I woke up one recent morning with that stinging feeling in my gut. You know the feeling you get when you can no longer suppress the urge to smash your phone because it plays the alarm. The same feeling that makes you contemplate typing that sick leave email to your boss.
But you don’t. And then grudgingly get in the shower. The result? You just know you’re in for a crappy, unproductive day.
I am allowed to look miserable
Now, this feeling could have stemmed from a host of reasons. You’ve been having a bad week. Work may be getting too much. The boss has been hounding you more than usual. Parents refuse to get off your back. Your partner’s being a jerk again.
Mine was a mix of the stress of balancing too much work at once and a phenomena most Indian millennials can relate to – ever-nagging parents sworn to hound your assumed entitlement. But whatever be the reason – you know you’re in for a long, crappy day.
As I got ready to face the world, another provoking thought started its relentless ringing. I’ll have to deal with people constantly asking me “what’s wrong?” or the famous, “did you not sleep last night?” When I don’t feel like answering either.
But then I thought, hey, I am allowed a crappy day. I can have a sullen face for one day (or days at an end). I can feel helpless. And I should be allowed to have days where I’m not particularly chatty.
Life demands happiness. We put too much pressure on ourselves to constantly feel upbeat. And this pressure stems from the conditioning that says it’s not okay to have a bad day. And before you know it, you’re draining your mental capacity, trying to make yourself appear happy than actually feeling happy.
Because of this unconscious thought process, a lot of people are under the impression that it is not all right to have a bad day. The idea of a bad day is uncomfortable. And this assumed discomfort demands correction. Having a bad day implies that we have to work against feeling so in every possible way. We fret over it. Mope over it. But I realised that the best way to deal with it is to simply let it be.
Steer clear of negativity - You have enough of it
Every day you’re expected to wake up and get shit done. And of course nobody enjoys the company of miserable people. So you see, there are a lot of levels to feeling compelled to make yourself appear happier.
But for just that one day, I decided to shun all those levels and stew in my miserable self. Not because I’m choosing to rebel against the conditioning that society so implicitly imposes us to. But simply because I am allowed to have a crappy day.
So here’s what happened when I decided to inflict my crappy mood on to the world unfiltered and unhinged. I met two kinds of people – the ones that criticise you and the ones that try to make you feel better.
When you’re feeling particularly sad there’ll always be people around trying to make you feel bad about feeling bad. You know, that annoying coworker – when you merely begin to narrate your terrible weekend and they butt in with a story of how their aunt’s cousin’s best friend went through something similar but a whole lot worse.
The second type of people mean well – mostly. They’ll appear concerned and ask you what’s wrong or if you haven’t slept well, or if something is bothering you. The problem? They want you to stop feeling miserable. They’re the same people (you were no different before you started reading this article just btw) who believe having a crappy day implies that something needs to be corrected. And that’s what they’ll try to do. Make you feel better. Try to correct your mood. Attempt to solve your problem so you don’t feel like shit anymore. Because feeling like shit is wrong.
Take my word for it and steer clear of both these types and reiterate within yourself. You are allowed to have a bad day. You are allowed to have unproductive days. You are not obligated to appear happier so that others around you are more comfortable.
But of course, easier said than done.
These bad days more often than not come at a time when you’ve been put under scrutiny to deliver on all the expectations that have been imposed on you. While the most obvious reaction is to put on a brave face and soldier through, here’s how you can accept and become one with your bad days.
First comes acceptance. You’re having a bad day and that’s okay. It happens. Rather than beating yourself up about it allow yourself a pity party and then take some practical steps – not to appear happier but simply towards acceptance.
So take a step back. If you feel like things are getting too much to tackle, don’t hold back from a good cry. Trust me there’s nothing more cathartic than a good cry. And if you’re someone like me who has way too many pent up inhibitions that makes crying come a lot harder than other people, here’s my secret: Put on the film that you know makes you bawl your eyes out. (Personal favourite Dear Zindagi and the last three episodes of the Friends finale.)
Or if that’s not your style or you find yourself all cried out in just a few minutes and are left wanting more, then pick your sport. Send that sick leave mail to your boss. Eat that family-sized KitKat bar. Finish that tub of ice cream you wished could last the month.
In any case, reiterate: I am allowed to have a bad day. Trust me, all of this is nothing but a form of self-care. It can most certainly do wonders for your mental health.
Once you’ve passed this stage of acceptance, the next is to address the elephant in the room – your feelings. Acknowledge your feelings. Address what you’re feeling and what is it that your emotional health demand right now. Remind yourself that what you’re feeling is valid.
But more importantly – it isn’t permanent. However crappy you’re feeling right now it’s not going to last. That’s just the kind of roller coaster that life is. Remember that this day is just a speck in the grand scheme of things. Remember you’ve had bad days before and you got through them. This will pass too.
And finally, revaluate. Something put you in a bad space and you need to deal with it, eventually. Revisit your problems and try to see why this is happening. Once you do, you’ll know how to deal with it too.
But most importantly, never forget. “You are allowed to have a crappy day.” – She writes as she lounges in bed snuggling with her laptop watching a film so questionable she feels will make you revaluate everything you’ve believed she’s said so far.