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9 Small Ways to Have a Better Day at Work

For many of us, work comprises a big chunk of our days. So when you’re in a bad mood, that day can feel especially long and laborious. Plus, your stressed-out state, whether job-related or not, can hamper your productivity and performance.

The good news is you can take small actions to improve your day. This way you not only feel better, but you’re also able to focus on your work.

Below, Jude Bijou, MFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Santa Barbara, Calif., shared her strategies on how to have a better day at work.

1. Identify your murky mood.

People often experience a bad day at work because they’re holding onto unexpressed emotions, such as sadness, fear or anger, Bijou said. When you’re in a bad mood, ask yourself which one of these emotions you’re experiencing.

2. Release that energy.

After you identify the emotion, take several minutes to release it in a safe place, Bijou said. For instance, if you’re sad, go to the bathroom or your car, and allow yourself to cry, she said.

If you’re anxious, shake out the anxiety. Allow yourself to shake, shiver, shimmy and even make silly noises for several seconds or several minutes, she said. These kinds of physical reactions are actually our body’s natural way of releasing fearful energy, she said.

If you’re angry, stomp around. “Go into the bathroom, grab the door of the stall, and shake it back and forth.” Or go outside, and push against the wall of the building, she said.

Give yourself permission to move that energy out of your body. Holding onto these emotions only leads to compensating, Bijou said. We compensate by thinking bad thoughts, making mistakes at work or being abrupt with coworkers, she said.

3. Take a gratitude break.  

Take several minutes to think about something or someone you really love, such as your family, pet or home, said Bijou, also author of the book Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life. “This helps to shift your reality a little bit.”

4. Spot the negative chatter.

My boss sucks. He’s giving me too much work. My coworkers are so annoying. I’ll never get this done.

Before you even realize it, your brain is abuzz with negative thoughts, which fuels frustrated feelings and worsens your day.

Pay attention to what you’re saying to yourself, Bijou said. “Then find the contradiction that’s true.”

For instance, if you’re thinking, “I”ll never get all of this done,” consider contradictory statements that will support you. You might say, “I’ll do what I can. One step at a time.”

5. Repeat this mantra.

You might wish that things were different at work. You might think your boss or coworkers should be a certain way. Instead, according to Bijou, remember: “People and things are the way they are, not the way I want them to be.”

For instance, rather than hyper-focusing on “How could they do that to me?” accept the person or situation. Then consider what you want to do about it, she said. This way you’re taking appropriate action, not behaving from an emotionally reactive place.

6. Communicate effectively.

If you’re going to have a discussion with your supervisor or colleagues, stick to the specific topic, such as “I’d like to discuss what happened at yesterday’s meeting,” Bijou said. And focus on what’s true for you, such as “This is what happened, and this is how I feel about it,” she said.

7. Pinpoint the trigger.

A specific event no doubt sparked how you’re feeling. So identify exactly what derailed your mood, and then handle that one thing, Bijou said.

8. Refocus.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, refocus by making a list of everything on your plate for the day, Bijou said. Next ask yourself, “What’s the most important thing I need to do right now?” Then take small steps to accomplish that task, she said.

9. Reach out.

When you’re having a bad day, it’s easy to stay inside your head, Bijou said. Instead, reach out to a coworker, and ask them how you can help. Also, express your appreciation, or compliment them, such as: “I appreciate that you’re always early,” or “I love what you’re wearing.”

Frustrated feelings don’t have to turn into a bad day at work. Fortunately, by taking small steps, you can transform your mood, minimize your stress and refocus on your projects.

9 Small Ways to Have a Better Day at Work

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Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. is an Associate Editor and regular contributor at Psych Central. Her Master's degree is in clinical psychology from Texas A&M University. In addition to writing about mental disorders, she blogs regularly about body and self-image issues on her Psych Central blog, Weightless.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). 9 Small Ways to Have a Better Day at Work. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 3, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 21 Oct 2013)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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