Five steps to turn a tough day around (How to beat the Holiday Blues!)

The holidays are full of excitement and sadness. As we get older, we appreciate the moments, but we also think of the past. My husband just turned forty and just preceding that his father died. His mother died when he was 26.

As I looked around at my large family of 65+ — I thought of the many people who weren't there. My grandfather and grandmother. My other grandmother has dementia and can no longer walk much less make her famous dressing.

And as I look at Monday, I just feel like staying in bed and pulling the covers over my head and having a good cry. I know that five thousand things will come barreling at my head like barbed projectiles from those who have no idea how difficult some of the things they ask are. Students may not want to be there and I'm going to have to be UP!

So, my husband and I had an extended discussion of how we will tackle tomorrow and turn what could be a tough day to a better one. (Besides that my football team, Georgia Tech lost to our archrival Georgia and I can count on the 75 % of our school who are Georgia fans to really “rub it in.”)

How to turn a tough day into a terrific one!

1 – Start Right

If I think of the best days of my life, all of them started right. For me, that means that I get up early and start by reading my Bible, praying, and if I don't have time for a full workout – at least situps and pushups. That gets me going.

Then, I put on something that will make me happy (like my cute Christmas sweater). I put on my makeup and do my best to look great. I find that if I dress nicely and look nicely, my mood often elevates.

I love a good cup of coffee so I will treat myself to a good cup. I also will fix a good breakfast for my kids because that makes me feel good about myself. I will do my best to keep my voice quiet and keep myself calm.

2 – Put worst things first

This is from my practical, engineer of a husband. He says that he makes a list of the top 5 things he needs to do, no more. Then, he tackles the worst one first. At least he knows that he's got the worst thing out of the way and somehow the sense of overcoming that one thing elevates his mood the rest of the day. I am doing this tomorrow. (And leaving the other 40+ things on another list!)

3 – Make a list

When I best handle those “projectiles” from those who've procrastinated asking me about things, I keep a weekly list. I will add their items to my list. I go over my list with the appopriate folks and let them prioritize. I'm a classroom teacher first. Just getting things off of my mind and onto my list is great. Letting admin handle the headaches of prioritizing is also a help. I simply cannot do it all. (I teach full time and maintain 100 computers and a network!)

4 – Focus on others

I find that when I'm down, that the easiest way to get back up is NOT to think of me, myself, and I. Selfishness, pride, and ego are ingredients for misery. The world is full of disgruntled people who do not think they are getting their fair shake.

Well, guess what? Life isn't fair and work is hard. Sometimes we don't want to go to work, but we get up and go any way. And when we get there, if we look and find a person who needs us and we help them, even if it is a little thing, we feel better.

Bill Cosby's Mom was wise. He was in a philosophy class and they were debating whether the glass was half full or half empty. He went home to impress his mom with his new philosophical knowledge and posed this question to her. Her answer:

“It depends on whether you are pouring or drinking.”

See, she knew that it is by pouring yourself into others that you are refilled. It is by sharing with others that you grow and become more yourself. It is when you selfishly drink of everything and demand that you have only the best that others refuse to come and fill your glass. The selfish have a lot to learn for true happiness is in giving to others.

5 – Keep the main thing the main thing

I heard somewhere the importance of “keeping the main thing the main thing.” That is wise. We all have 24 hours, no more and no less. We must prioritize our family, our spiritual lives, our physical health, and yes, even our sleep so that we can live a balanced and good life. Work will always be there.

Work is important. But it will be there in the morning. One day you'll wake up and your kids will live half a continent away and your parents will no longer be a phone call away. If you have trouble getting your priorities straight, you should see the movie Click with Adam Sandler. It is a funny movie (but not for kids) with a point that echoes with me daily, “Family is the most important thing.”

We need reminders of such.

