How to get your work done when you're feeling miserable (without violating your emotional well-being)

There are loads of tips & tricks on how to increase our productivity, , how to set up & achieve goals, and how to pursue our dreams. But what happens on those days when we’re feeling really, really bad. Miserable. Down. Unmotivated. Depleted. For many of us it is quite normal to take a day off when we’re down with a flu or in a significant, physical pain, but not many of us are capable of extending that kind of a credit towards our emotional well-being. Even though we all know that emotional pain can be quite as difficult to bare as the physical pain.

So, when you are feeling very low, basically you have a few options. You can take time off work and take a really good care of yourself. You can can kick you own butt-chicks back to work. You can use one of your escape mechanisms and numb your emotions out. Or you can take a good care of your emotions and gently shift into working. I am far from judging any of the options, and I have myself practiced each one of them with different results. There is place for everything in life. Let’s take a look at the last option:


So, first of all you’ll need to allow yourself to set a bit of time aside. Be really honest with yourself, how much time are you willing to give yourself. If you are able to give yourself only 15 minutes, you may be able to only take a short version of one of the below options, or you may give yourself a a couple of hours and deep dive into it. The goal is to get you back to the state where you will be able to work, so before you start your emotional resuscitation, make a list of the things you will need to or want to do today.

Apply some healing

What do you do when you are sick? Well, you might decide to take some medicine. You might just do a cup of tea with ginger, lemon & honey. Or simply drink a lot of water and rest (the most common medicine in Denmark- and surprise, surprise it really often works!). Whatever you call it, you will be going through the process of healing.

That’s exactly what you can do with your emotional state. You choose the most appropriate healing method. Just like in case of your physical well-being, there are many healing options for your emotions. I will mention just a few which I think are the most effective in setting you back on track for work.

Do something creative


Doing something creative is like applying a balm on our souls. So when you’re feeling miserable, turn on your creative side and do what you love doing or what brings you comfort. Drawing, painting, singing, writing, dancing are just a few examples. The best one is the one that gives you comfort. Whatever it is, creating something, even very, very small is very likely to have a healing effect. If you are feeling miserable because of the fact that you are not doing well with writing your book, or finishing your painting, you may need to do something completely different. Either another type of creative activity or maybe simply another type of activity :).

Go out for a walk (to the nature)

I know, I know. You’ve heard it so many times. And it’s cold out there! Yes, but still taking a walk is often the simplest and the most effective way to get yourself back on track. If you are lucky to live close to a forest/ see/ lake or any other natural resource, you won a lottery, you can get two in a price of one, a physical activity and the healing power of nature (for some scientific evidence click here) .

If weather conditions are really dramatic and/ or there is no nature around you, you can always consider buying a few plants and walk around them ;). That’s how much I believe both can help!

You are not Your Emotions

Even though emotions occur in your own body and mind, they are not the essence of who you truly are. They are temporary states that can and will shift into another state. You know that for a fact. You have experienced that in your life many times. No matter how positive or negative, no matter how overwhelming feeling we are talking about, it will not stay with you in this form forever. I think of emotions as energy. Emotion is an energy in motion. Energy as such does not disappear but it transforms. So gaining a little bit of a distance to your emotions and observing them from a point of view of an observer, might give you just enough to be able to start working. If you do however need or simply have the time to go deeper. Keep on reading.

Go through emotions

I’d like to mention two ways of going through an emotion. Both ways require acknowledging that emotion is present and an ability to get a little bit of a distance. Both are mindful or meditative practices. One way is to simply be with your emotion and experience it, and then imagine a river, where you let that emotion go and watch it sail away. Another approach is to connect with love & compassion as the ultimate medicine for your emotional pain and imagine that you are applying those beautiful energies to where it hurts. This way you might get lucky and transmute your energy of emotional pain into the energy of love.

Play the ball game

If you have not closed your browser so far, that means that this way of dealing with emotions resonates with you in some way. You may not really know how to do that- YET. That is not something they teach us at home or at school. And being with your emotions can be really exhausting at first! It is like a muscle, when you try it the first times you’ll fell like after a first work-out. But if you stick with it, you can actually become really, really god at that.

“But it hurts- so why bother!”- might you ask (and so have I for a long while :)). Well, the answer is really simple, emotions are energy and energy doesn’t disappear, so if you beat yourself up/ numb yourself out you’ll just stuff all that energy within you. And it works like pushing the ball under the water, you can push it down, you can keep it down for a very long time. One day you won’t be able to do that any longer, so it will jump out of the water with a big splash. What I am offering here, is taking that ball and learning how to play with it. Learning process may be quite painful, but it can also be fun and you can get quite good at it! You’ll learn how to get the ball rolling even when it is really really big. So imagine that this emotion that you are feeling is a ball, see how you can make it smaller or bigger, see how you can play with it.

Write it out or speak it out

If meditative and mindful ways of dealing with emotions are not your piece of cake (or simply do not work today). You can try one of the two good ways: talk about or write about your emotions. If you know someone who is a really good listener, who will not judge you, nor will start jumping with all advice and ways to save you, but will hold for you as you pour your heart out, and that person is available now, talk to them. This may work wonders. If that person is not available or for any reason you are not ready to talk about your emotions, or simply LOVE to write. Write it out. It’s quite amazing how helpful it can be to simply describe in details and specifically what is going on with you right now. It’s like downloading all that energy from inside of you, to the piece of paper. Try it. It really, really works.

Get the work ball rolling


Now that you have done some or all of the above, look back at your piece of paper. Chances are that by now you are feeling much better and you can easily get the ball rolling. If that is not the case, and you are still feeling pretty bad, you may consider to actually take a day off. If that is not possible, start with the smallest / easiest/ nicest task on your list. Getting the first thing done and ticked off, is likely to give you some sense of productivity or usefulness and it is what we are looking for.

Good luck

I truly hope that it was helpful and I wish you all the good luck! Sometimes it is a really good idea to take the time off and take a good care of your emotions. Sometimes however, it is much better to work through emotions and keep on going towards your dream. So if you do want to be successful and fulfilled for a long haul, exercising that emotional resilience and health, may be the determining factor in whether you make it or break it.