I remember one of the worst days of my career. First, my naturally curly hair would NOT cooperate. Then I dumped coffee down my skirt as I was walking out the door, which made me even more late than my hair had already made me. Once changed, I hit every red light on my morning commute. I ripped my skirt getting out of the car, forgot my lunch and had a morning meeting for which I was anything but prepared. At 8:15 when I stumbled to my desk (I was supposed to be there at 8:00), my day was already off to a horrible start—and it had barely begun!
We all know life isn’t perfect, which means days like these happen to all of us. My personal impulse is not to “keep calm and carry on” but “freak out and call Mom,” as some Pinterest quote boards say. But we don’t have to be victims of our worst days; we can face them with confidence, and even redeem these unsavory moments by taking steps to reflect and reset the things that are going wrong.
Next time you’re faced with a no-good, terrible, very bad day, take a few minutes to do the following:
1. Step back.
Give yourself some perspective by taking a bird’s-eye view of the situation. Think about it in the context of the rest of your day, your week and your life in general. Yes, it might be Monday. You may have forgotten about that exam at 3:30. But chances are the stress of the moment is skewing your long-term view of the situation. Allow yourself to look at the long-term implications of the hard thing you are facing.
Perspective helps relieve the urgency of unexpected interruptions and forgotten responsibilities. By taking a step back, you can identify the problem and come up with a solution without allowing stress to take over.
2. Just breathe.
Speaking of stress, that feeling of urgency is a sure way to make a bad day get even worse! Take a moment to leave the room, walk around the building or count to 10. Just breathe. Being caught up in a bad day often results in impulsive and emotional decisions. In order to improve what is going wrong, we often need to remove ourselves from the situation for a few minutes.
The adrenaline associated with stress causes a vicious cycle of emotional and physical overwhelm. By taking a break, we can calm our minds and our bodies, re-entering the day with clearer thoughts and intentions.
3. Look up.
Preacher and author Francis Chan has described stress as a form of “practical atheism.” He means that living a stressful lifestyle indicates a lack of trust in God’s provision and presence. That’s a weighty thought! As Christians, we are not bound to the things that overwhelm us. We have the guidance of God’s Spirit to help us walk out the calling He has on our lives—whether we’re in high school, college or our career.
If you’ve already stepped back and taken a moment to separate yourself from your bad day, take a moment to pour out your heart to God. When God offers Himself as the bearer of our burdens (1 Peter 5:7), He truly means we can bring Him anything. But too often we try to deal with the hard stuff on our own strength, only to feel completely helpless in the midst of it.
So let’s look up: Look into the face of God and tell Him about your day. Tell Him what is going wrong. Instead of venting to a coworker or a friend, vent to the Lord—He’s the only One who can provide the peace and strength we need when things go wrong.
4. Look ahead.
As Little Orphan Annie says, “Tomorrow is only a day away.” Remind yourself that this day will pass and these things will be memories in the near future. While hard days are far from pleasant, they are also the primary means by which we are spiritually strengthened. Trials and temptations are what refine us and make us fit for God’s use in a greater sphere of influence. Today might be hard, but it might also be preparing you for an amazing calling that lies ahead.
Coming to God with our cares is not always our first impulse, nor is it a “quick fix” for the emotions we feel on a bad day. Sometimes we’ll be coming back to God throughout the same day, pouring our overwhelmed hearts into His capable hands.
That’s okay. He’s the only One who can bear the weight of the whole world and also bear the weight of our hearts.