Mondays, am I right? Why are they so terrible and what can we do about it!?
Monday is often not the most productive workday. "We run our lives like seven-day workweeks because we think that we can use our weekends to catch up" (Girdwain, 2010). If the high stresses during the week aren't offset by the lows of leisure on the weekend, your cortisol levels remain high which impacts your body's ability to bounce back and recharge (Girdwain, 2010). Cortisol is a hormone that is released during times of stress; the 'right' level is essential for human health (Health Direct, n.d.). It can help the body to respond to stress or danger, increase metabolism, control blood pressure, reduce inflammation. An imbalance (too much or too little) can impact the body via weight gain/loss, acne, tiredness, nausea, muscle weakness. For more information visit HERE.
As a self-identified Introvert, I don't usually struggle to find leisure time (the imprint on my couch and the slouch in my mattress would agree). SO WHY ARE THEY SO TERRIBLE?
I started to consider the various reasons that Mondays typically suck for me. Here's what I came up with:
- Suddenly 7:00am feels like 3:00am
- The morning is always rushed
- Me leaving my bed is like Rose asking Jack to come back (sad but to be expected)
- Anxiety seems to have gained momentum and stepped up its game during the night
- I have zero energy and little patience
- There are always work voicemails / emails waiting for a timely response
- My To-Do list has refreshed
- The coffee lines are always longer (and I didn't have time to make my own)
- Needing to think of a better (probably made up) response to 'how was your weekend?'
- Wishing I took better advantage of the weekend
- Routine is hard
Me: Why do you hate Mondays?
Friend: Because they're notoriously bad. They just are.
If you, like me, struggle with the Sunday / Monday Blues (or in my case the Monday Don't-Wanna-Do), check out some tips below!
Disclaimer: These tips are what I have found to be helpful; they will not work for everyone since we have different experiences, different responsibilities, and are totally different people.
1. Brace yourself
While part of the problem with Monday is the notion that we are back it again heading into another week of responsibility, it can also be helpful to know what you are heading towards. It is easy to shut the mind off at the end of your workday on Friday, thinking about nothing but the weekend. How easy is that pattern when it all comes rushing back to your mind on Sunday night while you're lying awake thinking about everything this upcoming week has to offer? I began preparing for Monday at the end of the work week rather than the end of the weekend and found that I felt less anxious and stressed because I knew what to expect (to an extent). I take a moment to peek at the plan Sunday afternoon and then I focus on my day. This soothes the need to know and provides space to mentally prepare, without taking too much space for the unknown. Almost like: this is what I know, I'll deal with the rest as it comes. REMEMBER: You can only do what you are capable of doing.
Try this out:
Before you clock out on Friday, take a moment to plan for Monday. What can you be sure about? What is unpredictable? I like to consider the tasks that I know will be waiting for me and which ones need attention first. I make an ordered To-Do List.
- Review To-Do List to prepare the mind.
- Listen to voicemails - write the messages down.
- Review emails - delete the spam. Check if any are urgent.
- Review / confirm appointments scheduled (who, what, when, where) so that I know how much time I have before and between appointments.
- Return calls and then respond to emails.
- Complete any documents.
2. Utilize your time off
Do you find yourself thinking about work or trying to fit work into your time off as a way of lessening the load when you return? I do. Sometimes we need to do this to maintain a sense of productivity. Sometimes we do it because we simply work too much and taking a break seems counterproductive or foreign to our personalities and responsibilities. You need to step away. If you, like me, operate your own business, you still need time to step away from your role and refresh your mind. You cannot do your best work if you are not your best self. This means physically, mentally, socially, emotionally. Work is very important, but so is your mental health.
Try this out:
Review your schedule, your overdue and upcoming tasks, and your time off. Prioritize what is needed, come back to what can wait. If your work day ends at 5:00pm but you typically spend until 6:30pm responding to emails, cut this back. Be realistic, start small. Set an alarm for 6:00pm and stop working then. Once that becomes routine, set it back to 5:30pm. The work will be there when you come back. Work never ends, but your time does. If this sounds scary, overwhelming, or impossible, ask yourself why. Will clients be upset? Not if they know whats up. Set an auto-reply email to let them know that you are away from the office but will respond when you are back. People understand boundaries, you just need to set them. I understand how hard this can be. My first step was scheduling specific blocks of time that I would not touch my work. I had to train myself to remember that life is happening whether I am working or not, and that I wanted to be a part of it. Doing this will allow your body to calm, to step away from stress, and to feel better walking into the next busy week.
3. Weekend Routine
I know, sounds awful. Why would you want to ruin the weekend with a routine? Bare with me. Part of what gets me about Monday mornings and beginning the week is the re-adjustment to my weekday routines. Waking up early after 2 days of sleeping in, sitting in traffic before I am mentally prepared to be a human, rushing to get my coffee (this 'need' can have its own blog), and realizing that my socks are not matching as I am walking into the building to begin my workday. I found that the more unpredictable and spontaneous my weekend was, the harder it was to adjust to Mondays, and the grumpier I would get when my body and mind were not working together to be productive and motivated.
