5 Ways To Deal When Your Day Gets Off Course

I wish my day got off course for a cool, sexy reason but the truth is this:

My 19-year-old cat started coughing in a “doesn’t sound like a hairball OH GOD IS THIS THE END” way and I had to panic / soothe him / soothe myself / fall down a Google hole about cat laryngitis. (Which is totally a thing!) 

(how the entire experience felt)

It turned out to be a random, one-off coughing fit probably because he insists on laying under our bed, amongst all the dust bunnies. 

But it felt like my day was shot.

I was emotionally drained, distracted, and didn’t particularly feel like answering emails or prepping for a coaching call. But I needed to prepare for that coaching call and I needed to answer those emails.

If your day has ever gotten off course – because of cat coughing fits or otherwise – I wrote this for us. Because I literally needed to round up these tips so I can reference them in the future!

It’s totally possible to rescue bad days, to refocus after a distraction, and to course correct a day that gets off course. Here’s how: 

5 Ways To Deal When A Day Gets Off Course


If you’re spiraling, create a “pattern interrupt”

A pattern interrupt is a fancy term psychologists use for activities that, well, interrupt habitual thought and behavior patterns.

We’ve all got well-worn patterns that we return to – we shop when we’re bored, we scroll when we’re putting things off, we gossip about other people when we’re feeling insecure about ourselves.

Noticing these patterns and interrupting them is hard! But it’s absolutely possible.

Trigger Usual pattern Pattern interrupt
See a photo of your ex on Instagram  Spend 45 minutes scrolling through their feed + tagged photos Put your phone in another room and do a paper sudoku puzzle so your mind is too busy to think about your ex
Your kid asks for a snack while you’re working on your passion project You make them a snack … and then clean the kitchen … and then start meal planning Tell them where the Clif bars are and keep working
You’re at a party and your friend’s partner shares an innocuous opinion you don’t agree with (like which Star Wars movie is best)  Spend 30 minutes arguing with them about why they’re wrong + fall into an internet hole trying to prove you’re right Walk across the room to the snack table, get some chips,  and go find the host’s dog

If you’re stressed, break a sweat to move the stress hormones out of your body

As someone who deeply hates cardio and views walking the dog as her daily workout, I regret to inform all of us that one of the best ways to move adrenaline and cortisol out of our bodies is through cardiovascular exercise. ??

If your day has gone off course because your boss snipped at you, your kid had a melt down, or your dog puked all over the rug, one of the best ways to refocus and get those stress-y, negative, unproductive thoughts out of your brain is to exercise to the point of sweating.

Of course, if you’re stuck in an office wearing Real Pants and dress shoes, this is easier said than done.

But if you do have the option, just 10 minutes of frantically dancing to music from your adolescence can do wonders. (Youtube is full of playlists like Top 100 Songs From 2002 and they are a delight.)

Physically move to work in a new space

A change of scenery – even if it’s just working from the couch instead of the dining room table! – can do wonders for refocusing and redirecting your brain.

Other things I do to trick my body + brain into refocusing:

  • Take a shower
  • Brush my teeth 
  • Make myself a fresh cup of tea in a different mug
  • Work on writing project on paper instead of on my laptop
  • Take a nap and when I get up, put on a different outfit
  • Take a walk around the block 
  • Complete a concrete, easy task (empty the dishwasher, make a phone call) to give my brain a dopamine boost

Work on a less-demanding task

If things have really gone pear-shaped but you can’t quit for the day, dramatically lower your expectations for yourself and work on something that’s not too demanding.

Do some laundry, schedule some social media posts, catch up on business expenses, or clear off your desktop. You get the idea!

If you’re feeling incredibly proactive, you can keep a running list of these low-pressure tasks that you can reference for times like these. (My personal favorite is designing pins + filling my Tailwind queue.) 

Afterwards, look at WHY the day got off course and see if you can prevent to similar issues in the future

There will always be interruptions and distractions we can’t plan for – current events, a boss’s “emergencies,” a sick partner or kid. But I’d venture that at least half of our distractions are avoidable.

I can block myself from Instagram and all its enticing drama during my workday. I can fill the freezer with frozen entrees so my stepsons don’t ask me what’s for lunch. I can look at the weather forecast and know that if it’s overcast + rainy I’ll be riding the Struggle Bus and plan accordingly. 

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