Any time I read advice on the theme of ‘what to do when you’re having a bad day’, it’s always the same old thing:
Take a bubble bath!
Go for a long walk!
Now, I’m not knocking any of these things: they obviously work for some people, and that’s great. But I’m not a “bubble bath” kinda girl: they’re always either too hot or too cold, and as soon as I get the water to the right temperature, I start to fall asleep – which would be great, but not so much when I have to wake myself up in order to clean the bath once I’m done with it. (And yeah, I have to clean the bath as soon as I’m out of it: it’s just how I am…) Long walks? All well and good if it’s a perfect, spring day, the ground isn’t sopping wet, and the birds are chirping merrily in the trees. When it’s the middle of November, though, and I can’t even set foot out the door without being blown off my feet, a long walk would be more of an endurance test than a relaxing experience, so, yeah, mind if I don’t?
As for yoga: don’t even get me started on yoga. Seriously, all yoga does is bore me to tears and give me plenty of time to worry about whatever it is that’s making me have a bad day in the first place. So THAT’S out, too.
So, now that I’ve rejected all of the excellent advice on what to do when you’re having a bad day, what DO I do when I’m having a bad day? Well, mostly I complain a lot, so there’s that. (And actually, I WAS joking when I wrote that, but sometimes it feels good to get it off your chest, you know? More on that later, though…) Then I do one or all of the following five things: they might not crop up in a lot of magazine advice posts, but they sure do help…
First, clean your house. To music, preferably.
I’m really in no position to be giving anyone important life advice, but if I WAS going to do that, my first tip for pretty much EVERYTHING would be to first clean your house. Obviously this will only work if you’re exactly the same kind of person as me, by which I mean, “The kind of person who can’t get to sleep at night if she knows the bath is still full of soapy suds and a tidemark from that ‘relaxing’ bubble bath she had earlier…”
I know I’ve said it before, but I just can’t relax or concentrate in a mess, so if I’m feeling a bit low, the first thing I’ll do is blitz the house: not only does it make me feel better to have a nice, clean environment to relax in afterwards, I also find cleaning itself quite therapeutic – I particularly enjoy cleaning to music, so I’ll stick in my earphones, turn up the volume and pretend I’m Taylor Swift, only with a steam cleaner rather than a microphone. Works for me. Maybe not so much for Terry, who has to listen to my off-key singing, mind you, but sometimes you just gotta shake it off, you know?
So, your house is sparkling: now it’s time for that bubble bath, right? Or maybe a spot of yoga? Noooo! Next you’re going to pretend you’re 8 years old again, and…
Re-read the books you loved as a child
“Er, children’s books, Amber? You can’t just read grown-up books? Like a proper adult?” Don’t lie, I know you were thinking it. So, for one thing, I am not a real adult, and you know it. For another thing, well, yes, I DO read books for grown-ups too, obviously. It’s my favourite thing in the world, actually. Just… not when I’m feeling sad, or anxious, or am having an attack of the mean reds. Because the thing about books is, you just don’t know what you’re going to get, do you? That book you’re planning to sink into and escape the world for a few hours with might totally suck. Or it might really upset you: like, a puppy might die in it, or something, and then you’ll just feel even WORSE than when you started.
I remember when Terry was ill, I went through this stage where almost every book I tried to read would have a dead husband in it. Every single one. Even if the book was called “Cute Pictures of Fluffy Kittens”, I could guarantee that one of the kittens would have a boyfriend who got kidney failure and died. I’m honestly not joking about this.
(OK, I’m joking about the fluffy kittens. The rest is true, though.)
Reading is still my solace, though, and the best thing I can do to make myself feel better, so the solution I came up with during those tough times was to go back to the books I loved as a child and re-read them. Not all the time, obviously – or even most of the time. But when I felt really crappy, I’d reach for one of those old adventure stories or boarding school tales, and it would always help to take my mind off things. There’s a lot of comfort in nostalgia, and a well-loved childhood book will take you back to easier, happier times, when all you had to worry about was whether your mum would make you put the light out before you got to the end of that chapter, and how Timmy the dog was going to get out of that well. (And how DID he, I ask you?) (No, I’m really asking you: how does a dog get out of a well with only a frayed old rope to help him? HOW?)
Try it: it will work, I promise you. And if it doesn’t, I will just deny suggesting it.
Read home interiors catalogues
If you’re not up for a quick re-read of ‘Five Go to Smugglers Top‘ (And honestly, you should be: there’s a man with a head shaped like a block of wood in it. And his name is ‘Block’. I mean, what are the odds?!), may I suggest a quick flick through the Ikea catalogue instead? Or the Dwell catalogue, if you’re feeling REALLY fancy? It might just be me (and it probably is), but I find it really comforting to look at photos of beautiful homes, filled with lovely furniture, and lots of wonderful, totally artificial light, which has been made to look like sunlight streaming through the window on a summer morning. I don’t actually buy anything from these catalogues because Terry would kill me, but I like flicking through them and imagining I’m inside those beautiful rooms. It calms me down for some reason, and it also gives me ideas for very expensive things I’d like to do to my home, so hey: win win!
Play computer games
I don’t do this nearly as often as I used to, but if I’m feeling down, nothing picks me up quite like a quick game of Tetris or The Sims. And by that, I mean, “a very long game”, because everyone knows there’s no such thing as a “quick game” of Tetris, is there? It might sound odd, but I think this is the closest I get to meditation (don’t laugh): playing Tetris occupies just enough of my brain to empty it out and de-stress it, but it leaves just enough room for me to mull over whatever it is I really want to think about or work out.
Write it out
As I said, no one likes a complainer, but sometimes you just need to let it all out: which is why I like to indulge in a spot of what I think of as “emotional typing” from time to time. It’s exactly what it sounds like: you open up a blank document, then you type (or write, if you prefer the pen and paper approach…) out your emotions: and God, it feels good. This is why I never really believe people who say they blog “for themselves”: the kind of writing I REALLY do “for myself” isn’t REMOTELY the kind of thing I’d ever want anyone to read. I mean, heaven forbid. But writing down all of those angry/sad/whatever emotions really helps me clear my mind, and make sense of whatever it is I’m feeling: just make sure you don’t accidentally hit “publish”…