You’re having a bad day. You woke up in a funk or simply couldn’t punch out your algorithm this morning. That’s nothing to be ashamed of; we all feel anxious, sad, or even a bit depressed sometimes. Feeling down is part of life, just as you can be feeling over the moon or filled with excitement. But why worry about feeling down when you’re not having a bad day right now? Wouldn’t that just propel you back to feeling sad? The opposite. The most loving thing you can do for that you-having-a-bad-day is planning ahead. Here’s what you need to know.
Feeling down means your soul is sending you a message
Here, we get straight to the concept of an off day: your soul is trying to send you a message. And whatever that message may be, you must listen to it. Because if you don’t, it will drain your energy even more. So, buckle up and prepare yourself, for when that off-day comes, you’re all set to give yourself your undivided love. Because especially when you’re feeling down, you deserve to be as comfy as possible (as you deserve to be on any other day of the week, too!).
Why off-days happen
There may be a thousand reasons why you’re feeling down. You may need time to process some new experiences, or you’ve overworked yourself, and it is time to take rest. Maybe you’ve gone through some difficulties, and you’re mentally exhausted. Or you feel stuck in life in general, and you need to rebuild your stamina. An off day is actually a clear signal of your soul, saying, hey, slow down – I need some time.
On off-days, you need to slow down and chill
And that’s precisely what you need to do on an off day: slowing down. Which sounds easier than it actually is, as we are living in such a fast-paced world. Everything around us is at top speed – at the very least. Thus, be very mindful about taking it slow. If you don’t, you’ll probably miss the whole point of how to deal with feeling down.
Avoid creating problems that only exist in your own mind
The second most important aspect of dealing with an off-day is to stop worrying about what other people might think. Keep in mind that you are filling in the blanks whenever you worry about other people’s opinions. You’ll never honestly know what they are thinking or how they would react to you feeling down if you don’t tell them. Even past reactions are no indicator of the present. That’s the only truth, and it’s as simple as that.
Gentle reminders for when you’re feeling down
Now that you’ve slowed down and are mindful of not filling in the gaps, you’re ready. Not to start your day, of course 🙂 But to indeed have that off day and have peace of mind. Keep reading for a full checklist of things you want to know, have, and do when you’re feeling down.
Allow yourself to have an off-day
Which literally means: cancel your plans. Yes, all of them, and that deadline, too. This is a crucial point in navigating your off day: you need to accept yourself. If you don’t allow yourself to have an off day and instead ignore that you’re feeling down, you don’t accept yourself. Accept the fact that today is not going to be your day. The only thing you need today is to be comfy and chill. Then, take rest, so that you can start fresh tomorrow (or the day after, or even beyond).
Surrender to feeling down
In my ideal way of living, all feelings are possible and even very welcome. Also feeling anxious, sad, or exhausted. If I am experiencing these feelings, this only means that I am not suppressing them. This is good because eventually, everything you suppress will come out (and you know as well as I do, that 99% of the times when off-days occur, the timing is way off). So instead of feeling shame for your off day, surrender to it, and appreciate that you allowed your true feelings to come forward.
Culture influences how we deal with our feelings
Our cultural backgrounds have shaped us. Or, as this ScienceDirect article states, “emotion is not only biologically determined but also influenced by our environment”. I can actually relate to this, as I grew up in the Netherlands, where generically speaking, people are not very outgoing from a feelings point-of-view. The Dutch saying, ‘Doe maar gewoon, dan doe je al gek genoeg’ is an accurate indicator of our culture. This saying literally translates into: ‘act normal, you’re already acting crazy enough as is’. So, you might get why expressing our feelings isn’t that easy for us northerners. Becoming aware of how your culture shaped your way of thinking, helps you to take ownership of your feelings instead of being led by cultural appropriation.
Don’t trick your mind into thinking you’re not feeling down
The reason I’m so adamant in insisting on canceling those plans and surrendering to you off-day if that’s what you truly want to do? I know from first-hand experience how tricking your mind works. I was extremely skilled in tricking my own mind, and canceling would often lead to me having a guilt trip, as I had a demanding job where I didn’t think I was in the position to cancel my plans. I would have team meetings, pitches, meetings with directors or clients. No effing way that I was going to cancel on all those people. Because if I would, I would disappoint them, and disappointing other people felt way worse than feeling down. So, come to think of it, I didn’t feel that down (you see how I also wrote the paragraph on other people’s opinions also for my earlier myself? :)).
