Hitting the reset button on a bad work day

I had a really bad day last week.

Here’s how it went: I woke up late. All my clothes were dirty except for a pair of leggings that were too tight because I had gained some weight since last winter. I put them on anyway, throwing on a sweater and my heavy boots. I was headed to a meeting where I was giving a progress report about a project I was helping to launch, and I already knew I was going to be about 10 minutes late.

The elevator was broken, so I walked up two flights of stairs and got all sweaty. I asked the receptionist about the meeting. “There is no meeting like that here,” she said in a condescending tone. Of course she was thinner and cuter than me, and her clothes looked great on her. She didn’t grab the last clean thing in the closet that she hadn’t worn in a year and stumble out the door bleary-eyed.

After 10 more minutes of back and forth, I learned that the meeting was actually across the street. By the time I got there, there were no seats around the table so I had to sit in the back. Someone asked about updates, so I raised my hand and spoke as loudly as I could. A man called me Alex, which I secretly hate, and asked if I was working for another man whose company he had been hearing so much about. I smiled and said no, wondering if he would have asked me that question if I were a man, instead of assuming that I was working for someone else.

When the meeting ended, I networked. I got people’s cards. Wearing my too-tight pants I left the meeting, took a deep breath, and stepped out onto the street. It wasn’t even 11 AM and I had two options: either go home and crawl into bed, pulling the covers over my head, or face the day in front of me. I decided that if I was going to play the cards I had been dealt, I had some work to do.

Just as the particulars of your bad day will be different than mine, the exact steps needed to turn it around will also vary. (And let’s face it: some bad days can’t be fixed.) If you are having a bad day like I was—full of situations that are beyond your control—you shouldn’t let insecurities, fear, and self-loathing take over. Think of little things you can do right now to turn things around.

These are the positive steps I took toward rebooting my day. Guess what? They worked.

I talked about it with other people. After his stressed-out boss left, the manager of my local coffee shop and I commiserated about how crappy the starts of our days were. I had never realized that we had much in common besides being roughly the same age and living in the same city, but it turned out that the same kind of things were bothering us. He asked how things were going, and I took a chance by telling him I was having a bad day. And as he shared the ridiculousness of his day, I found it refreshing to know that I wasn’t the only one.

I treated myself to something special. I bought myself a fancy chai tea and stared out the window and people watched, appreciated the architecture, and wrote in my journal for 20 minutes.

I gave myself a pep talk. Back at my office, I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and told myself that I had a lot going for me—kind of like when a teenager cries because her nose is too big and her mother tells her to be proud of her “classic features.” It’s okay to give yourself a pep talk in your Facebook status, too. I did this later on when I posted “Note to self: Never. Give. Up.” So many people responded about how they were rooting for me. Each little update made me feel a little bit better.

I gave myself credit for what I had achieved. In the end, I realized, I had shown up. I think it was Woody Allen who once said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” I showed up, and I spoke up.

On my way out that evening, I got invited to a private party thrown by some of my colleagues. I let them take a picture of me in the little photo booth they had set up. I stared into the camera, facing down my bad day in my too-tight pants and bulky sweater that was too hot because I didn’t care anymore.

Bad day over. Rinse, wash, repeat.

Photo credit: Patrick Lauke/Flickr

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