How to overcome a bad day at work

Did you have a rough day at work and wind up googling how to make it better?

We understand.

We all have those occasional bad days at work, even if we love our jobs.


Because if you work a full-time job, you are spending a considerable number of your waking hours working, and eventually, something will come up that will make you leave work at the end of the day with one large “ugh.”

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If that happens, does that mean the job is not the right one for you?

Not necessarily — people tend to believe that when they are working on something they are passionate about and have their dream job, everything will be perfect.

But that is sadly not the case.

Everyone has bad days: your coworkers, your boss, and even you.

So how do you overcome these bad days and go back in the next day with a smile, happy to be there?

Here’s how.


  • Leave the situation and take a breather away from others.
  • Find an activity like walking, calling a friend, journaling, or even playing video games to distract you from the bad day for a few minutes.
  • Find the root cause of your bad day, and work on not repeating the same mistakes again.

Ready to feel better about this crappy day?


Sitting at your desk fuming about something a coworker said?

Angry your project got dumped or that your boss doesn’t take your ideas into consideration?

What if you flunked a presentation and feel like you are the company’s newest failure?

No matter the reason, you are most likely spending too much time ruminating on it, going back through the event in your mind over and over and wishing your day had gone differently.

Plus, you probably aren’t getting any work done at this point.

If this is happening to you, the first thing you must do is leave the situation. Now that doesn’t mean you need to storm out of work, rev the engine of your car, and speed away to freedom. You don’t even need to leave work for the rest of the day to accomplish this.

Leaving the situation can be as simple as shutting your office door or going to the bathroom and taking a breather away from everyone else.

While you are taking a breather, do just that: Breathe.

When we mean breathing, we mean from your stomach.

Take a moment and pay attention to your breathing. Does your chest rise and fall, or does your belly go up and down? If it is the first, you are not breathing in a way that reduces stress. Take some time to breathe from the belly and visualize yourself somewhere happy.

Feeling better already? Good.

Now we can work on some steps to improve the day after the initial setback.


The next step to stopping that ruminating cycle of doom is to get active. Do something to distract yourself from the situation.

Here are some key things you can do to help keep your mind off your bad day at work:

1. Go for a walk. Go for a short, brisk walk. Have you ever noticed that you feel less stressed after working out? That is because you are burning that adrenaline during exercise and releasing all the good-feel endorphins.

Walking around your building during lunch or your next break is a great way to make that happen.

2. Tune in to your happy place. Listen to music or a podcast. Listening to music or a podcast will distract you from background noise at work and will help create a comfort zone around your space.

That way, it’s just you, your work, and a good tune or two. Who needs frustrating people?

3. Write it out — clear your mind. Open up a blank Word doc, and do a brain dump of your feelings. It’s venting, but without needing to step out to make the call.

Type as fast as your mind and get it all on one document. Read it over, think about what really is happening and whether you can change anything about the solution, then delete the document.

It is quite the cathartic approach to overcoming a bad day.

4. Vent it out to a friend. If you really need that one on one vent, go to your car and call up a friend during your break. We’ve all needed this at some point.

Get the frustration out so that it doesn’t hurt your job performance.

5. Play some video games, or do whatever else floats your boat. Video games take a lot of brain attention, so it is a great way to distract you from the situation.

Just don’t do it on the clock — grab your phone and load your favorite game during a break.

By this point, you have taken yourself away from the situation, done some deep breathing, then did something to distract you from the bad day for a few minutes.

Now what? How can you prevent bad days from happening or make the next ones not as terrible?


If this bad day is just one out of the blue, then maybe you don’t have to think about ways to prevent future bad days, but reflection is always important.

If this bad day is one among many that seem to be more frequent than good days, you may want to spend some time seriously thinking about what makes your bad days so bad.

Is it because one coworker is just terrible?

Is your boss overly demanding?

Do you feel like a failure and always underperforming?

Take out a pen and some paper or open a new Word doc and brainstorm the cause of your bad days. You mind find some interesting conclusions.


If so, give yourself some perspective. What would other feasible options be? Is there a way you can improve your outlook on your job?


Try giving them the benefit of the doubt– maybe something is happening in their lives that is causing the work disturbance. Don’t be afraid to speak with them about ways to improve the work atmosphere. Maybe reaching out to them and showing some empathy would help more than you think.


Time to give yourself some self-empathy. Are you working hard? Are you giving an honest effort at the job but still feel like a failing employee? Talk with your friends, coworkers, or your boss about some feedback. You might not be doing poorly at all in their eyes. Try writing down the positives: what did you do right?


After you have done all the above, you likely need a pick me up.

It was a rough day, and you deserve it.

Find something funny to lighten the mood, so that you can continue on your day and put the bad day behind you.

Have you ever looked up “bad day at work” memes?

If not, we suggest you try. It can give you the chuckle or two you need, to lighten your step for the rest of the day.


Now that you are at the end of our how to overcome a bad day at work guide, we hope you are feeling a bit better.

Just remember, a bad day at work is only one day.

Don’t let the hours at work dictate your happiness for the rest of the day and night. If you follow the steps detailed above, you will likely find some relief so you can go home feeling content.

It’s normal to feel angry, frustrated, unhappy, bored or annoyed at work sometimes, but try not to make that a habit.

Reflect on your day and move on — you’ve got this.

This article first appeared on Zippia