Bad Days…and what to do about them (Guest post)


Some days I feel like a pile of garbage. My whole body aches, I’m tired, I’m grumpy. And the worst thing is that nothing really caused me to feel that way.

Things seem objectively fine: I woke up and listened to CBC over coffee with my partner. (Great!) We chatted and cuddled with our cat. (Awesome!) After he leaves for campus, I am able to begin my weekday routine: tidy kitchen, emails, research, write, work out, rest, and read. (Wonderful!)

But some days I wake up feeling like even the smallest task is too much. I look at the sink filled with dishes and even the thought of getting the warm water running seems like it might be near impossible.

On days like this, how could working out even be an option? I feel like my energy and motivation are so low, rocks and barnacles are probably more ambitious than me on days like this. (And all they do is sit around! Or in the case of barnacles, cling to ships and other ocean-y things.)

What to do about days like this?

For one thing, there is the option of giving into that feeling. And maybe even getting inside of it and figuring out what’s causing it. Writing is often a good tool for this. I sit down and mindlessly scribble out what’s going on with me and why I might be feeling like this: a busy past couple of weeks, cold weather, days getting dark before 5pm, bodily ailments, a disagreement with a loved one, whatever the case may be. It could be anything. Sometimes it helps to get down to the bottom of a bad mood: I can relax a bit when I know that there is something at the root of my low energy and motivation.

But other times it isn’t so easy to figure out what’s causing a bad day. And in fact, I may not be able to figure it out at all. While this is frustrating, it’s often enough to simply accept that some days are just bad. And that’s a part of being human.

And the truth is, on bad days, it doesn’t always matter why they’re bad so much as recognizing them as bad. If I recognize I’m having a bad day, it is almost always easier to preempt the badness by speaking kindly to myself, surrounding myself with the things that would make a bad day better, and overall taking it easy (i.e., not pushing myself so hard and watching out for negative self-talk).

One of the practical issues that arise from bad days is how it can affect my decisions concerning fitness and working out. I find it can be way too easy to let a bad mood trick you out of being active. When in fact, being active may be just the thing to make you feel better! A strange paradox indeed.

You might have seen these Inner Kermit memes that speak to what I’m getting at.


And here…


And here…

The idea being that many internal struggles tend to involve knowing there’s something you should do, and talking yourself out of it by giving into your “bad side.”

My newest strategy for dealing with this has been to take the element of “debating” or “deciding” out of the equation.

For example, if I decide in advance that I will exercise on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, then I commit to these days ahead of time. I do this because I know that if I leave it to myself to decide whether or not I will work out on a particular day, it probably won’t happen.

Leaving exercise open to debate with myself can be risky, especially when starting out because my habits aren’t fully formed yet. And it can become very easy to talk myself out of something or tell myself that I’ll “do it tomorrow.”

However, if exercise days are something that are already set or scheduled in advance, I tend to devote less mental energy to the subject, and even less mental energy debating with myself over whether or not I will follow through. I just do it. Bad days are normal, but having certain commitments in place ahead of time makes it so that a bad mood doesn’t dominate my entire day, or even entire week. And it certainly doesn’t dictate all my decisions on a given day.

The point I’m trying to make is, just because there are days I feel like a garbage pile, doesn’t mean I have to act like one.

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