How my mind worked while ignoring that I was feeling down
Looking back, I can only say that I used to master the fantasy department of my mind. Not only would I make up other people’s opinions and worry more about my image than about my feelings. I would also make up problems that would occur if I didn’t show up. Without my finishing touch, that colleague’s presentation wouldn’t be optimal. One of my team members might need to exchange thoughts with me, and me only, and now they couldn’t. Or the client meeting would fall through because I wasn’t there, and we would have an annoyed client. Let’s be honest: those are all very self-centered ways of reasoning. And I made up all of those problems before I even told someone I was feeling down. Doesn’t make much sense, right? So, let’s keep it real. The company was always just fine without me. And your company will do fine without you, too.
How to cancel on friends
Needless to say, the same concept goes for your personal schedule. Even if you initiated any catchups with friends, you still have the ownership to cancel, if you don’t feel like meeting up. If your friends are real friends, they will support you on an off day, instead of fussing about why you’re canceling on them ‘just because you’re feeling down’. Remember that most friendships are based on honesty, fondness, and support. Those aspects will prevail over any appointments that, in your mind, feel like they’re set in stone. And if those aspects don’t prevail, you might want to re-evaluate those friendships.
Setting an honest example in this fast-paced world
Besides the fact that you need to look out for yourself on an off day, you might want to look out for your friends, too. Ask yourself: does it genuinely benefit your friend to hang out with you when you actually just want to be in bed? And if you’re meeting friends just because you promised, what kind of signal are you sending those friends? That on an off day, you should show up, regardless? Does that mean that they need to show up too when they are feeling down? I’d say we could all benefit from some more honesty and a mindful approach to showing up wherever. So, by setting an honest example, you’re actually helping shape a healthier way of living for all of you.
Don’t ignore your soul
Not canceling your personal plans while you actually want to curl up at home, equals: you value other people more than you value yourself. And if there’s one thing you need in life, it’s a wholesome relationship with yourself. So as long as you don’t cancel your plans, you’re telling your soul: “Hey, I got your message, but I just chose to ignore it. Other people are more important to me than you are, so, bye. Good luck with feeling down.” I know that that’s not the message you want to send your soul.
Have an off-day checklist at hand
Okay, so what you don’t need is a full agenda, expectations, and totally made-up but harmful thoughts. But what you do need is to indulge. When you’re feeling down, most probably, your brain won’t be working at full speed. So that’s where the preparation comes in handy. Keep reading for a checklist on the things you need to have at the ready for when that off-day comes.
1. Run a hot bath or bathe your feet
One of my instant mood lifters is running a hot bath. I love how the heat of the water embraces my body and lets me quiet down at the same time. There’s no such thing as ‘working from bath’, or maybe there is, but then it’s a good thing I didn’t find out about it 🙂 Because when bathing, I prefer to just unwind.
Besides, hot water is an excellent stimulator for releasing any bodily tension. You can even soak just your feet to feel the effect in your whole body (because of nerve endings, over 7.000 of them in each foot :)). You might want to throw in a bit of your favorite scent to access the relaxation mood.
2. Get a sleeping mask
If it’s day already and you are overstimulated, your eyes might need to take rest. And for that, you need darkness. Even better than pulling the curtains is having a snug sleeping mask at hand.
If you’re going for over-comfy (yes, such a thing exists, and I’m cheering it on), try a heated sleeping mask with cherry stones or herbs that you can warm up in the oven – trust me, you’ll love this.
3. Fix yourself up with a hot water bottle
Heat does many good things for your body, so especially on an off day, when you might be feeling sad or tense, warm yourself up. I prefer to fix a hot water bottle and lay it on my stomach because it feels like a cuddle, even when I don’t have a fuzzy friend at hand 🙂. Admittedly, I sometimes even make two: one for my stomach and one for my feet.
