Why do Mondays feel like the worst day of the week, and is there really a way to start our week off with a more positive spin? We share everything you need to know to turn that Monday feeling into something you can look forward to (or at least not dread)
Mondays. They’re the worst day of the week, aren’t they? For most of us, Monday morning signals the end of two whole days of freedom and enjoyment. The weekends are a time to relax, do something we enjoy, and put ourselves (or our loved ones) first. It's time to get out and about, do exciting things, and maybe even treat ourselves.
Yet by the time Sunday evening rolls around, we can start to feel a sense of dread for the week to come. And when Monday morning finally rolls around? We feel tired, grumpy, and reluctant to get started. Maybe you even feel anxious about the week to come, or frustrated that your precious free time has gone so quickly.
So…why is it we struggle with Monday mornings. And what can we do to turn things around and make Mondays better?
Why do I have such a hard time on Mondays?
We all struggle with Mondays for different reasons. Overwhelmingly in the UK, Monday is the start of our work, school, or college week, meaning it’s one of the most stressful days as we begin a new cycle of days before our next ‘free day’ off. But the looming week ahead isn’t the only reason why Mondays can be so tough.
If you find yourself dreading Mondays, it could be a sign that:
- You don’t like your job. Disliking what you do, or finding it particularly stressful, can both make Mondays feel hard. But actually recognising why you don’t like your job (or that it’s even your job that is the problem) can sometimes be tricky. If you feel yourself growing anxious, nervous, or dreading the week ahead on a Sunday evening, it can be a sign that something isn’t quite right. Maybe you’re dreading a specific meeting, you don’t feel prepared for the week ahead, or your to-do list is waiting for you and feels overwhelming. For others, feeling like what they do is meaningless or makes no difference can be the driving force behind their discontent.
- You feel trapped. Transitioning from two days of freedom to five days of sticking to a rigid schedule can be tough - even when we’ve been doing it for years. We’re no longer able to do things when we want, or in many cases, even to take breaks when we know they would best suit us. This can lead to a growing sense of frustration, loss, and even resentment that can be particularly prevalent on a Monday, as you try to get back into your workweek routine.
- Your work/life balance is off. Having a good work/life balance is key for so many different reasons. Without enough time to ourselves, we may not be able to de-stress, maintain or build meaningful relationships, relax, unwind, and truly find things that we enjoy. Even when we love what we do as a job, we can’t keep doing it 24/7 without a break – it’s just not healthy. If you’re answering emails outside of work hours, stressing about meetings or projects, or taking work calls when you should be having a lunch break, it could be a sign that something is off-balance (and you could be on the road to burnout).
- Your body’s natural cycle is off. Our natural rhythm can become disrupted when we stay up later or reward ourselves with a lay-in. Even if you stick to your regular bedtime and waking up schedule, our weekends are often filled with other small differences. Maybe you ate at very different times than usual or did less exercise than you typically could within a day. Even just catching up with friends and family can feel like it takes more emotional energy than dealing with colleagues. Together, this can mean that, even if we try and get back into our regular bedtime routine on Sunday night, we can still feel tired or overwhelmed on a Monday morning. This, in turn, can lead to us feeling more irritable, on edge, or even impatient with others on a Monday.
- You’re not ready. While many of us love that ‘Friday feeling’, it’s not always conducive to helping set us up for the week ahead. Maybe you had too much to fit into Friday and left yourself without a clear action plan for the following week. Or perhaps you were feeling too overwhelmed and exhausted after a busy week and decided to take things easy during your last few hours. Either way, Mondays can feel overwhelming when we don’t have a clear starting point to help us ease into the week.
- Everyone else hates Mondays. It’s become a bit of a cultural meme. Between TGIF and getting a ‘case of the Mondays’, it’s almost impossible to escape the Monday banter in person and online. Even if you aren’t the biggest fan of Mondays, the constant reminder of the ‘hardest day of the week’ could be making things feel much worse than they would otherwise.
Is Monday anxiety real?
