The Bad Day Plan: how to make a bad day a better one

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 Photo: Getty Images

As a parent, there are some days that are tough from the get-go. Maybe you were up all night with a toddler. Maybe the baby has been fighting naps all week and you're exhausted. Maybe you're just feeling flat.

Whatever it is, know that you're not alone. "Parenthood can be really joyful and wonderful but we all have bad days," says Cathie Knox from the Gidget Foundation.

Feeling tired, overwhelmed and holding unrealistic expectations about parenthood can all contribute to tough parenting days. "When you're a mother, you're supposed to be joyful and everything is supposed to be wonderful. That becomes an unrealistic benchmark. So if we have a day that doesn't meet that benchmark, it can feel like a bad day."

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 Photo: Hero Images

Accepting that bad days are par for the course and acknowledging how you're feeling is the first step in getting through them. The next step is managing the day so it doesn't get the better of you. This is where the Bad Day Plan can help, by providing strategies that are focussed on looking after your wellbeing and keeping the day in check.

Ideally, your Bad Day Plan should contain ideas that are personal to you - what keeps you ticking over when the going gets tough?

Here are some ideas for containing bad days over at your place:

1. Share the problem

Get in touch with someone who will understand what you're dealing with or who can at least offer a sympathetic listening ear while you sound off. Chances are they'll know exactly what you're talking about.  "Often women will find that whoever they share with will feel the same way," Cathie says.

2. Go somewhere

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While getting out of the house might be the last thing you feel like doing when you're in a funk, the change of scenery can be great for improving your energy. If you can't drum up a plan to meet someone, try a different route for a walk or a spot of window shopping. Teamed with a takeaway coffee, the experience might give you the boost you need to get through the rest of the day.

3.  Lose the expectations

When a bad day is threatening, it's definitely time to drop the expectations to a manageable level. Just for today, forget trying to do things 'right' – instead, change the focus to 'good enough'. Honestly, it will do.

4. Keep things simple

Whatever plans you had for the day, simplify them. Sometimes just the thought of a long busy day can be overwhelming.  Go over the to-do list and prioritise what really can't be put off, delegate what you can, and save the rest for tomorrow's list.

5. Do what feels good

If you're stuck at home with the kids or a fussy baby, figure out what's going to help everyone get through the day and go for it. If that means using a baby carrier for your clingy bub all day, then do it. If going for a drive with the kids is the only thing you can muster the energy for, do that. So what if it's not ideal? Remember, it's just one day.

6. Listen to music

For an instant mood boost, put on your favourite music while you get through the 'must-do' chores, or even spend the time dancing around with your baby (who will love it). Music can be very powerful for influencing how we feel, so try to pick something that's upbeat or has positive associations.

7. Put the kettle on

There's something about the humble cup of tea that is soothing and comforting. It's warm, tastes good and encourages you to take slow, deliberate sips so you can really savour the moment. Even putting the kettle on can be calm-inducing.

8. Go easy on yourself

Be kind to yourself by using positive self-talk. There's no sense in beating yourself up about feeling crappy; instead, acknowledge the not-great feelings and tell yourself that you're allowed a bad day here and there. Remember, we all get them.

With all this in mind, keep a lookout for bad days that occur too often, as this is when they become more problematic than normal.

"Feeling tired, overwhelmed and that your life has diminished to changing nappies and feeding babies is quite normal – there's nothing wrong with feeling low about that," says Cathie.

But if the low feeling becomes ongoing and you find it difficult to make any positive plans, consider it a red flag. "If every day is a bad day, for two weeks or more, it's time to get help," says Cathie. "The sooner you seek help, the faster you'll recover."

The Gidget Foundation raises awareness of perinatal anxiety and depression and provides free psychological help for parents affected by perinatal mental health issues. For more information, contact 1300 851 758.  

Karina is the founder of Mum Friday, a support service for mums with young families that provides help and guidance with all things motherhood. You can follow her at http://www.facebook.com/mumfriday.