Ondrej Markus

Entrepreneur in ed-tech, building the future of education as a founder and CEO at Playful.

I write about the future of education, designing learning games, and running a startup.

I'm a generalist, introvert, gamer, and optimizing to be useful.

stickman sitting at a desk

How to turn bad days around

How to turn bad days around

I had a couple of bad days in a row. That didn’t happen to me for a while. So I was surprised.

Because the less it happens, the easier it is to forget how quickly can one bad day turn into a crisis.

So even though I had something else planned for today, I want to talk about this:

When bad becomes terrible

Everyone feels bad sometimes. Having a bad day is normal.

The problem is when the bad starts multiplying, gathers momentum, and corrupts everything at sight. Suddenly, I feel bad about feeling bad about feeling bad.

My anxiety spiral

My anxiety spiral

It doesn’t end. I know I am miserable, and I can’t do anything about it.

Well, of course I can, but a significant part of the misery is knowing it’s happening and watching myself do nothing. I just sit there and watch myself suffer.

Watching myself do nothing

Watching myself do nothing

The dangerous threshold seems to be one day.

When I have a bad day, I can usually restart things the following day. “Okay, that wasn’t good, but I can do better today."

But if for whatever reason, I continue falling down, it becomes a big problem.

That was today. I continued a 3-day streak of shitty days. Which doesn’t mean I didn’t do anything. I was functional. I even published an article before the deadline on Tuesday.

However, I haven’t done anything beyond the barest minimum possible to get my writing done. I mostly spent time watching myself stumble downwards, clueless about how to turn things around, feeling increasingly bad about myself.

Find your bounceback activities

It’s a gamechanger when you know how to bounce back to a good mood before you fall into a dip.

I seem to continually forget how to do this. So I’m surprised how simple it can be. Plus I’m surprised this is still surprising to me.

I don’t know. Maybe we are meant to re-learn some lessons over and over in life until they really hurt one time, and we remember them for good.

So today, after “enjoying” my morning, I had breakfast, and then, feeling kinda defeated, I went on a long walk while listening to a podcast.

After two hours of walking, I felt 100% better. I’m out of the woods. And I’m writing this a few hours later in a good mood.

I have just one question: What happened here?

And how can I bolster my defenses, so this downward spiraling doesn’t happen?

Okay, that’s two questions. But let’s focus on the second one.

Cultivate upward momentum

For a while now, I’ve been thinking about momentum in life.

Positive momentum is when you’re feeling good about what you’re doing, which helps you continue doing good things and feel good about yourself.

Negative momentum is when you’re feeling bad about what you’re doing, which makes you feel worse and worse about yourself as you continue doing it.

Positive vs. Negative momentum

Positive vs. Negative momentum

The first thing we can do to prevent a downward momentum is to identify what’s happening right now. You can ask yourself at any moment:

Am I on the way up or down with what I’m doing and feeling right now?

Then you can deliberately do activities you know help you turn things around.

The second thing is installing these activities into your daily routine, which protects you from overlooking them once you feel a little down.

For example, long walks seem to be highly effective for decluttering my mind. And it has been something I have been neglecting lately, so I should do more of them as a part of my everyday routine.

These are some of the other things that keep me energized and in a good mood:

And these pull me down:

What works for you to keep your positive momentum going?