Mondays are the worst. After a relaxing weekend of sleeping in and a lot of eating, you’re back to rude alarms and bagged lunches. So it’s no surprise that we feel cranky when it’s time to roll out of bed to start the new week.
Researchers at the University of Vermont Complex Systems Center analyzed Twitter messages looking for happiness sentiment in the words people use. They found that Monday is the most miserable day of the week for millions of people. Mood generally improves throughout the week, peaking on Saturday, and then crashing again, reports Quartz.
If you don’t want to start your week in such an unpleasant fog, try these tips. They just might make Mondays a touch more bearable.
Take the weekend off from work. If you can, leave work behind on Friday. “My inclination is to take the weekend to let your brain and body assimilate,” says lifestyle expert and personal coach Beth Tipper. “In yoga that is called a restorative pose called savasana and is the most important part of a part of a practice to let the body ‘take everything in.'” If you can, don’t answer work email or pop open your laptop. That said, Tipper is a big believer in being organized for the upcoming week. “So maybe allow time on a Sunday afternoon or evening to prepare for challenges ahead,” she says. “I tend to like paper lists. Studies show that those who write out lists increase their cognitive retention about what matters most to them.”
Don’t sleep in (too much) on weekends. One reason Mondays are so hard on us is that our normal routines just get thrown all out of whack. And one big thing that changes is sleep. It can be so tempting to sleep in on the weekends, but sleeping late just messes with your circadian rhythm. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day helps regulate your body clock. Try not to change your sleep schedule by more than an hour on weekends versus weekdays, suggests the Mayo Clinic.
Try not to ‘reward’ yourself on the weekends for eating right during the week. “Isn’t it interesting that we do sort of ‘let it go’ on the weekends when we really have more time and less of an excuse to miss our fruits and veggies?” says registered dietitian nutritionist Marilyn Tanner-Blasiar, study coordinator for the Washington University School of Medicine, Dermatology. “It’s important to try to eat healthy most of the time and have a little treat here and there.” It’s easy to overindulge in social settings on the weekend, but you’ll feel better come Monday morning if you were consistent and didn’t stuff yourself on unhealthy foods.
Drink slowly. If you’re going to imbibe on the weekends, do so in moderation. Tanner-Blasiar suggests drinking a glass of water in between each glass of alcohol. “That way, you are staying hydrated and making sure you are pacing yourself,” she says. Don’t forget that alcohol has calories, plus it tricks your brain into thinking you’re much hungrier than you are, often causing you to overeat.
Do a fun workout. Weekday exercise routines tend to be more structured, probably because we typically have more of a framework with work, school and daily activities, says fitness coach Jaime Brenkus of Evergreen Wellness. So reserve weekends for fun activities just to break up your usual routine. He suggests going hiking or swimming, trying a rock-climbing wall, driving somewhere you’ve never been and going for a walk or jog, or asking a friend to take an exercise class with you that you’ve always wanted to try.
Don’t skip Monday exercise. When you’re dragging at the start of your week, it can be tempting to skip a workout. But that’s when you need it the most. “The best way to motivate on Monday is to get your workout in bright and early,” says Tara Romeo, certified strength and conditioning specialist at Professional Athletic Performance Center. “Start your day off with a good, nutritional breakfast and get your metabolism, mind and body in motion. The last thing you’ll want to do after a long day at work is make time to work out and cook dinner. You will feel a lot better and proactive by getting your exercise over and done with, in the morning.”
Map out meals. How many times have you scrambled to come up with dinner during the week? When you wake up on Monday, that’s just another stress staring you in the face. Take some time on the weekends to plan ahead so you won’t have to dread making last-minute dashes to the grocery store. Stock up on frozen vegetables, healthy nonperishables (like beans and rice) and make a list so you know what to make when dinnertime rolls around.
Make getting out the door easier. If it’s a mad rush on Mondays to get out of the house, then shave off minutes where you can. Set up for breakfast the night before by putting bowls, glasses and cereal boxes on the table. Pick out what you’re going to wear and hang it on the closet door. Pack any lunches, backpacks or doggy daycare bags. It saves time and energy during the Monday rush.
Skip the mirror. Not many of us like looking in the mirror first thing in the morning, but we really seem to hate it on the first day of the week. In 2013, about 650 women 18 and up were asked in a survey when they felt the most vulnerable about their appearance throughout the week. Nearly half (46 percent) of women from all age groups and from urban, suburban and rural backgrounds said they felt least attractive on Mondays. Their responses indicated it was a combination of the effects of stress on their appearance, lack of motivation to make an effort to look good, as well as traditional biases against Monday. They reported feeling best on Thursdays, as the work week is ending and they’re preparing for the weekend.
Do things, but only if you want to. If you feel like socializing and having fun, then by all means, do it. But if you need the weekends to just stay in and watch Netflix, that works, too. The key is balance. “Assuming a person chooses the things they really want to do (versus have to do), and it brings them joy, peace, satisfaction, then I encourage people to do them,” Tipper says. “What one doesn’t want to do is come sliding in on Sunday night totally spent and exhausted to begin Monday with a gaping hole in the ole energy tank.”
Prepare for Monday on Friday. “Mondays can be extra stressful from work that has potentially piled up from the previous week and, for many, can be challenging to jump right back in,” career coach Ryan Kahn tells Forbes. So before you leave work on Friday, clear your to-do lists of as many things you won’t have a whole bunch of dreaded tasks waiting for you when you start the day. Make sure you know what’s on your schedule for the day and for the week so there are no surprises and you can hit the ground running.