Leadership Tactic #68: How to Relieve Yourself of the Stress of a Bad Day at Work

A friend texted me today to say that she was having a bad day at work, and she wanted some advice on how to make it better (which made my day, because I love giving advice).

We all have these days. I don’t care how optimistic and carefree of a person you are–every once in a while you’re going to have a rough, stressful day at the office. I’d say I have about 6 of these a year.

This guy knows what I'm talking about.

Here’s what I do when I have one of those days:

  1. If it’s a day when I can play pick-up soccer after work, I do everything possible to make that happen. Different forms of exercise might work for different people, and that’s the one that does it for me.
  2. After work, I call one of my funniest friends and chat for about 15-20 minutes. I don’t vent, I don’t complain, I just laugh and joke around.

I’m sure everyone has some sort of physical outlet like #1. But #2 is more nuanced–I mean precisely what I say there, for several different reasons:

  • As Emma over at Laughter in the Lou will tell you, laughter literally is the best medicine (okay, maybe penicillin is the best medicine. But laughter is pretty awesome too). It feels good to laugh. It relieves stress. It gets your mind off of whatever was bothering you.
  • It’s key that you share this laughter with someone. Watching a funny YouTube video is nice, but you will never feel funny because you watch a funny YouTube video. Choose a friend who makes you funnier than you usually are, and you’ll walk away with the satisfaction of making someone else laugh.
  • A recent study showed that you actually feel significantly better after a rough day if you distract yourself (or let someone else distract you) instead of venting. This may seem counterintuitive, like you’re avoiding the issue, but it’s scientific! It must be true. I think if there’s something that happened at work that you truly need to process, wait until after the stress is off your shoulders to deal with it in a healthy, productive way. For now, just distract yourself with laughter.

I’m sure there are many other ways to relieve yourself of the stress of a bad day at work. What do you recommend?