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Five Tips to Turn Around a Stressful Day

It’s impossible to avoid stress. Whether it’s impending deadlines for school or work, a packed to-do list or an argument with a loved one, everyone experiences stress from time to time. How you handle the stress is what makes a difference, and your response can impact the trajectory of the rest of your day and week.

Even though you might want to crawl into a hole and sulk, finding ways to cope and take care of your mental health in the middle of or after a stressful day can pay off. In fact, research shows that in just 60 to 90 seconds, it’s possible to reset our bodies and minds to get on the right track after experiencing stress. All it takes is having tried-and-tested strategies that work for you both in the moment and after a difficult event or hard day.

Self-care strategies can not only provide immediate benefit, but also have a lasting positive effect on your overall mental wellbeing. Research shows that regularly practicing self-care can help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, help you face challenges head-on and increase your resilience. Regular physical exercise in particular can be an efficient way to process stress and can help improve your mood, your sleep, and your memory and thinking skills.

If you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry! We’ve got you covered. Use these quick tips to turn around a stressful day and make the most of what’s ahead.

  1. Find healthy ways to cope.
    Avoid using substances like alcohol or other drugs to manage stress. Instead, try activities that can improve your physical and mental wellbeing, like working out, spending time with loved ones or journaling. Laughter has long been recognized as having both emotional and physical benefits; watching a video or TV show that makes you laugh can help defuse negative feelings.
  2. Reflect on your day.
    Before you go to sleep, think about your day and reflect on what went wrong. Was there a way to prevent it? Could you have reacted differently? According to Harvard Business Review, by reflecting on your day and setting clear expectations, you can learn how to better handle stressful circumstances if you face them again.
  3. Practice gratitude.
    Research has shown that consciously practicing gratitude can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Remind yourself of everything you’re thankful for rather than focusing on everything that went wrong. This could be your family and friends, the roof you live under or the nice weather outside. Writing them down or saying them out loud can help you stay positive during difficult times.
  4. Change your routine.
    A change of scenery can help shift your focus onto something else. Rather than preoccupying your mind with the source of your stress, taking a walk, hiking or just putting yourself in a different location can help you think of something else and relax.
  5. Focus on self-care.
    Knowing how to take care of yourself is vital. Your mental health should be your top priority, so be kind to yourself! According to Mental Health First Aid, disconnecting from technology and focusing on things that make you happy and give you energy can help you get through a stressful day.

There may be times when you can’t fix your bad day — and that’s OK too. The most important thing is that you take care of your mental and physical health in any way you can. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) can help. Check out our other blog posts for more tips on how to support yourself through tough times and practice self-care:

  1. Self-care: Where Do I Start? – Mental Health First Aid
  2. Two Types of Self-care and How They Can Positively Impact Your Mental Health
  3. How to Take Care of Yourself When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed
  4. How to Create Your Own Self-Care Plan
  5. 4 Self-Care Tips for How to Deal with Anxiety – Mental Health First Aid

References:

Fox, A. (2017, June 8). 10 Expert-approved ways to turn around a crappy day. HuffPost. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/bad-day-tips_n_59122641e4b0a58297e0492e

Chowdhury, M. (2021, October 9). The neuroscience of gratitude and how it affects anxiety and grief. Positive Psychology. https://positivepsychology.com/neuroscience-of-gratitude/

Gallo, A. (2016, January 6). How to turn a bad day around. Harvard Business Review.  https://hbr.org/2015/10/how-to-turn-a-bad-day-around

Godman, H. (2014, April 9). Regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory, thinking skills. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/regular-exercise-changes-brain-improve-memory-thinking-skills-201404097110

Khidekel, M. (2021, July 8). Simple ways to instantly turn around a stressful day. Thrive Global. https://thriveglobal.com/stories/how-to-turn-around-a-stressful-day-simple-mindset-tips/

Mental Health First Aid USA. (2020). Mental Health First Aid USA for adults assisting adults. Washington, DC: National Council for Mental Wellbeing.

Mayo Clinic. (2021, July 29). Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456