happy, too ;)
posted by Madamina at 7:43 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have a friend who will announce to her office mates that she is "crusty", partly to warn people of impending grumpy behaviour. But she'll almost always follow that announcement with a suggestion to get a coffee or something.

Tell your cubemates (if you like them) about your grumpy mood, and ask them to help get you out of it.
posted by LN at 8:12 AM on September 23, 2009

A creative journal. Write down dreams, ideas, scavenge bits that are interesting to you that scoot across your desk. Switches your mind into proactive and creative, a second internal life.

Nthing walks, too.
posted by effluvia at 8:47 AM on September 23, 2009

I would like to point out that irritability is a symptom of depression for many people. I know it is for me. My particular depression is cyclical/hormonal (PMDD), and there are months when I can predict when my period is imminent by how many people's hairstyles I mentally sneer at as I walk down a hallway, or how much I want to SCREAM at someone making an innocuous repeated noise near me. I also get a touch of road rage, at least enough to make gestures at other drivers I wouldn't normally make at anyone, for offenses I would normally shrug off...!

During stressful times or times of regular depression this irritability visits me and doesn't go away. It's a signal to me that things might not be going that well in my brain. Other commenters have given great ideas for distracting yourself, treating yourself to something fun or relaxing, etc. but I haven't noticed anyone suggesting that you get checked out for signs of depression. If your sucky job includes insurance, use it and go get evaluated. At the very least it will probably feel good to unload your feelings on someone who's being paid to listen, and maybe there is something ongoing you can do to address the problem.
posted by gillyflower at 10:38 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

I personally didn't suggest 'it's depression' because it may be self evident that it is. I did suggest therapy (a bit obliquely, since that's such a catch-all AskMe answer.) But it's likely laregly situational depression caused by the OP's current situation. Getting out is the best cure. Getting out takes time.
posted by cobaltnine at 11:01 AM on September 23, 2009

I actually expected more "see a therapist" answers! I've dealt with depression on and off throughout my life, had a great therapist for a couple years, and generally feel pretty mentally healthy. I do think I have a pretty good sense of what to look out for, and (once my employer figures out when they'll start covering my health insurance-- yet another flower in this bouquet of an awesome week) I have no qualms about seeking therapy if I think I need it. I think the real issue is just that I can't wait to get out and do something I love, I'm worried that the work I'm putting into my grad school applications won't pay off, plus I'm running on an unfortunate lack of sleep (and a mosquito bite on my face, wtf).

But anyway, thanks, guys! I love cobaltnine's and Madamina's suggestion of reading cheesy, comforting books (I recently started rereading some Sagan, which is just making me more depressed that I'm a glorified data enterer. Time for some fluff).

So, basically, I'm just gonna drink some of my office's free hot chocolate and look at pictures of dogs and stuff.
posted by oinopaponton at 11:49 AM on September 23, 2009

Something good to look forward to in the morning helps me a fair bit. I really loves me some coffee; the smell of it more than anything. And some good soap and hot water to wash your face in the morning.

At work, running jokes with co-workers help.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:30 AM on September 24, 2009

I'll send you pictures of my dog if it helps.

Doing everything you can to make sure you're getting enough sleep and eating when you should is key. It's crazy how much not enough sleep or a blood sugar crash can really wreck your day and mood.

Get your flavored beverage of choice in the morning.

Get outside at work while it's still nice, if you can. Just a quick five minute walk outside can help.

Go for a walk or run or wander after work to clear your head. Plan meetups with friends.

As someone who just started grad school this month (partially because while I like my job, it's okay, not great) shelve those thoughts on the grad school apps. That work will pay off no matter what. It's terrifying, but it's the key to the way up and out.
posted by canine epigram at 10:20 AM on September 24, 2009

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