If misery loves company, here’s a reminder that should be at least a little soothing next time you find yourself in a funk: Even psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists — the people trained to help you find the good in the bad, put things in perspective, and become more resilient to setbacks — have times when they’re just stuck in an emotional low point. No one, no matter how in tune with their emotions, is immune to a bad day.
Where these mental-health experts might have a leg up from the rest of us, though, is knowing how to cope; after all, they spend much of their professional lives advising patients and clients on how to do just that. For example, Amy Cirbus, a counselor based in New York, advises paying close attention to what your mind needs, and calibrating accordingly: “There are days that I come home and I need to numb,” she says, but “on other days, the drumming of my adrenaline calls for more action if I want to unwind and let go.”
Her advice speaks to a larger truth: There is no single universal coping mechanism that’s guaranteed to solve every bad day for every person, or even every bad day for just one person. Still, having multiple tools at your disposal can leave you better equipped in the moment to know what might lift your spirits. Below, nine mental-health professionals share the strategies they turn to when they’re struggling to make it through the day.
Create some emotional distance.
I try to think about why I am so bothered by the day. Was there some particular trigger? Have I done whatever problem-solving I can around the issues of the day? Once I have done that problem-solving, can I acknowledge that any further angst is just my mind staying stuck? Can I try to let it go and realize that life will go on? Accepting that sometimes life is tough — but that worrying about that doesn’t change it, and just adds to our misery — helps me to move on.
— Dr. Gail Saltz, psychiatrist, New York