What to do on a bad day

If, like me, you experience depression from time to time, you will know about bad days. They come and they go. Some are worse than others. On the very bad ones, it may be impossible to speak, even move.

It is not always the case that an accumulation of bad days will build up into a severe depression. But they might.

What is unfortunately true is that, on bad days, we may do things that we later regret. We may hurt ourselves, others or both.We may damage relationships and opportunities. And we may develop destructive habits that are hard to break, especially when the next bad day comes along.

If we are lucky, the good days outnumber the bad ones. On good days, it is easy to pretend that the bad days don’t happen. Or to forget what they are like. And the reverse is true also. On a bad day,  we can believe that we will never feel calm or happy again.

Today is a good day for me. And so I am making myself think about the things I would like to remind myself of when the next bad day comes along.


  • Get up. Do it slowly. But do it
  • Make the bed. It gives a sense of control. And it is nicer if you need to go back
  • Make some, albeit minimal, attempt at personal hygiene. Maybe wash your face gently in warm water with a soft flannel
  • Get dressed in comfy clothes
  • Accept that this is a bad day. Embrace it. Only do what you must.
  • If you can, use mindfulness to notice the bad feelings as they come and then go by
  • If you can, use CBT so as not to engage in the negative thoughts
  • Make a plan to do very little. And then do what is on the plan. Drink tea. Eat toast. Watch comfort TV. If you can’t bear TV, listen to the radio
  • Spend time with the cat. He knows what to do
  • Cancel things that you can cancel for the next couple of days to give yourself some breathing space. This will probably include asking for help, which can be really hard.
  • Plan to go out for a little walk – if not today, then the next day. Or the one after. You will know when.
  • Tell someone you trust how you are feeling. I know this is the hardest part. But please, do not avoid this.
  • If you haven’t been recently, make an appointment to see the doctor
  • If you are desperate, call Samaritans


  • Don’t tell yourself you are a useless lazy good-for-nothing selfish cow for not being able to do whatever you feel you ought to be doing today
  • Do not make any important decisions (like resigning from your job)
  • Do not stop your medication
  • Do not force yourself to exercise or berate yourself for being unable to exercise
  • Do not work, read anything other than the lightest of fiction or do anything else demanding
  • Do not watch the news
  • Do not read emails
  • Do not use social media
  • Do not write lists of how useless you are
  • Do not worry about the world
  • Do not go outside in your pyjamas. Or if you do, wear a coat

This is only my list. It might help you. But, even better, you might want to write your own.

If you do so, I would love to hear whether you found it useful.

Remember this; we are not alone.

 P.S. A few hours after posting, someone v wise pointed out to me that those with caring responsibilities don’t have the luxury of “duvet days” (they didn’t call them that but I know what they meant.) So I have amended the Do list slightly. 

It is still only my list. I don’t recommend any of it really. But I do recommend that you consider writing your own.


  1. Dear Lisa

    I’ve always liked reading your blogs and tweets, and I thought you might be interested in our project in Moulsecoomb, Brighton, where you can really see the value of a community garden and its many benefits in terms of health and well-being.

    It’s the Moulsecoomb Forest Garden and Wildlife Project , and we work with young people struggling in the classroom and people of all ages & abilities; cooking, gardening and learning together in an outdoor environment. Project manager, Warren Carter has developed the project over 20 years from a derelict allotment site to a well-respected registered charity, now working with 11 local schools and many referral agencies, providing a range of opportunities for people of all abilities.

    You’d be very welcome to see what we do – our work days are Tuesdays and Fridays, and we’d even throw in a tasty home-cooked lunch if you’re hungry!

    I hope this will be of interest

    Kind regards


    Susie Howells

    Chair of Trustees

    Moulsecoomb Forest Garden and Wildlife Project

    m: 07775 671706

    Registered Charity no: 1120073

    Follow us on Twitter @mfgwp


  2. I can’t recall the last time I failed to get up and get dressed but through many of my worst years I had to get two children up, dressed, fed and off to school which I suppose ‘helped’.

    I have done far too many of the items on your list of Don’ts – still do at times.

    Useful lists, thanks.


  3. This is so good. I’d only add, being a dog owner, “take your dog(s) out as far as you feel comfortable and snuggle up with them if that’s what you both enjoy”
    I’m fortunate to have few days like this, but they do happen and all your suggestions work for me.
    Big hugs


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