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Just had the worst day ever? This 3-question debrief can help

This quick exercise can give you a little perspective, and peace of mind, after a truly crappy workday.

Just had the worst day ever? This 3-question debrief can help
[Photo: Devonyu/iStock]

There’s no other way to say it: You’ve had an absolutely horrible day.

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You spilled coffee all over yourself during your commute and then showed up late to your meeting with a giant stain on your shirt. Your boss gave you a ton of not-so-great feedback on a recent project you spent weeks on. And, to top it all off, your desk mate decided that everybody should be able to hear her favorite playlist over and over again on full volume.

You’re ready to head home, wallow in your own self-pity, and then leave this day behind you. I can’t blame you.

But here’s the thing: Pressing pause for at least a little bit of reflection can help you not only move on–but also prevent you from having more bad days just like this one. Asking yourself these three questions can help you put it all into perspective:

1. Will this day have a lasting impact?

When your day was nothing but awful, it’s easy to send yourself into a downward spiral of despair. You make mountains out of molehills and become convinced that this one brief rough patch will be the demise of your entire career and reputation.

Rest assured, that’s hardly ever the case–and this question will help you step back and get some much-needed perspective. Of course, there will be some days that had so much go wrong they will require some further action to patch things up.

But most of the time? You’ll be able to start fresh tomorrow morning without any sort of ill effects from the previous day. So chin up! More likely than not, everything that happened today probably won’t matter too much next year (or even the next day).

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2. What would I do differently?

Are you the eternal winner of the blame game? I can relate. When things don’t work out as planned, it’s easy to place all of the responsibility on your shoulders–regardless of whether you had any control over those circumstances or not.

This is why it can be so helpful to identify what, if anything, you’d do differently if you magically had a do-over of your day.

Not only will you be able to show yourself some grace and quit blaming yourself for things you had nothing to do with (really, what power did you have over your train being late?), but you’ll also learn from any mistakes you actually did make–and then avoid doing them in the future.

3. What went well today?

Alright, you’re so wrapped up in everything that went wrong that you’re convinced today was so terrible it’s worthy of being the plot of a horror film. However, even the worst days have at least a few bright spots.

Obsessing over the bad things is probably only going to send your mood into more of a nosedive. So, ask yourself this question to pull out a few of the positives. Even if it’s something as small as the fact that you got your favorite bagel sandwich for lunch or your colleague complimented your haircut, think of the things that actually went right today (trust me, there are a few of them!). It’s a great way to put those negative things behind you and boost your mood.

Unfortunately, bad days are inescapable every now and then. They can be frustrating and emotionally trying, but they can also be enlightening.

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Before you park yourself on your couch and drown your sorrows for the evening, take the time to think through these three key questions–and you’ll be back up and at ’em in no time.


This article originally appeared on The Muse and is reprinted with permission.

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