In conclusion

So, in order to fight my own struggles with not wanting to emerge from my cocoon of fleece and cotton tomorrow morning, I am focusing on you by trying to give you some encouragement. I hope that by encouraging you, that I can encourage myself and you know what, it has worked. I am already feeling better about tomorrow.

Holidays do not always mean happiness

Those of us who are always happy during the holidays need to remember that it is a tough time for people who have lost loved ones. We love our families and the separation of death, albeit temporary according to my beliefs, is a very real and difficult thing to bear.

Get ready for tomorrow!

So, start right, put worst things first, make a list, focus on others, and keep the main thing the main thing and perhaps that will help you if you're having a rough time.

What do you do on such days? I could use your encouragement too!

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Mrs Simpson November 27, 2006 - 4:59 am

Thank you, Vicki! You always manage to say exactly what I need to hear! In return, I will try to send some encouragement your way…

Tonight’s sermon was based on Mt. 6:33. As the minister was discussing how we are writing our life’s sermon, I was thinking about how I can seek God first in all areas of my life, especially as a public school teacher trying to incorporate 21st Century skills into my classroom. I thought of you as a wonderful example of someone who is bringing glory to God through your work as an educator. I would love to stay home and be Mom tomorrow, but if I can touch a fraction of the lives you are touching through your work, then going to work is worth doing joyfully and to the best of my ability!

Have a wonderful Monday!


Aaron November 27, 2006 - 5:43 am

Well said. I appreciated this post very much. It’s not always easy to be, as you say: “up.”

I have lived and worked in Mexico City for the past 8 years, and though I now have a growing family of my own, I still miss my Mom, Dad, brother, and the rest of my family and friends back in Canada. I miss them even more during Christmas.

When I first came to Mexico, I had to face something I never had experienced before: Depression.

Being away from friends and family, having zero Spanish, and zero understanding of the culture and how to walk in it, left me feeling like I had fallen into a deep dark hole.

I think this was one of the most difficult moments of my life so far, but one of the most valuable. I learned something so deep about God: He loves to hang out with the broken hearted. During this time, I came across one verse in the Bible that God used to help me rule over my intense feelings of saddness. It’s here: John 14:1 – Let not your heart be troubled; trust in God, trust also in me (Jesus.)

I learned that my thoughts, what I dwelled on in my head, led me to feel, and led me to act. I started “watching” my thoughts, and sure enough, I often found that they were dwelling on my “terrible” situation of being far away from “home”, far away from “family” and lost in a language I could barely understand.

I started dwelling instead on John 14:1. Day and night. While commuting. While walking. While starting to feel depressed…I would relentlessly focus my mind on Jesus’ words.

I found deep comfort, and after a few weeks, the depression died. Now, 8 years later, it’s still dead.

I still feel homesick sometimes, but …it’s much different.

I loved your advice on how to change a tough day into a terrific one:
Starting right, I think, is the most important, and most often one I think I overlook. “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” -Jesus. So true. He’s where the life is.

Vicky, I pray that God blesses you with His deep comfort, the kind that goes right where we need it the most.

Your friend,

Anonymous November 28, 2006 - 2:24 am

Great post! I wanted to share the following as it relates to your post. There are basically two types of people. The ones that wake up and say, “Thank you God, it’s morning” and the ones that wake up and say, “Oh God, it’s morning”. Judging by your post, I think you are like the first group. Thanks for sharing another wonderful post.

William Bishop

Anonymous November 28, 2006 - 8:41 pm

Thanks for the mention, Vicky. It was great to have the chance to talk. Hopefully, next time Skype will be a little more reliable.

My dream is that our classroom will be able to move around the globe like we do in Google Earth, that in a blink of an eye the sights and sound of say, Bangladesh will be within our grasp.

Literally, a room without walls in which learning opportunities from all over the planet are just a click away.

Imagine being able to link up with a climatologist doing field work in the Antarctic or interviewing Nigerian kids for your school project on the effects of oil production in their area. The possibilities are endless.

This is a great time to be an educator.

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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere