Not having such a great day? It happens to every mom, especially during the harried holiday season, and for all sorts of reasons: You were up all night. You're feeling inexplicably sad. You're stressed to the max. (Or maybe a little bit of all three!) First, remember that you can't do it all perfectly and you won't always be in a good mood, says psychologist Patricia Farrell, Ph.D., author of How to Be Your Own Therapist. "Life isn't a straight highway—your baby needs to learn this, too." Then try a few of the following solutions to U-turn a day that's headed south.
When you're exhausted...
Don't try to burn the candle at both ends today. Take it easy instead.
Hit the floor
Set your baby up with a bunch of toys and activities on the rug or carpet, then lie down next to her while she plays, suggests Paige Babcock, a mom of two in New Milford, Connecticut. She'll enjoy having you nearby, and you'll sneak in some rest.
Enforce naptime for everyone
We know, it's hard to give up your only time to check e-mail, but just this once sleep while your baby sleeps—you'll be surprised by how easily you doze off (and how much better you feel when you wake up).
Meter your java dose
"Having more (or less) than your usual amount of caffeine can lead to irritability and exacerbate fatigue," says Cynthia Sass, R.D., former spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and coauthor of Your Diet Is Driving Me Crazy.
But do drink up!
Dehydration can leave you feeling even more tired than you already are. Aim for at least eight 8-ounce servings of fluid, including fruit and vegetable juice, milk and even coffee and tea.
Don't skip meals
Too conked to cook? Just chowing down on a simple PB&J—if it's on whole-grain bread with an all-fruit spread—supplies complex carbs that can boost serotonin levels in your brain and help you feel more focused, according to Andrew Packard, M.D., author of The Packard Weight Health Plan.
Save sweets for last
Treats are fine, but eating sugary foods on an empty stomach can bring on a huge energy crash, says Sass.
Give yourself an extension
Instead of feeling bad that you're too tired to accomplish much, reprioritize and put off everything that doesn't need to be done immediately.
Move bedtime—yours and your baby's—earlier tonight. "Most likely she'll still sleep until the same time tomorrow, and you'll both feel refreshed," says sleep expert Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., author of Sleeping Through the Night.
When You're Stressed...
Anger and frustration can contaminate your whole day if you don't press the escape key. When tension starts to mount, try one of these time-out tips.
Get over your spouse spats
"Remember, it's not 'your baby' but 'our baby,' and as much as you wanted this bundle of joy, there are some trying times in the best marriages after a child is born," says Farrell. You and your partner need to admit once in a while when you're tired, need a break or feel like parenthood isn't what you expected, rather than directing negative feelings toward each other.
Go ahead and giggle
Laughter is a quick way to evaporate stress, so pop in a funny DVD or scan YouTube for silly shorts after your baby's in bed.
Focus on your furball
If you have a cat or dog, chances are it's fallen a notch on the totem poll of your affection since the baby came along. But studies show that spending time with a pet lowers blood-pressure response to mental stress.
Pick up the phone or log on
If a not-so-stellar mommy moment has you on edge, "talking about it will help you realize you're not alone, you're not the worst mother in the world and your child is not the most incorrigible," says Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D., a Los Angeles-based psychologist. Besides, one of your friends will always have a worse screwup story than yours.
Say you're sorry
You raised your voice, burst into tears, said something you regret. "What you do after the outburst is most important," says Thomas. Hug and kiss your baby and go back to being the comforting parent you are. Telling your child "Mama was mad, but it's okay now" will help you both feel better.
Put perfectionism on hold
When your baby dumps sweet potatoes on her head, try to look past your frustration about the orange mess. "We often make ideals, like clean clothes, more important than people," says Cheri Huber, coauthor of Time-Out forParents: A Compassionate Approach to Parenting. So take a deep breath and grab a sponge: This phase will be over before you know it.
When You're Blue...
Who doesn't feel down now and again? Break out of a temporary slump with these blues busters. (Of course, if you consistently feel disinterested in your baby or in your normal activities, talk to your doctor; these can be signs of postpartum depression.)
Don't be a martyr
"Rigidity will get you nowhere but frustrated," Farrell says. Schedules help provide structure to your day, but if you really need a break, don't let a routine stand in the way of just sitting by the fire with a cup of hot chocolate.
Plan a naptime escape
"If (please, God) your colicky or cranky baby naps, don't fold laundry or change the diaper pail," says Jen Singer, author of 14 Hours 'Til Bedtime. "Put your feet up on the couch and watch television or read a book that has no pictures in it." Doing something that's not baby-related will help to boost your spirits.
Spread some "eau de joy"
Studies show the scent of baby powder induces happiness, says Alan Hirsch, M.D., author of Life's a Smelling Success. No need to bury yourself in a cloud of white dust: Just a whiff will do it. Try powder-scented bath products, moisturizers, deodorant, even dryer sheets.
Turn a bad body image upside down
If lingering pregnancy pounds are the source of your blues, take a brisk walk with your baby or put on some upbeat music and dance in the living room (she'll be a captive audience!). You won't budge the pudge in one exercise session, of course, but you will increase your body's levels of endorphins—brain chemicals that induce euphoria (and that might inspire you to finally fit regular workouts into your schedule).
Indulge your vanity
A study by Pantene found that 88 percent of women feel good about themselves when their hair looks the way they want. So skip the ponytail and take the time to blow-dry and style your locks.
Count your blessings
Psychology professor Robert Emmons, Ph.D., of the University of California, Davis, found that being thankful helped reduce stress in parents of 2- to 3-month-olds, and made them feel that they had more support from their spouses. So think about something you're thankful for—those ten little fingers and toes, perhaps?—and chances are things will quickly go from blue to rosy.