Numerous studies have suggested that our moods are usually at their lowest on a Monday. While Monday morning anxiety (also referred to as the Monday blues) isn’t a specific, diagnosable type of anxiety, it’s a common occurrence for many of us. Over time, this can even impact our mental health, leading to ongoing feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression
If you feel yourself waking up and feeling stressed and anxious about your week ahead, there are things you can do to help improve your mood, decrease your sense of unhappiness and dissatisfaction, and feel more positive about your day (and the week) ahead.
How can I improve my Monday?
- Get started with an energy boost. Exercising regularly can help to improve both your mood and overall emotional state. Exercise can lessen negative moods, and help create a sense of calm and relaxation while releasing natural feel-good endorphins to help us feel energised and happy. Studies have shown that exercising at least two to three times a week makes us significantly less likely to experience feelings of anger, depression, and stress.
- Make the most of the food-mood connection. According to scientists, your gut acts as a second brain. It’s responsible for more than 95% of serotonin manufactured in your body, meaning that what you eat can have a huge impact on how you feel physically and mentally. Nutritionist Resource’s Katie shares more about what foods you can eat to support positive mental health, and what foods you should avoid if you’re struggling with a low mood.
- Fix your sleep routine. Getting enough good quality sleep is essential in setting yourself up for a more positive (and productive) Monday. Not getting enough sleep can lead to a poor mood, which in turn can lead to worse quality sleep or even avoiding sleeping, which can create an unhelpful cycle of poor sleep hygiene. Here are eight science-backed ways to help you sleep soundly, as shared by nutritional therapist and health writer Jenna Farmer, to help you get started.
- Pace yourself. Monday is the start of your week - think of it as the start of a marathon, not a sprint to get out of the way as quickly as possible. How our Mondays go can set the tone for the rest of the week - so don’t throw everything you have at it. Pace yourself. Put together a to-do list or reassess your weekly priorities. Try and plan something fun if you can, like lunch with a colleague, or a little treat like a coffee from your favourite cafe. Even making your favourite lunch to bring in with you can help to boost your mood and make Monday feel that little bit better.
- Keep Sunday as your day. Sunday night anxiety can creep up on us, stealing the last hours of our weekends and making us feel like the dread of Monday has arrived all too soon. But it doesn’t have to. Say no to preparing for Monday on your weekends. If you didn’t have time to prepare a to-do list on Friday, that’s OK. Taking time out of your weekend isn’t going to make Monday feel any less daunting at this point - it’s just going to extend that Monday feeling. Avoid the temptation to check emails, work chat channels, or to skim over meeting notes. When Friday comes back around, try to set aside 10 minutes to prepare for the following Monday if you can. If you struggle to do this, it’s not ideal, but taking an extra few minutes before you leave for the week could help you to avoid feeling like Monday is hanging over you all weekend.
How can I make Monday less boring?
- Give yourself something exciting to tackle. Mondays can feel like the looming start to a long week. Saving a fun, enjoyable or exciting task to get your week started with can help you to avoid feeling like you’ve got an endless to-do list. Sure, we’ve all got boring tasks or duties we’re not huge fans of, but we’ve also got those tasks that we don’t mind or actively find interesting or exciting. If you can, try to schedule one or two of these for a Monday morning.
- Widen your social network. Having a strong social network both inside and outside of work can provide a system of emotional support that can enhance our overall sense of wellbeing. Making connections with our colleagues can help to create a sense of camaraderie, and helps us to have someone to talk to when we are feeling overwhelmed or need a little motivational boost. Plus, having just a few minutes to catch up together and share your weekend highs and lows can help set a more positive tone for the week ahead.
- Make the most of your weekend. Having a good mixture of fun and relaxation, or physical activity, alone and time with friends/family/loved ones can help you to feel more fulfilled, rested, and like you’ve made the most of your precious time off. Doing activities that bring you joy, create a sense of achievement, or help you to feel rested can all be great ways of avoiding that nagging feeling of disappointment and guilt when Monday looms and you can’t think of a single thing you’ve actually enjoyed or accomplished over the weekend. It’s good to remember that having fun with friends doesn’t have to be expensive. We share eight low-cost things to do with friends that you can try this weekend.
