Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


A Secret for Surviving a Rough Day

Here is simple way to help yourself when the going gets rough.

About a year ago, I wrote an article on how to turn an unpleasant experience into a pleasant one (“How to Mindfully Turn a Mindful Experience Around”). I often rely on the practice in that piece to help me cope with life’s little irritations. But what can you do when, given the way a particular day is unfolding, that strategy is not in the cards? I’ll describe one such day in my own life and then share how I dealt with it. Hopefully, you’ll try it when your next rough day rolls around.

A few months ago, I woke up not having slept well the night before. Despite feeling lousy, I knew I had a doctor’s appointment that afternoon with a specialist whom I needed to see. Not only that, but I’d have to drive myself to the appointment (about 45 minutes each way), because my husband had a longstanding obligation he couldn’t cancel. At least, I thought, I’d be able to take a good long nap before I had to leave for the appointment.

Unfortunately, at about 10 a.m., I began to feel pain in my bladder. Within minutes, I knew from past experience exactly what was happening: I was coming down with a bladder infection. I know the signs well. My primary care doctor and I have worked out a protocol for handling this when it happens: I have antibiotics on hand; I begin taking them once I’ve collected a urine sample to take to the lab sometime that day.

First, I realized there’d be no delivering of a sample today. The appointment with the specialist was in the opposite direction from the lab—and in a different city. I couldn’t go both places on my own. So I sent a note to my primary care doctor, explaining why I couldn’t provide a sample and immediately began taking the antibiotics.

Second, they don’t begin to work for at least eight hours and, until then, I’m in considerable pain. I have pain pills I can take, but I didn’t think I should since I wasn’t sure how even one pill would affect my ability to drive safely. I’d have to put up with the pain, and this meant there’d be no napping before I had to leave for the appointment.

Bottom line: I was in terrible shape and saw no way to turn this unpleasant day into a pleasant one. At one point, I began to panic as I found myself thinking: “I can’t cope with what’s going on. I’m in pain. I had a bad night’s sleep. I can’t nap. I have to drive myself to and from this doctor’s appointment. How will I ever make it through this day?”

Then, thankfully, the title of a Beatles song came to mind: “A Day in the Life.” I took a deep breath and said to myself: “You’re all right. It’s just a day in the life. You’ll make it.” As soon as I said that, the panic subsided. I stopped mentally fighting the exhaustion and the pain. As a result, I could feel the tension in my body and mind relax, and I knew I’d be okay. Yes, it was setting up to be an extremely unpleasant day in the life but it was only one day…and it would pass.

As a bonus, this new perspective led to compassion arising for how terrible I felt. I began silently speaking to myself with kind words: “This is a hard day. Your body is not the enemy. It’s doing the best it can. Be gentle with it while it’s in pain and remember that soon you’ll start feeling a bit better.”

So, the next time you think you can’t cope, try gently saying to yourself, “It’s just a day in the life; you’ll make it,” and see if those words help you the way they helped me on that most unpleasant of days in the life.

© 2016 Toni Bernhard. Thank you for reading my work. I’m the author of four books:

How to Be Sick: Your Pocket Companion (for those who've read How to Be Sick and for those who haven't). May 2020.

How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers (Second Edition) 2018

How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness: A Mindful Guide (2015)

How to Wake Up: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide to Navigating Joy and Sorrow (2013)

All of my books are available in audio format from Amazon,, and iTunes.

Visit for more information.

Using the envelope icon, you can email this piece to others. I'm active on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

These two pieces might also be helpful: "A Practice to Help You Handle Life's Difficulties with Grace" and “Have You Listened to Your Self-Talk Lately?

More from Toni Bernhard J.D.
More from Psychology Today