Pro tip: get a hot water bottle with a fuzzy cover (anything velvety will do); it’s almost the same as petting an animal 🙂
4. WEAR A TEDDY SWEATER AND A BLANKET
If there’s one thing you can’t have enough of when you’re feeling down, it’s cuddles. So, get them in as many ways as you can.
Next to the bath and the hot water bottle, a teddy sweater is a great one in helping out. I’m talking about sweaters with fleece on the inside that feel like they’re hugging your skin. The blanket goes on top of that so that you wear it around your shoulders.
And yes, you are allowed to wear it like that, even if it makes you look a bit like Batman (especially then) 🙂
5. Have earplugs or noise-canceling headphones at hand
If you’re already overstimulated, the last thing you need is sudden loud noises. And it wouldn’t be the first time your neighbors start drilling right into your wall when you’re in bed with a headache. Or your partner is talking intrusively loud in a client meeting while WFH.
So, prepare to have earplugs or noise-canceling headphones at hand. This way, you can block out any noises when you’re feeling down (and prevent flipping on someone ;))
6. Stock up on scented candles or incense
To me, another instant mood lifter is my favorite scent. Scented candles are incredibly helpful in immersing yourself in your happy scent to get all cozy. Sandalwood incense and myrrh/sandalwood scented candles are my go-to’s on an off day.
But, as scents are very personal, I’d encourage you to figure out your favorite scents if you don’t already know them. Go smell somewhere (might sound strange, but I’m genuinely encouraging you to randomly smell). Incense, candles, perfume, materials, the earth, whatever. Then, stock up on the scents you like.
7. Use the power of crystals and stones
Crystals are known for their healing aspects. If you’re serious about turning around from feeling down, allow crystals to lift your energy. I prefer to hold an amethyst in my hand or lay it on my body. But, as with scents, choosing a crystal that matches your energy is an immensely personal process.
Head over to Happinez’s blog post How to choose a crystal that suits you to find out more. For a quick crystal fix, explained in a no-nonsense way, check out the ‘Crystal Q&A’ in the Story Highlights of crystal expert Emma Lucy Knowles’ Instagram account.
8. Book a massage or get a massage tool
I’m almost a bit ashamed to talk about massages. In the northern European culture, massages are perceived as a luxury, not a necessity. I’m deliberately excluding Scandinavia here, as they know how to do wellness.
Not coincidentally, the Nordic countries are constantly among the happiest of the world. Head over to the World Happiness Report to find out more. But, back to massages: you need them, even if you think you don’t need them.
How to do the massage thing
To be honest, I do as much massaging as I can, and I want to beat the stigma on this subject. I visit a massage therapist frequently because of my chronic back, neck, and shoulder pain. Besides that, I have a portable massage tool that I use (it’s this one), especially when I’m feeling down. Booking a massage with a therapist will definitely lift your spirits on an off day. More importantly, multiple studies have proven massages extremely effective in reducing pain, anxiety, and stress. More on this in Healthline’s article Pain relief: how often should you get a massage.
9. Tend to your pain
If you are feeling down, you may be feeling especially tense or strained, too. If that’s the case, tend to your pain. Apart from a soothing bath or a hot water bottle, heat patches do the trick for me. Make sure to have a set at hand for when the day comes.
If you are feeling significantly compressed in your neck, shoulders, and spine, you can also do a gentle yoga flow. But only if your body is up to it. I have posted a full guide on navigating neck and shoulder pain here. If you want to stay up to date on my new posts, feel free to follow me on Instagram.
10. Be intentional about your off-day
If you feel incredibly stressed or restless, it can be tough to stick to having an off-day. You might be striving to feel better, only to not allow yourself to really be feeling down. If that’s the case, try to be intentional about your off day.
If this sounds vague to you, being intentional means that you set an intention and repeat that intention throughout the day. For instance, your intention can be to relax without feeling guilty (the entire day). Here’s how that works.
11. Find delight through fiction
If you’d like, try to find some things that spark joy on a day like this. What continues to spark my joy is reading any good fiction book. I tend to read one non-fiction book and one fiction book side by side, depending on my mood and mental needs.
