Wellbeing

How To Deal When You Have An Off Day

Having a bad day from time to time is simply an inevitability. Everyone gets up on the wrong side of the bed occasionally. On those days we just don’t have it in us to work to at the top of our game. Unfortunately, life and work still call on a bad day. Here are some ways to take care of yourself, and make the most of your off days.

Don’t beat yourself up

It’s important to be kind to yourself on a bad day. A negative outlook will only exacerbate your lack of energy. These things happen. Accepting that you won’t get as much done today is the key to making the most of the energy you do have.

For illustrator, Etsy shop owner and actress Cheyenne Barton, having the energy and motivation to work solo determines her bottom line.

“The long and short of it is that if I don’t work I don’t make money,” says Cheyenne. “If I don’t make money, I don’t make rent and I can’t eat. I am completely self-employed.”

Because of this, practising kindness and self-care is essential to remaining productive on her off days.

“I remind myself that I wouldn’t be proud of the work I would do in that state regardless,” she says. “The best thing I can do for myself, and my work, is to take care of myself. Let the thing run its course.

“I tend to get overwhelmed easily, so I remind myself that I can only do one thing at a time, and that’s totally okay. I’m only human.”

Focus on easy, doable tasks

Off days can easily make you feel unproductive if you try to make yourself conquer a mountain of work. Break up your routine and focus on smaller tasks, like replying to emails, doing general housekeeping or tidying up. That way you’ve still done tasks without exhausting yourself further.

“I prioritise three or four things I need to take care of that day… and try to crack on to the best of my ability,” Cheyenne says. Cheyenne also suggests the Pomodoro technique, which involves breaking work up into 25 minute chunks, with five minute breaks in between. This helps to segment otherwise large, unconquerable workloads into doable periods of time.

If you’re feeling particularly lethargic, try to have a ritual of baseline tasks to get done. Making sure you at least make your bed, get through emails and give your best in meetings to instil a sense of achievement even on the laziest of days.

Take a break from the bad day

When your energy is limited, reducing the amount of distractions is key to focussing on what you need to do. In the same way having a million tabs open slows down your computer, having multiple distractions will only divide your energy.

Student Susannah Makin finds that disconnecting from social media in order to channel her energy into her immediate physical surroundings works, and enables her to study much more efficiently.

“Concentrate on completing simple tasks outside the digital sphere.”

“Concentrate on completing simple tasks outside the digital sphere,” she says. “I focus on my dogs and what they need from me, like a good walk and fresh food. The best is taking them to their favourite park so I can be surrounded by a different positive energy to re-centre myself before getting back to work.”

A brief change of energy can be just what you need to reboot and return to work refreshed.

Take your time

If you just don’t have it in you, you’re not going to be able to operate to the same schedule as any other day. Taking some time out of your day to recharge can help ration your limited energy, and optimise what time you spend working.

“I find it’s best to schedule in an hour or so for yourself, so you can just do something that you enjoy,” student and writer Stacey Whitlock suggests.

“It’s by no means a permanent fix, but having this relaxation period to look forward to does help to revive you even a little when you’re feeling drained by stress or a heavy workload, and make your life just that little bit more manageable”

Listen to your body and mind

An important skill for anyone is to know the difference between a day when you simply feel off, and a truly Bad Day. In other words, when an off day may be indicative of a larger issue.

“General moodiness and feeling down, tense, angry are all normal emotions for young people to experience,” says Vikki Ryall, Head of Direct Clinical Services at Headspace. It’s when these feelings persist over days or even weeks that they should be cause for concern.

Cheyenne, who suffers from depression and anxiety, notes a material difference between a simple bad day and a day touched by mental illness.

“Usually, on an off day, there are still moments that I can grab onto in order to haul myself out of bed or out of a stupor and get started on things,” she says. “On Bad Days, those moments are nowhere to be found, and even if they do crop up, they are so dim and far away that I can’t grab onto them.”

If you find yourself consistently waking up feeling burnt out, and can’t pinpoint it to a particular reason, it may be worth looking into mental health resources such as Headspace and Beyondblue, as well as those available at your workplace or place of education. You can also talk to your doctor about how you’re feeling.

You know your body and mind better than anyone else. If you feel something is off, it probably is.


Kim is a freelance writer based in Melbourne. Her work has been featured in Junkee, Archer Magazine, Global Hobo and more. She’s also a regular contributor over at neutral.love, which works to break down stigmas surrounding sex and relationships. When she’s not writing, she’s sitting at home bullet journalling. You can tweet at her @mirroreyedgazer.