Coping With Those Terrible Awful Days


You know how you have those days when you feel like one of those cartoon thermometers where the temperature just keeps going up and up and up and eventually you know you’re just going to burst? The red stuff is just going to go all over the place and all Hell is going to break loose on your insides and on the outside, and God help anyone who gets in your path because you’re in a zone and it’s not a pretty sight. There’s little-to-nothing that can calm you down because not only did X happen, but so did A, B, and out of the blue so did G. And you got cut off in traffic and someone went through the 15-item check-out with 17 things and your kids have the flu. Those are the stupid days that make us want to hide under a blanket in the fetal position until the next day. The world can carry on, but we need to hide because we’ve been a target all day long.

Without exception, we have all had those days. Maybe we express it differently, but since we’re all living beings and we’re imperfect people interacting with other imperfect people, this is a fairly common experience.

So what in the world helps? What the heck makes a difference in those days, since so much of it is out of our control? I can’t take away those two items in the express lane. I can’t put a muzzle on the person who just won’t stop talking and with every sentence makes me want to scream. I wish I could, but those kinds of things get you in trouble.

You know what’s coming, right? … it’s all in our attitude. Booooo, right? We don’t want to change our insides. We want to change the outside world so that we are less effected. But the reality is, that if we change ourselves the whole framework changes and the things that pissed you off so badly before, won’t anymore. I’m not talking about changing your values or the core of who you are. I’m talking about being a thermostat instead of a thermometer. I read about this concept from Pam Ferrell, marriage ministry extraordinaire. Let yourself be the one who sets the tone, instead of letting yourself be set by outside forces. You might not be able to change others’ behavior, but it will affect you less and your world will be a lot more sunshine and roses and much less rain and pesky thorns.

You’re thinking, and how do you suggest doing that? I offer this:

1. Start your day with deep breathing. In the shower, before you get out of bed, wherever. Practice deep breathing so your brain can get more oxygen. The more oxygen your brain has the clearer you will be thinking. If you start your day with deep breathing and are consciously aware of it, it might transfer over to the rest of your day.

2. Prioritize. Ask yourself – What can I control? What really matters? What relationship matters? What conversation matters? Yes, things pile up. And yes, it’s kick-and-scream kind of frustrating when messes do pile up. But eventually, the day will end and things will be different tomorrow and it will get better. We have to focus on what matters.
3. Think realistically. Saying things like This horrible day is never going to end! isn’t realistic. That’s what it feels like in the moment, but it’s not true. Thinking instead, I’m so excited for this day to end or This is a crappy day. Tomorrow will be better is a lot more likely. In resiliency training we learn to go through worst case scenario then best case scenario, then most likely scenario. If you can do that on one of these temperature-rising days, you’ll be surprised at how your thinking clears up.
4. Know when to quit. At some point, you need to just call it a day, go home, and do whatever you need to do to calm down. Sit in a ball on the couch while watching TV and eating coconut ice cream? Or is that just me? Do you need to go dancing? Go for a swim? Sing at the top of your lungs? Sit on the couch and stare into space for a little while? You are not a failure for not making the day better. You are not a failure because you were a target today. You are not a failure because you can’t handle another conversation. You are human. A human who is hurting, agitated, annoyed, or all of the above. It’s okay.
5. Try again the next day. On the day when everyone and their brother was pushing your buttons, you had a difficult time setting the tone because everything and everyone made you want to scream. Repeat to yourself: I will be a thermostat, not a thermometer. I will be a thermostat, not a thermometer. On those frustrating days what we’re really longing for is control, and setting the tone yourself instead of letting other people do it for you is freeing – it puts you in the driver’s seat.
You tell me:
What do you do to cope on these terrible-awful-going-to-burst days?


  1. I take a walk with Monty and suddenly the world is a very beautiful place! Can’t wait to see your new puppy (jumping up and down with excitement)!!!!!!!! : ))))))

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