If Mondays bring you dread, listen up.
Multiple studies have shown that this particular weekday is associated with low moods and morale. There are numerous psychological and physiological reasons for this phenomenon, from loss of freedom and work stress to issues with transitional moments and disruptions to the body’s natural rhythm.
Fortunately, there are ways to lessen the blow of the start of the workweek and ward off a “case of the Mondays.” Below, mental health experts share their tips for making Mondays less psychologically hard.
Prepare in advance
Take some time to prepare for Monday ― mentally, physically and logistically. it could be as simple as going through the emails that trickled in over the weekend while you weren’t checking your inbox.
“At some point, and I would recommend it be Sunday, look at your schedule for Monday and get familiar with what you face. This lessens the dreaded unknowns,” said John Mayer, a Chicago-based clinical psychologist.
“Take care of your biorhythms,” he added, referring to the body’s natural wake-and-sleep schedule. “Don’t stay up late on Sunday playing video games or scrolling Twitter to all hours and then expect to get up early on Monday. Sadly, Sunday’s sleep cycle should copy your weekday sleep cycle. And chill your alcohol consumption on Sunday. Very few things make Monday morning worse physically than a hangover.”
Start the workday early
“Someone who struggles with transitioning from the weekend to Mondays can find it helpful to get to work early,” said Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist in New York.
She advised arriving at the office (or your designated work-from-home desk) a little earlier than you do on other days, grabbing a cup of coffee, reading the news and maybe having a social interaction with co-workers.
“This will help to ‘wake up’ the mind and quietly adjust to being in the work environment,” Hafeez explained. “Once the workday starts and you’ve found focus, begin with the easy tasks and gradually work up to the more difficult or challenging ones.”
Give yourself something to look forward to
“To ease the difficulty of Mondays, it can be helpful to build our own personal joy by creating something to look forward to on Monday,” said Becky Stuempfig, a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Encinitas, California. “It can be small, simple things such as a favorite breakfast or lunch, or perhaps Monday is ‘takeout night’ to relieve the pressure of cooking a family dinner.”
Planning a special treat for yourself can give you some control over Monday ― whether it’s a personal reward like bar trivia with friends or a favorite workout class, or a work event like casual dress day or pizza day for everyone.
“Maybe you take an extra break on Monday,” Mayer said. “Schedule yourself lighter on Monday if possible. Be creative and make it something to look forward to each Monday.”
Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings
As you wake up and go through the routine of Monday morning, pay extra attention to the thoughts and feelings that arise.
“Even though thousands of them pass through our minds each day, focus on the first ones that pop up,” Hafeez suggested. “Those usually predict the worst and absorb a ‘can’t do’ mentality.”
She noted that negative thoughts often have little or nothing to do with reality and facts, so once you embrace the fact that they aren’t based on anything real, they can more easily fade away with time.
“Lastly, try to obliterate negative feelings like ‘this won’t work,’ ‘this will make me look stupid,’ or ‘I’m going to fail,’ and instead challenge it with a positive thought,” Hafeez said. “For example, turn them into ‘this will work,’ ‘I can do this,’ ‘I am not stupid,’ and ‘it’s worked before, and it can work again.’ This way, a person has control over their thoughts instead of giving them power.”
Set a cutoff time for social media
“I encourage people to limit their social media exposure on Sunday nights and Monday mornings, as there tends to be a very negative attitude about Mondays that often sets the tone for the day with people posting about how much they dread the day and how much caffeine/alcohol they will ‘need’ to simply get through the day,” Stuempfig said. “That kind of constant negativity, even if it is presented as humor, tends to be contagious and can leave us feeling drained.”
Creating boundaries around your technology use in other ways can be helpful as well. If you tend to get overwhelmed by the volume of emails that accumulate on Mondays, consider designating specific times during the day to go through your inbox or sort emails into folders like “needs action” or “review later” to make the task simpler.
Make time on Mondays to focus on your mental health
Make Mondays as pleasant as you can by turning to your favorite self-care techniques, from meditation to journaling to hot baths.
“Doing one thing that feels a little luxurious can go a long way with our mental health,” Stuempfig said. “That could be drinking coffee out of a special mug or taking a 20-minute walk before you start your Monday demands, getting fresh air at lunch or setting up a standing dinner date or, in pandemic times, FaceTime date with a friend on Monday evenings.”
Noel McDermott, a psychotherapist based in the U.K., suggested using psychological tools to cope with feelings of anxiety or stress.
“Like a child who is upset, you can trick your brain into looking at other things and not focusing on the pain, fear or sadness,” he said. “What do you like, what is fun, have you an emotional safe place? Think about those things, not the worry.”
Assess your general happiness at work
“If you consistently find yourself complaining about your job or feeling bored and uninspired, it may be time to create a new situation for yourself,” Stuempfig said. “That does not have to mean a new job necessarily, but you might try examining your current role and how you can find more meaning and enjoyment out of your current situation.”
Do a self-assessment to see if you’re burned out. If so, seek out a career counselor or therapist to gain insight into how you can find more meaning in the way you spend their time during the weekdays.
“Let’s face it, life is short and if you are not finding joy in the way you spend 8-plus hours a day at work, that translates to a large chunk of your life that feels unfulfilling,” Stuempfig said. “Mondays often represent how we feel about the remainder of our week to come. If you struggle with Mondays, it is a worthwhile effort to dig deeper to uncover the root cause of the struggle and take steps to improve it. The benefits will likely have a ripple effect that goes much further than just Mondays.”
Look at the bigger picture of the week
“Make a plan for some spectacular event beyond Monday,” Mayer suggested. “Maybe Friday is date night, so plan that ahead of Monday and you will embrace Monday’s arrival because that gets you to Friday all the sooner. Be creative.”
He also advised against scheduling unpleasant obligations or general “downer” events for Monday, but rather balancing out the emotions of the week by planning to do these tasks on other days.
“Try to not schedule spectacular, fantastic events on Sunday evening,” Mayer added. “This just makes the transition, loss and grieving of ‘MoanDay’ all that harder.”
Accept that Mondays can just suck
Coming to terms with the reality of something unpleasant can lessen its impact on you and give you more power over it.
“Accept that sometimes, Mondays just suck and may be a sign of a good weekend,” said Meg Gitlin, a psychotherapist and the voice behind the Instagram account City Therapist. “Remind yourself that stress is part of living an active, engaged life and that you’re equipped to handle it. Reflect on other difficult weeks you’ve made it through where you’ve not only survived but thrived.”