The fiction book is a great way to ‘escape’ your off day for a second and have some fun while you’re at it. Goodreads even has a shelf called Funniest Novels Of All Time.
12. Apply Hygge to your home, even if it’s just for the day
Turn down the lights, pull the curtains, heat up your home, even if it’s just for the day. Today is all about you, getting as serene as possible while feeling down. Hygge doesn’t necessarily mean you need to stock up on deco and trinkets;
Hygge can be minimalistic, too. Modminimalism’s post What is Hygge minimalism does a stellar job explaining the similarities between seemingly two ends of the happiness essentials spectrum.
13. Don’t procrastinate; plan ahead
Keeping it real here: on an off day, you’ll have zero energy to even think about any of those things I mentioned above. So, while it might be more convenient to procrastinate, you’ll be doing yourself a favor to plan ahead for feeling down. Because the day will come, eventually (if you’ve never felt down, please drop me a note – I’d love to pick your brain). That’s why I’ve summed up this checklist.
Now, you can start lining up the options that you already have in your home. For the things that you don’t have lying around, stock up on them or seek any out-of-the-box alternatives on days that your brain is working.
14. A mindful note about your to-do-list
In case you’re ending each day with a to-do list full of tasks that you aren’t able to cross off: recognize that habit. You are being too demanding and ambitious, scheduling in more things than you’re actually able to finish. This won’t lead to superpowers. Instead, in the long run, it will make you feel unaccomplished.
Having unrealistic expectations of your own capability in a certain amount of time is quite similar to self-rejection. You are not accepting your own pace and workflow. Shifting back gears so that you can keep up with your actual pace is empowerment in its purest form, to me.
Feeling down quotes
Sometimes it helps to read something that resonates with you when feeling down, so that you feel less lonely in your feelings. Feeling down quotes can even spark joy through the recognition the words may bring. Try to read any of the following feeling down quotes to see which one resonates with you.
Quotes when feeling down
- You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness. -Jonathan Safran Foer
- Write your sad times in sand, write your good times in stone. -George Bernard Shaw
- Sorrow prepares you for joy. -Rumi
- I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it. -Maya Angelou
- Relax. Nothing is under control. -Adi Da
- Heavy hearts, like heavy clouds in the sky, are best relieved by the letting of a little water. -Christopher Morley
- To be calm is the highest achievement of the self. -Yogi Bhajan
Feeling down checklist: how to deal with an off-day
- Run a hot bath or bathe your feet
- Get a sleeping mask
- Fix yourself up with a hot water bottle
- Wear a teddy sweater and a blanket
- Have earplugs or noise-canceling headphones at hand
- Stock up on scented candles or incense
- Use the power of crystals and stones
- Book a massage or use a massage tool
- Tend to your pain when you’re feeling down
- Be intentional: allow yourself to indulge in relaxation
- Find delight through a good fiction book
- Apply Hygge to your home to be cozy AF while feeling down
- Don’t procrastinate; plan ahead those off-day preparations
- Remember: an unrealistic to-do list is a form of self-rejection, not empowerment
- How to deal with feeling down in six words: acknowledge, surrender, be honest, be cozy
Want to discover more mood-lifting tricks for when you’re feeling down?
Although I love a good long read myself, lifting your mood can be straight-on simple, too. Check out Sushistories’ illustrations on Instagram for a mindful take on our habits in everyday life. Or, dive deeper into our mind’s ways through Psychology Today’s article Why do we feel bad about being sad.
More ways to release bodily and mental tension
If you’ve got all enthusiastic about the self-care thing, I do have some more reads on the subject 🙂 You might want to read my post Learning how to accept yourself: 7 gentle reminders for your self-love journey or start digging around the topic of learning to let go. Do you wake up feeling sore ever so often? That might be a signal to pay more attention to releasing bodily tension. My post Shoulder pain after sleeping: 5 simple tricks helps you get there.
Did you enjoy reading this post?
I sure hope you did 🙂 If you have any questions, recommendations, or experiences you want to share, I’d be more than happy to read your thoughts! You can leave your comment in the field below. Do you know someone who could benefit from this guide to feeling down? Feel free to share this post (via the URL bar or any of the social share buttons) and get the positive energy flowing!