'Mondays are so unforgiving. I used to think my commute and job were to blame,’ says Jennifer, 34. ‘But since I became a freelance illustrator, enjoying working from home, I find Mondays to be equally dreadful – and so do my freelance friends.’
For most of us, Mondays mean waking to a familiar sense of gloom as we return to the stresses and demands of work. A recent survey of 11,000 workers, commissioned by the consultancy Mercer, revealed we’re more likely to be ill or take time off at the start of the week, with 35 per cent of all sick days falling on a Monday. And a study carried out by Dr Robert Peters of Maryland University showed that heart attacks peak on that day of the week, even if we don’t work. Why is Monday gloom so widespread, even when we are in fulfilling jobs? ‘Most of us habitually attach negative meanings to the day,’ says life coach Becki Houlston. ‘We associate Mondays with a loss of freedom. We miss choosing how we will spend our time.’ Monday marks the end of days shared with family and friends or relaxed, free hours. So how can we stop our mood from sinking when Sunday draws to a close?
One way to counter the sense of lost freedom is to remember that we have chosen the Mondays we face – doing whatever jobs we do. ‘Remind yourself you can always walk away,’ says life coach Stephen Russell aka The Barefoot Doctor. ‘This retrieves your personal power. With that, you’re able to own the day and choose the outcome you want.’
Change your mindset
A little forward planning can help us start the week more smoothly. ‘We make Mondays so much more miserable by believing we should be more productive,’ says Martin Boroson, author of The One Moment Master. ‘But Mondays are not the time for challenging work. There’s no point in cold calling, making a sales pitch or having a difficult conversation. ‘Monday mornings are the perfect time to do things that can make the rest of the week more productive, such as cleaning out some files or, better still, clarifying your goals for the week.’
‘Another good way to begin thinking differently about Mondays is to start doing things differently on that day,’ says psychologist Anne Archer, editor of 101 Coaching Strategies And Techniques. ‘Making small, incremental changes will have a powerful effect on the way you think and feel. On Sunday, list five small things you could do differently on Monday. For example, give yourself an extra 10 minutes in the morning to read a book. Yes, most of us are rushing around on Mondays, but just imagine how much calmer and motivated you’ll feel to get out of bed, if you start the day this way. ‘Think up strategies like this for various parts of the day. Have something different for breakfast or, if you can’t eat, drink a glass of warm water cooled from the kettle to get your digestive system going.’
Clearing your mind with mini meditations can help you to feel calmer. ‘Few of us have time to relax on a Monday, but moments of stillness in the day can be beneficial,’ says Boroson. ‘Try this exercise, The Basic Minute, at work: create a place of solitude (the loo is often the best place!). Sit down. Set a watch or mobile phone alarm for exactly one minute. Put your legs and hands in relaxed but fixed positions. Close your eyes and allow your mind to settle into your breathing. When the alarm goes off, stop. By doing just a little meditation, you will be a bit more at peace with the day.’
Harness the Friday feeling
Adding a few weekend-style treats to your working week can make Mondays feel a little less stressful. ‘Many of us live for the weekend and look forward to having the time to rest, see friends, go shopping or out for a meal,’ says psychologist and career coach Denise Taylor. ‘But if we make time, there’s nothing to stop us having a mid-week date with friends or going to the cinema after work. Why keep all the fun stuff and good times for the weekend?’
‘Knowing that you will leave slightly early on a Wednesday to recharge will make the week seem less daunting,’ says communications consultant and coach Julie Hollings. You can do a lot on Friday to make Monday more bearable. ‘At the weekend, we often carry work worries home, ticking over in our subconscious minds,’ says Houlston. ‘On Friday nights, have a little “handover” ritual, as if you were going on holiday. Write a to-do list, and get everything in place for Monday.’
‘List five things you have done really well that week,’ says Archer. ‘Then list two things that you will do differently next week. That way you will get a sense of achievement, and feel that you are learning and progressing.’
Body and soul
When you do reach the weekend, adopt healthy habits to help you feel happier and more energetic as Monday approaches. ‘Don’t forget the mind and body are interconnected,’ says Archer. ‘The food you eat, the sleep you get, and how active you are alters your body chemistry, which in turn alters your moods and thoughts.’ ‘Resist the temptation to sleep in – you’ll find it harder to wake on Monday morning,’ says Dr Kem Thompson, GP and author of Inspirational Blueprints For Personal Success For Women. ‘Eat three meals plus two snacks a day, to keep energy levels constant.’
‘Avoid the temptation to de-stress by drinking lots of alcohol,’ says Archer, ‘It will contribute to an energy crash on Monday. Nurture your body, instead. Walk more and eat well.
‘Above all, stop telling yourself that you dread Mondays. The truth is, for most of us, Mondays are not too bad – and with a few little changes to our thinking habits, we can reclaim a day when the whole week lies untouched in front of us, full of potential.’