Try this out:
Bring a tiny bit of structure to your days off. It is okay to sleep in, but keep it manageable. If you wake up at 6:30am on workdays, sleep until 7:00am or 7:15am on days off. This gives you more 'rest' without allowing your body to fall out of routine. Do something that feels good, but keeps you motivated. If you like the gym, head there when you would typically head to work. If you have a dog, take them for a walk in the morning. If you like Netflix, watch a movie and then get ready for the day. The point being, don't stay in bed too long. The longer I lie in bed, the less energy I have for other activities. You can relax and do what makes you happy, but maybe doing so in a more organized fashion can keep you ready for routine, and decrease the adjustment stage for heading back to work. Routine isn't always hard work -- schedule some fun, leave some open for improv.
4. Get Excited
I don't know about you, but I feel more motivated when I have something to look forward to. Booking a vacation months in advance builds the anticipation and the excitement. It gives me momentum to push forward because soon I will be relaxing with a nice view of wherever I am going. Knowing that I have to leave bed in the morning, spend 2 hours in rush hour traffic, work, then spend more time in traffic all sounds terrible if that's all I am focusing on. Throwing something in at the end of the day to add anticipation can help motivate me and keep me in a positive mindset. "Traffic will suck but there's an incredible plate of nachos and a new scary movie waiting for me when I get home; I got this. I can do this".
Try this out:
If you know the day is going to be long or stressful, schedule something to look forward to. I often feel tired by the time I get home so I plan accordingly. Maybe there is a new movie on Netflix that I wanted to see but missed it in theatres. Maybe there's a live music event at the cafe down the street from my house. Maybe I am going to hit up that bench at the boardwalk that overlooks the water. The point is, you need something to look forward to. We need to change the negative thought into a positive thought. How do you do that? Simply reflect on what you have to be grateful for, to look forward to. Make a list: Things that excite me OR Things that I get to do this week. What can you do to make the day a great day? Every day has opportunity to be a great day.
5. Start the day off right
You're thinking: Kyle, if I knew how to do this I wouldn't be reading this right now. Here me out. Clearly whatever you are currently doing is not exactly working the way that you want it to. Maybe this is because you're not doing anything yet, or maybe it is because what you are doing isn't giving you what you need. I felt that Mondays had too much control. It would drag me out of bed, get me ready to go, and then throw whatever it wanted to throw my way and watch me flail around like one of those giant inflatable air dancer things that you see going crazy in the wind. What did I need to do? Take back control; get back to me. We spend so much of our lives giving our time to others. To employers, to friends, to family, to partners, to pets, to house maintenance, etc. but what about the time we deserve to give to ourselves?
Try this out:
Start the week off by giving back to yourself. You deserve the gift of your own attention. Spend that hour before work sitting on the porch drinking your coffee in silence. Do that crossword puzzle at the kitchen table. Sit at that cafe and people watch until you need to hit the road. Go for that run or make that breakfast that you love. Hit up the gym or dance it out to your favourite song. Spend that extra 10 minutes singing in the shower. What you need to do to focus on yourself, do it. Start your Monday with self-care and you will feel more energized, more motivated, more willing to tackle that to-do list. It doesn't have to be rushed. You get to control how you start this week, make it great. Choose you.
6. Take it slow
Hold up. Yes the weekend is over but no, you are not Flash. You do not need to speed through everything. This one is tough and I still find myself struggling with it at times. It makes sense to be anxious, overwhelmed, stressed, angry, whatever you may feel when you arrive back at work and find a huge list of things that need to be done. It is easy to think to yourself "I should have spent more time working this weekend instead of wasting my time doing nothing". Let me stop you there. Time spent focusing on yourself, rejuvenating yourself, healing yourself, resting, doing that thing you love to do, is NEVER a waste of time. Remember, life happens whether you are paying attention to it or not. You are a superhero in many ways, but you cannot do what cannot be done. You can only do what you are capable of doing in the time that you have to do it. Take it slow, do your best. Your best may not be good enough for you yet, but maybe that's where the focus needs to be.
Try this out:
Make a plan. Don't rush. When you feel flustered and you rush, you often get more flustered and everything feels like it is either falling apart, done wrong, or that you cannot do anything without it messing up. I've been there. Breathe. Take it one step at a time. Do you have a busy day today? Yeah? Okay. Break it down. What is the very first step? What is next? Do what you can and come back for the rest. Rushing through may lead to back to the beginning, redoing steps that were overlooked or incomplete. You are human. You'll get it done. One task at a time.
The best way to challenge a bad day is to challenge the negative thought cycle that we can get stuck in. Mondays are hard because we consider them to be the end. The end of the weekend, the end of the fun, the end of self-care, the end of adventure and choice. Monday is not the end. It is the beginning. My goal is to make Mondays my favourite day. Think of the beginning of the week as the beginning of a new adventure. New opportunity. Change your approach and you can change your week. Start the week the right way, start it on your own terms. Start it with you, for you. Do this for you.
Remember that quantity is NOT quality. Leisure does not mean lazy (at least not all of the time). You need to connect with yourself. Connect with your life. Rejuvenate. Heal. Prepare. Find things that keep you excited, keep you motivated, and give you the hope for growth, fulfillment and continuous adventure. Work is not everything; You are everything.
What do you do to make Mondays better? Share your own tips below.
Kyle Karalash, M.Sc., CCC., RP
Girdwain, Jessica. "Take Back Your Weekends!" Women's Health, Sept. 2010, p. 101. Academic OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A246969721/AONE?u=guel77241&sid=AONE&xid=6a79363d. Accessed 19 Aug. 2018.
Health Direct. (n.d.). The role of cortisol in the body. Retrieved August 19, 2018, from https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/the-role-of-cortisol-in-the-body