Consider This: Dress better than you feel.

We all have days in which we don’t feel that great but still need to get things accomplished. It may be a lack of sleep, long work hours, lingering head cold, unexpected hangover, funky Chinese food or a myriad of other reasons. Many of these situations can be avoided to some degree, but less-than perfect days will always exist. The difference comes in how we react to them. My method of combating these difficult days involves one easy step: dress better than you feel. Here’s why:

1. You’ll feel better.

I’m no Christian Scientist but I think it’s hard to deny that part of the discomfort that comes from feeling crummy is in our heads. Some Tibetan guy once said that “pain is inevitable; suffering is optional,” and to me that sounds about right. When I wake up from a late night of karaoke or a tough deadline I compensate with an extra effort in dressing professionally – perhaps a nice twill shirt instead of oxford, worsted trousers instead of khakis, or a printed tie instead of a knit. Most of us here in blogland love the sensation that comes with dressing well, and I find that it does wonders for my hangover as well; for me it is much easier to attack the day and get work done if I feel like a professional. Heading to the office in a crisp suit and tie feels much better than doing the same in my old college hoodie.

2. You’ll keep the whole office from knowing.

I’ve never understood why so many people wear their feelings on the outside while in the office. You can always tell the guys that were out a bit too late drinking or are fighting a head cold; they show up (a bit late) in old loose jeans and a wrinkled shirt, wearing the story of last night’s bender on their sleeves (pun somewhat intended). The same goes with the chronic over-workers; they roll in looking frazzled and rumpled so that everyone knows that they were in the office until midnight last night. I find both of these approaches to be foolish. If I dress sharp and arrive on time I am not bothered with wise cracks or sympathy – everyone treats me like normal and I can suffer in peace. At the end of the day, I’d rather get  “got an interview or something?“ over “I remember my first hangover.”

3. Perception is everything.

It’s an unfortunate truth – too often our success in life is tied to how we are perceived and not what we are actually capable of. This is especially true in a professional setting. For this reason I try to put my best foot forward when I know I’ll need it the most. I don’t believe that “it’s always better to be overdressed” like some say but when I’d like to take the focus off my tired body I have no problem deflecting with sharp business attire.

Of course, the most important thing to do to alleviate those crummy days is to take care of yourself. Good diet, sleep, exercise and moderation in vices are the best way to ensure a happy and productive day. But when you wake up with a pounding headache and a conference call in two hours, consider dressing over instead of under.