The odds are stacked against you some days. You have a looming deadline, simmering relationship tension, or maybe a niggling health concern. Then you get every red light, your phone goes dead, and you just can't get a break all day.
Understandably, you cross your fingers and just try to get through the day. But that's a bit like throwing in the towel.
You decide you're destined to have a bad day and that the best you can do is to simply endure it … and here's where the self-sabotage kicks in.
There's nothing I can do, no point trying too hard, you think to yourself (whether you're conscious of it or not). And with that, all of your healthy-living habits and routines go right out the window. And you seal the deal and ensure that you have the worst day possible.
But you can do better. Don't quit and let a stressful day beat you. Wise up to the game and master your day.
Here's my checklist to help you:
1. Lose the hangover handicap.
Don't use alcohol to numb and unwind, take a bath or a walk instead.
For a more pleasant and productive day tomorrow, stick to safe levels of alcohol consumption: that's no more than two standard drinks a day (remember that one standard drink is 100ml of wine, which is much less than you think, and probably much less than you pour yourself.)
2. Stop depriving yourself of sleep.
You feel better and function better with the full human requirement of 7-9 hours sleep a night.
3. Don't leave it until the morning; pre-commit the night before.
Whatever sets you up for a good day — a morning walk, yoga sequence or brief meditation — plan for it the night before, have your alarm set and your gear laid out ready.
4. Don't neglect nutrition.
Pay attention to feeding yourself well. This will help regulate your mood, concentration and energy levels — surely a good-day trifecta.
5. Quit rushing.
Move with less speed and more calm, and you're bound to improve your efficiency.
6. Limit the stimulants.
Caffeine and sugar might pep you up briefly, but you won't welcome the crash that follows. And if you're feeling stressed, any stimulants will just make you feel even more on edge.
7. Stop waiting to feel motivated.
Get on with the task at hand regardless of your resistance, reluctance or lethargy. This is an invaluable life skill that can improve the worst of days.
8. Resist the urge to lose yourself in "busy work".
If you fritter away precious time reading and rereading emails, you squander the opportunity to make real progress in your work, and you leave yourself open to an awful sense of dissatisfaction with yourself and your day.
9. Beware multitasking; it's often a false economy.
Your working memory is finite and if you have complex tasks to do; you'll be most efficient if you pay full attention to one activity at a time.
10. Don't take your body for granted.
It's made to move and needs to move. Is sitting still for hours on end really going to help you meet your deadline? Or will it just give rise to a host aches and pains?
If you can't get out for a workout, opt for a 10-minute walk instead — save your body and revitalize yourself, ready to tackle that deadline with more vigor and focus.
11. Don't ignore procrastination, pay it some attention and find a workaround.
Pinpoint key causes if you can — anxiety, perfectionism and frustration are a few of the usual suspects. Identify what will help you to take the next step: perhaps a quick break to refocus, get some help or advice from a colleague, or devise an incentive that will nudge you into action.
12. Don't pay attention to your inner critic, stand up for your better self and answer back.
Nobody has the capacity to sabotage your day quite like the nasty voice in your own head.
Does it tell you you're not smart enough, not strong enough, not attractive enough? Be defiant: imagine and behave exactly the way you would in a more self-assured moment — fake it if you have to.
If you're still struggling, conjure up in your head the wise, encouraging voice of a trusted friend, and listen to what they would say (instead of what comes from that bully inside you).
Don't be your own worst enemy. Support yourself and play to win when it looks like you're going to have a tough day.
What do you need to do to give yourself a better day?