Having a tough day today? Or has it been an overwhelming week?

It’s natural and happens to all of us. Just like everything else in nature, we go through cycles of motivation ourselves. Some days we might feel amazing, on top of the world and ready to achieve our dreams. Other days, we might hit the worst mood, abundance of negative thoughts and no clue as to what we would do next.

If you woke up on the other side of the bed with this anxious, overwhelming feeling, here are 5 research backed practical tools that you could try. And even though they might not immediately teleport you to the picturesque hobbit village like set (from Lord of the Rings), they will help you start feeling better, one step at a time.

Let’s start.

1. Write your Heart Out

The first step to get over a tough day is to recognize that you are having a tough day and that you don’t need to run from it. Acknowledge and grab a journal or a blank piece of paper and write down everything that is bothering you. Every single thought, worst case scenario, every negative comment – take a complete mind-scan of everything that is bothering you. And let it off your chest. This activity is simple and surprisingly liberating. Studies have found that ‘expressive writing’ has healing and therapeutic effects on us. [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3505408/] It helps us confront our emotions which otherwise we might not have acknowledged and enables us to see things in a different perspective.

In addition, by simply identifying all that is troubling you and writing it down, you have done your brain a favour. Our brain is not good at holding cluttered information. When there are a million things on our mind, we feel overwhelmed. So, first things first, declutter your mind and create some space.

2. Create a “Feel-Good-Folder”

Do you have a “Food-Good-Folder”?

This is a collection of all your achievements, compliments and positive feedback received from your colleagues and clients. Create a folder either online or physical where you can file all these happy memories. You can save emails from people telling you how your work helped them. You can save a few emails and pictures from your early days of your work to remind yourself how far you have come.

This folder can be your go-to-place for days when you feel like you are not successful enough or not moving fast enough. On days you feel like your work is rejected or not good enough, you go through all the kind words that others have said about you in the past.

If you don’t have this folder already, get into the habit of accumulating small wins on a daily basis. In a study done by Teresa Amabile, professor at Harvard Business School, found that when people are most motivated when they feel like they have made progress in meaningful work. And when people expressed that sense of progress, they felt more creatively productive in the long run. [https://hbr.org/2011/05/the-power-of-small-wins]. So, on bad days, go out there, note your small wins, express them and celebrate them.

3. Take a 1-Minute Mindful Moment

Have you heard of the “Negative Bias” of our brains?

They make us gravitate towards the negatives more than the positives. It is the reason why we remember fights over compliments. It is also the reason why we sometimes extrapolate our fears and imagine the worst, start contemplating the possible scenarios and go down the spiral. This kind of thinking helped us stay alive when we were out in the wild. However, in the modern world this has caused a pandemonium.

And that is precisely the reason, mindfulness comes into spotlight. Taking a mindful minute and focusing our attention back to the present moment, helps us come back to what is real and what we are imagining in our minds.

4. Get your body moving

One of the best things you could do for your mind and your body on grey days is to get up and get moving. If possible, go for a yoga, dance, a swim or even a brisk walk.

Harvard Medical School has published how exercise and any kind of movement can boost our mood and increase our mental health. [https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/more-evidence-that-exercise-can-boost-mood]

If you can find a green patch around you like a park, a pond, a lane with canopy of trees, a hike around the hills or even just a few green trees, take yourself out there.

A “Green Exercise” can uplift your mood instantly, says researchers from Britain. [https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/HealthyLiving/exercise-and-mood]

Besides, you don’t have to pay a membership fee to the plants and flowers!

 5. Write and read your gratitude journal

Year after year, research has shown that gratitude improves our happiness index. Psychologists have found that people who practice gratitude are more motivated at work, are healthier and have better relationships. [https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier]

On a tough day, it helps to shift your attention to what is working out and be grateful for that.

Here are few practical things you could do:

  • Maintain a daily gratitude journal by writing down three reasons for which you are thankful.
  • Read a few pages from this journal, whenever you are struggling. It will offer some perspective that not everything is a disaster. There are still wonderful things in your life. 
  • Thank someone mentally or by writing them an email. Send a note to your family member, friend or a client who supported you, encouraged you or appreciated you in the past. The act of giving thanks is uplifting.

At the end of the day, we can remind ourselves that whatever we are feeling now is temporary. Even if you are at the deepest end of the valley, you will not be here forever. Just take one step, one breath at a time. If you are having a tough time, don’t feel the need to understand or explain all your emotions. Accept them and do the most of what you can. You will survive this, and you will grow through this. Remember: the storm is temporary, the lesson lasts forever.


  • Nidhi Kush Shah

    Executive Coach, Writer, Entrepreneur, Keynote Speaker and Mom

    Alchemy Consulting

    How can you live your best and most fulfilling professional and personal life? How can you communicate with presence, persuasion and charisma? How can you communicate so that your message inspires and influences people? How can you stand out from the crowd and create your unique 'Brand Identity' in the business world? These are some of the questions, Nidhi answers on a daily basis. She is a passionate executive coach, keynote speaker, writer and a mom who is on a self-proclaimed mission to inspire people to achieve all of the above. She has worked with corporate business leaders and teams, entrepreneurs and creatives across Asia and spoken at international conferences about Leadership Communication, Personal Branding, Public Speaking, Growing your Professional Career, Entrepreneurship, Interpersonal and Intercultural skills. She also happens to be an ardent vegetarian foodie, crazy Bollywood dancer, yoga mat loving and chai-sipping mom to two little toddlers. She lives with her husband and kids in Hong Kong and travels around the world for her work.