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Good Self Care for a Bad Day

You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don’t help.” Calvin, “Calvin and Hobbes” by Bill Waterson

Ugh,” I rolled over and grabbed my comforter closer. “I feel bad. I don’t want to get out of bed. My lungs hurt. I’m tired. I’m depressed.”

When you start each day with a grateful heart, light illuminates from within,” an inspirational poster of sunlight said smugly.

I growled at it like it would care and, because I’m a mature adult, stuck my tongue out. I thought of a new favorite quote of mine from Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews: “. . . I wanted to punch the happy day in the face, grab it by the hair, and beat it until it told me what the hell it was so happy about.

Yeah, not happy. I can already tell it’s a bad day.” I coughed and rolled back over.

Everyone has bad days. Everyone.

Whether it’s because of work, school, or for no reason at all. If you’re sick, your number of bad days are going to be more than healthy people’s. It’s an awful truth for chronically ill people.

With COPD my bad days can be because I’m exhausted. Or they can be because I’ve got bronchitis, costochondritis (inflammation of the cartilage connecting the ribs to the sternum), constant coughing, shortness of breath, allergies, and on. And I can have bad days where I’m just too overwhelmed or depressed – or cranky, if I’m being honest – to want to get up.

Despite the rumors, I don’t actually like feeling cranky and horrible. I know that on bad days I need to do something to help myself feel better, give myself a little bit of joy through the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Normal things done for self care by healthy people don’t usually apply to us. Take a long hot shower or bath? That’s exhausting for me on a good day. Go for a walk? Hah! Yoga or work out? I like yoga when I’m feeling well, but when I’m not it’s too much. Lighting scented candles? The small amount of smoke and scent can be too much after a little bit. Scents like “apple cider” and “pumpkin pie” just make me hungry anyway.

So what to do? I’m glad you asked.

Here are my tips and I hope one will help you.

1. I just rest without guilt.

When my body is really just too tired to get out of bed, I don’t. If I need rest, I take it. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. I like to do what I can during the day. I like to feel useful and busy. So if anything, bad days are a lesson in forced relaxation. I’ve learned to sleep, or stay in bed and it helps me feel better more quickly.

2. I cuddle with my cats.

Well, I try to. You know how cats can be. When it’s 3:00am and you’re fast asleep that’s when they want to lay on your chest and wake you up to pet them. When you don’t feel well and want some comfort, they usually have no idea who you are. But on those occasions they want to curl up with you and sleep in your arms and purr, it is pure bliss.

3. Massage.

Because who doesn’t like a good back rub? Appointments with a professional massage therapist are nice, but rare for me. Sometimes I can get my son or husband to rub my back or my temples and that really, really makes me feel better. The warmth, the contact, all of it is soothing.

4. I binge watch a favorite TV show or watch a favorite movie.

I actually do this when I feel good too, so I kinda feel like I’m cheating with this one. But watching good shows, especially musicals or comedies is something that always improves my mood. “Who’s On First” never gets old and Danny Kaye and Carol Burnett are geniuses.

5. I do something creative.

When I’m feeling all right physically and need a good mood booster, this one never fails. I color, write, or take photos. Creating art is extremely important to keep me from turning into Ms. Cranky McCranky Pants.

6. I sit outside.

During the autumn and spring and sometimes in the summer when it’s not too hot, sitting outside in the sun is as good as prescription medicine for me. I’m lucky to live in the country where it’s quiet so I hear bird calls instead of car horns. Laying in my hammock is even better.

7. I learn something new.

On those days when it’s a bad lung day and I need to rest, I look up something on the Internet that I don’t know. I’ve learned a lot about history and space doing that. It keeps me interested in the world and uses my brain, which I like to exercise as regularly as possible. I hear it helps you stay young and I’m all for that.

And, lastly…

8. I talk to someone I love.

This one seems pretty self-explanatory.

I wish all COPD patients never had bad days. I also hope you can all find your small joys when you do go through the tough times. Keep breathing.

I’ve had the kind of bad day no quote can fix.” – Richelle E. Goodrich, “Making Wishes”

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Nora
    7 months ago

    I really needed this today…really really bad day..
    On top of end stage and extreme flare ups lately…it is the holiday season that I absolutely hate…I am a grieving mother for the last 8 years…and suffer from broken heart syndrome.
    It has a long long clinical name..
    I hate giving into bad days because I feel like a failure..
    Trying to give in gently today..
    Thank you so much for the original post..
    I don’t feel so alone.
    God Bless.

