How To Bounce Back From A Bad Day in Just 5 Minutes
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way” — Viktor Frankl
The holidays are HERE.
For many of us, these next few days are the only real stretch of time we have ‘off’. In other words, it’s precious time!
One of the ways we can make the most of this time is learning how to recover quickly from the little disappointments and annoyances the holidays can sometimes bring.
Here is a universal truth: we all have bad days. And many of us know the experience of surrendering our entire day due to a minor setback.
Bad days can be discouraging, and believe us, we know how tempting it can be to let yourself spiral into a whirlpool of melancholy. Sometimes, we need to sit with the disappointment and hurt, and this is okay.
For other times, what if there was a simple and effective way to bounce back? In just 5 minutes?
Lest we continue to sound like an infomercial, let’s get into it.
You Own Your Response
The first thing to understand is that our response is a key factor in keeping a setback or disappointment from spiralling into a bad day.
We know, it’s difficult, but you own your response to the bad day or disappointing situation. This can be an empowering perspective- no one can take away your ability to choose how you handle something.
Owning your response can look like taking a pause, to take stock of the situation.
A pause can prevent you from reacting defensively or in a way that will create more problems.
Temporal Distancing: Lengthen Your Perspective
We tend to evaluate the impact of situations in isolation.
Temporal distancing encourages the opposite! It relates to our ability to adopt a broader time perspective.
Have you ever noticed that we tend to project the impact of this moment onto the future? We think of all the ways this current disappoint will affect the trajectory of our life. By doing this, we assume that the event will be consequential the next day, week, month, or even over the arc of our lifetime. In other words, we are pretty quick to catastrophize.
How accurate is this, really?
This ability to mentally distance ourselves from the toll of the present moment is called temporal distancing.
Let’s use a relatable example to see this in action. Say you are at a holiday gathering and a relative begins to ask some very nosy questions about your dating life.
You feel understandably frustrated and angry at the audacity. You also begin to feel very painfully aware of being one of the few un-partnered people at this event.
You begin to wonder if it will always be like this and a montage of future events begins to play out, where you are the only one who is alone. Before you know it, you don’t feel like being there and would much rather go home and be in your feelings.
Here Is Temporal Distancing In Action
Instead of letting these comments ruin your night, reflect on how you might perceive this moment at later time points.
For example, maybe you’ll think about telling your sister about it (who didn’t make it to the event) and she will recall all the times she felt the exact same way around that relative.
Or perhaps you can reflect on how insignificant these comments will feel when you have the benefit of hindsight and are once again around the people who make you feel like you are home.
Temporal distancing allows you to adopt a broader time perspective to help cope with the current disappointment. This allows you to bounce back and create space for all the other possible experiences you can have!
Time Can Heal Present Wounds Too
They say time can heal all wounds. In other words, emotional pain tends to fade with time. What about present wounds though?
Research shows that when asked to reflect on how they would perceive a serious personally relevant stressor, participants who saw the stressor through a distant future lens reported less negative emotion.
Additionally, another study supports the benefits of temporal distancing.
Researchers found that when participants thought about how they would be affected by a negative event (i.e. failing an important exam) in the distant future, they experienced less emotional arousal and better emotional regulation. In short, they didn’t feel so bad about it.
Wrapping Up (And Bouncing Back)
We can wrap this up with a neat bit of advice: try not to let a bad day feel like a bad life.
It can be hard in the moment, which is why we encourage you to think beyond that moment!
What significance will this have in a few years or even in a few hours? Is it worth letting ourselves spiral? In many cases you’ll encounter over the holidays, it’s not.
We want to know: What helps you cope with a bad day or a disappointment?
Until next time!
Zainib Abdullah (MSW, RSW) is the founder and executive director at Wellnest, a Toronto-based mental health clinic. The Wellnest team – a collective of diverse psychotherapists – focuses on supporting the needs of the BIPOC community. As a trauma therapist, her approach is client-centred, anti-racist/oppressive and trauma-informed, incorporating various therapeutic modalities. She uses somatic based therapy to help clients heal and manage trauma experiences. She supports clients in accessing greater connectedness to their inner wisdom and peace.