- Talk with a career coach or counsellor. Sometimes, that ‘Monday feeling’ can be a sign of something deeper. We spend so much of our waking time at work, with colleagues, doing things for other people and to further our careers - wouldn’t it make sense to love what we do, if at all possible? If you find yourself dreading Mondays or even just feeling restless, it’s not just a sign that you find your job boring - it can be a sign that it’s time for a change.
Exploring your options can be tough. Should you be looking for a promotion, a sideways career step, or something completely different? This is where working with an expert comes in. Career counsellors and career coaches can help you to identify key strengths and underlying passions, and support you in setting goals and figuring out what you truly want to achieve in your work life. We explain more about the difference between career coaching and counselling - and how they can help you.
- Ask your workplace if there’s anything they can do. Many workplaces want to foster a positive, fun culture and a sense of connection and belonging among employees. While not everywhere does it, this can mean that some workplaces arrange fun activities like Friday drinks, free snacks, or even just letting employees control what’s playing on the office speakers. Why not ask if any of these little treats can be moved to a Monday, to help set the tone and give everyone a boost? It’s not a guaranteed win, but you never know if you don’t ask.
How do you start Monday positively?
- Be kind to future-you. It can be tempting in the moment to say, ‘Screw it!’ and leave tasks half-finished on a Friday. But when we fail to come to a good stopping point, or forget to leave ourselves a reminder of what we were working on, it can make Mondays that much more stressful for future-us. Leaving yourself just a couple of lines about what you were working on, what you should tackle next, or any key meeting preparation can help set you up for an easier morning with far less stress.
- Try muscle relaxation techniques. If you are feeling tense or on edge, progressive relaxation can help. This technique involves tensing different muscles around your body, and then releasing the tension. This can have a relaxing effect in helping to reduce feelings of anxiety, stress, and overwhelm. Chartered psychologist, counsellor, and psychotherapist Ilaria explains more about how you can use relaxation techniques.
- Save yourself for the weekends. This can sound counter-intuitive, but hear us out. How many times have you felt like you’ve given your work week your all? By the time Friday evening rolls around, you feel exhausted. Friday night ends up being an early night, or hours slumped in front of the TV. By the time you’ve had a lay-in on Saturday, it feels like you’ve wasted half your weekend, so you rush to cram as much in as you can on Saturday night. Only to sleep away most of Sunday, before the creeping Sunday night anxiety kicks back in, and That Monday Feeling is back in full force.
While it may seem like you’re doing your best and giving your job your all, it could also be a sign that you’re stretched too thin and are putting too much energy into your work. Ditch the extra ‘just one more email’ and ‘just fifteen more minutes to get this finished’ from your workdays. If you’re putting in extra hours to try and get things done without interruption from colleagues, it can be a sign that you need to try and implement new boundaries or ways of working. Giving yourself half an hour to catch up on emails in the morning before you respond to colleague chat requests or calls can help, as can letting colleagues know that you will be finishing X task until the end of the day, and will respond to other new requests the following working day.
- Prepare for Mondays. In order to hit the ground running, set yourself up for success. You can’t always help how your weekend goes or how it will make you feel when Monday rolls around, but you can give yourself an easier start by being prepared. Create a to-do list on a Friday for the following week. This could include a brief summary of where you left off on Friday, what your next priority is, or if there is anything you need to chase up after the weekend. Clearing down your old to-do list can also help you to feel more prepared and spend less time sorting through old, out-of-date tasks and information that could slow you down.
- Use breathing exercises. Focusing on your breathing can help you to feel a deeper sense of connection between your mind and body. This, in turn, can have both a positive physical and psychological effect. Here’s a box breathing exercise to get you started - or try these grounding techniques to help reduce stress, anxiety and panic attacks.
And if in doubt…
Fake it till you feel it. We’ve all heard about ‘fake it till you make it’. But why not try the same with how you feel about Mondays? Pretend that you love Mondays. Tell yourself that you’re going to have a great start to the week. Plan for the weekend you want as a reward for making it through the upcoming week - and find ways to make that plan a reality.
Mondays might feel big and scary, but really, they’re just another day. The more time we spend anticipating the fun things we can do when our week is over, and the less time we allow ourselves to dwell on that Monday dread, the sooner we can find the right balance to help us take on the week and make it our own.