  • Barbara Moore moderator
    7 months ago

    Hi Nora, I am so sorry to hear that you are having a bad time right now. Try to pamper yourself on the bad days so that you will again have good days. It is a perfect time of year to have a bit of down time. The holidays are sometimes too busy for me too. Hope you are feeling better in no time. Barbara (Site Moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    7 months ago

    Hi Nora and thanks for being so candid in your post, responding to Michelle Vincent’s post from August 2017. I’m sorry for the difficult time(s) you’re going through. Glad you are able to find some solace here. Remember, you are never alone in our online community. Feel free to come by anytime for support and encouragement. Wishing you well, Leon (site moderator)

  • LesleyR
    1 year ago

    I do not agree with No 1, while very tempting I still believe that we should get up, even skip the shower if necessary but get dressed. rest up during day if necessary… I think a day in bed should only be if we are very ill … to me this sounds like a depression day not a very ill day and therefore staying in bed only will foster depression.
    I am allergic to pet fur so No 2 is out for me..
    I read, watch a movie (preferably a comedy), play songs and sing along painfully out of key but is good for lungs anyway. Chat to someone that will make me laugh, hug hubby, sometimes shed a tear, play a game on computer or ipad, do some sort of activity , I am a fantastic arm chair dancer… do the pursed lips breathing… and always, always try to stay positive…

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi LesleyR and thanks for sharing what constitutes ‘good self care’ for a ‘bad day’, in your life. It sounds like you know the right way to take care of yourself when things become difficult.

    I believe that Michelle’s intent was to share those behaviors/outlooks/activities that help her to take care of herself when she’s having a challenging day. If any of them work for others, that’s a good thing. If her article prompts our members (as you did) to let us know what helps them, that’s a good thing too! The idea is to be kind to ourselves when things are going as well as we’d like them to.
    We do very much appreciate your post too. No doubt others will read it and perhaps develop ideas that are suitable for themselves.
    All the best,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • gracefulgailg56
    2 years ago

    Cranky days – happen can’t stop them – sometimes want to cry.
    I stay busy sometimes with coloring, small crochet projects and doodling to keep my mind busy. I’m learning how to ride them out – when I’m extra cranky are the hardest.

  • Casey Hribar moderator
    2 years ago

    We hear you, gracefulfailg56! You’re so not alone in this! I love to hear that you find such positive activities like coloring or crochet projects to improve your mood and mindset. How healthful! Please know we’re here for you if you ever need to vent on a cranky day! -Casey, Team

  • GeckoGal
    2 years ago

    What a relief to read a voice that resembles my own. I will be using Ms.Cranky McCranky pants as my name to warn my dear husbandman. I’m going to re-watch NewsRoom now and binge until I don’t remember my Dr appt today or the whole package of cookies I ate before I drove up to the house. Thanks for your article!

  • michelle.vincent moderator author
    2 years ago

    Yes. Cranky McCranky Pants is a scientifically proven mood disorder. Usually treated with chocolate. It’s nice to meet a kindred spirit; I’m binging on fries and episodes of Bones.

    Thanks for your comment!

  • Gadget
    2 years ago

    This is me. I just bought 2 sewing machines, 1 serger, one fancy stitch, trying to be creative…not going the best. Frustration gets a hold.
    How to get past the, “It’s all for naught.” Not even raising the milli on my antidepressant helps.
    Yesterday I cut my little yard with my green lawnmower, which is easier to push and no nasty fumes. Right before I finished, got terrible pain in upper chest, very tight and painful. My first thought was, “Angina”. Then I thought my heart, but realized it’s that lousy COPD messing with me.
    Funny thought came to me; When I was in 4th grade, I entered a poster iI drew into a anti-smoking contest. It got an honorable mention. Drew this guy in a hat and sombrero, he was holding a cigarette in his hand as his coughing head was bouncing away.. And here I am almost 50 years later, My Life imitating my Art.

  • Casey Hribar moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi Gadget! Thanks for sharing with us. I’m so sorry to hear your sewing isn’t going as planned. Is sewing something you have done before? Or is this a new hobby you’re trying to get into? Please know we’re here for you, and certainly everything is not all for naught. We’re so glad to have you in our community, and want to support you in any way we can!

    I’m sorry to hear about your chest pain after mowing the lawn, however, I wanted to congratulate you on even spending the time and energy to complete such a big task! Even though things are rough, I’m glad to hear that you’re trying your best and getting outside! Funny story about your 4th grade poster contest. Very interesting and full circle..! Thank you again for sharing with us! We’re thinking of you and sending positive thoughts your way! Please know you can reach out to us for anything, anytime. Even if you just need a friend to vent to. -Casey, Team

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