What Do You Do If You Have a Bad Day at Work?

Unfortunately, you will have a bad day at work somedays. 

We’ve all been there: your day started off bad before it even began. 

Maybe your baby was up all night, or your toddler just started experiencing night terrors. Maybe your spouse picked a fight with you and you went to bed angry, so you woke up angry.

Then you slept through your alarm (or all three alarms) and realized you forgot to switch the clothes from the washer into the dryer last night, so you’re left wearing semi-dirty scrubs because everything else was in the wash.

When you finally got to work, you find out you’re short-staffed — again.

Your first patient of the day was difficult and kept mumbling rude remarks under their breath as if you couldn’t hear them.

Or maybe a coworker made a comment about your wrinkled scrubs, which upset you even more.

Bad days at work can leave us feeling frustrated and anxious, which could eventually accumulate into depression, which could then spiral into burnout. Burnout is a motivating factor that encourages healthcare professionals to either quit or leave the profession altogether.

You have worked too hard putting yourself through school, clinicals, and then interview after interview to give up on everything you’ve accomplished!

It’s important to find a strategy that works for you to overcome irritating patients, disputes with coworkers, and even a difficult home or personal life, and start to enjoy your career and remember why you chose this profession.

If you’re struggling to see the positive side of a terrible day, try one of these tricks.

Shake It Off and Don’t Take It Home

“Hey, honey! How was your day?”

“Oh my gosh, you’ll never believe what happened…”

What’s usually the first thing we do when we get home? Talk about all the bad things that happened throughout our day.

Bringing your work home with you means bringing all the feelings of helplessness and defeat too. The best way to get over a bad day is to leave what happened at work, at work.

Try creating an end-of-the-day routine that helps your brain understand that work is over, like going to the gym or singing your sorrows as loud as you can on your way home.  Or, you could go smaller and create a gratitude list at the end of every day to remind yourself things you’re thankful for. That way, when it’s just been an awful day and your brain is still buzzing with misery, you can shake it off and end on a high note.

Then, you get to go home, relax, and be content that work is at work and you can focus on your personal life.

Related: Why Healthcare Professionals are Stressed and Depressed

Do Something That Makes You Feel Great!

Have you ever had a day so awful that all you wanted to do was curl up in a blanket, grab a bottle of wine, and binge reality tv?

How did that make you feel?

Not so great, huh?

When you’ve had a day you just aren’t sure you can recover from, make an extra effort to do something that recharges you and makes you feel healthy. This will look different for everyone!

Maybe you just need to grab an empowering book and a glass of wine (just one!) and have a quiet evening without distractions. Or maybe you and your closest friend go on a coffee date. Or if you’re a parent, that might mean packing the family up and heading out for a hike.

Ending your day feeling empowered, confident, and happy will help prepare you for a better tomorrow.

When You Have a Bad Day at Work, Remember Your Why

Do you remember why you chose the healthcare profession?

  • Was it because you’d be helping people?
  • Do you come from a family of healthcare professionals and felt drawn to it because of them?
  • Or maybe you’ve always wanted to be in healthcare since you were a young child?

No matter your reason, try to remember your why.

Most people who are in a healthcare career chose it because they wanted to make an impact on the world. But once you’re in the day-to-day grind, it’s easy to see the smaller picture and focus on daily life in your field.

What’s your bigger picture? How many people have you helped?

Reminding yourself why you chose this career will help you push through those days that just seem to never end. If you need to, write it down and put it in an easily accessible place (like your wallet or inside your phone case) so you can pull it out on those exceptionally hard days.

Vent or Rant if You Need To

If you feel like you’re about to blow, then ranting [for a limited time] about it is exactly what you need.

Instead of exploding on a coworker, supervisor, or patient, try calling or meeting up with someone you trust who is also a good listener (your husband/best friend/sister). Ask them to set a timer for ten minutes (15 minutes maximum), and then let loose. 

Try to release everything that’s been bothering you. Just get it out there (you’ll feel better, I promise!)

Then, once those ten minutes are up, move on.

That’s an especially important factor in your rant session. If you don’t move on, then what was the point of venting?

Now, go do something that makes you happy, whether that’s going to eat a healthy lunch, getting in a quick workout routine, or just spending time with someone you love.

Related: 10 of The Best Healthy, Easy Snacks for Busy Health Care Professionals

Evaluate What Happened

Now that you’re feeling better, it’s important to evaluate what happened.

What happened that affected your mood so negatively? How can you better prepare yourself so you won’t feel that way again?

By evaluating what went south throughout your day, you’ll be able to be proactive instead of reactive, which could be a game-changer for preventing bad days.

Bad days are awful, but luckily each day ends and we get the chance to start over.

Being able to leave your bad days behind and focus on the good days ahead is a great skill to acquire, although it may not be the easiest road getting to that point.

Hopefully, at least one of those strategies is something you can implement on days that you are struggling to bounce back from.