Sometimes I get the Sunday blues—as early as Saturday evening! Do you have any tips for making Mondays (or workday mornings) more happy, enjoyable, and maybe even something to look forward to? —Patrick S.
The change you feel as the weekend wastes away—a pit deep in your stomach, restlessness, minor anxiety, mild depression—is all totally real. Research shows our cortisol and stress levels rise when we think about starting the workweek. And that cortisol release affects us all day long; in one study, participants who woke up and realized it was a work day felt more stressed, out of control, and unhappy as they rode that post-cortisol wave.
Don’t let dreading the work week ruin your weekend. Try these strategies to chill out and keep your stress levels from going through the roof when you realize Monday morning is mere hours away.
Pinpoint what you’re feeling
Are you feeling sad about going to work because your weekends are packed with friends, food, and activities you enjoy? Are you anxious about the avalanche of emails that will greet you when you open up your inbox? Or is it that you don’t feel valued or fulfilled at your job? If your feelings are more along the lines of the latter—you don’t like some aspect of your work life, and you dread going into the office—it might be time to make a change.
Explore your feelings and find the root of the problem. Knowing what your issue is (stress, anxiety, boredom) will help you find a solution.
Consider work off-limits on the weekend
Resist the urge to check emails on the weekend, especially if you don’t plan on responding until Monday. This takes you out of the present—all the really fun stuff you’re doing with friends and family—and pulls your attention back into work. Those emails will still be there on Monday morning, and you can probably tackle them more efficiently in one fell swoop.
Take a look at your calendar
Of course, you’re bummed to go back to work—weekends are fun. On Sunday night, think about what you did over the last two days. Write down the best moments, then take a look at your calendar and see if you can schedule similar plans at least one night during the week. Having an activity to look forward to, like dinner with friends or attending a comedy show, will help break up the Monday-through-Friday monotony.
Get ready for the week before it starts
Relieve some anxiety by preparing for the week as much as possible. That means getting a few errands done on the weekend. Knowing that you don’t need to find time to do laundry, grocery shop, or (if you’re really on top of it) cook during the week will ease unnecessary stress that you might not even realize is weighing on you.
Same goes for penciling in your workouts—knowing when you’re going to fit them in makes you more likely to actually do them, instead of blowing them off because you’re tired or stayed too late at work. If you’ve already signed up and paid for your Wednesday night yoga class, you’re probably going to do the best you can to get all of your work done so you can leave on time to make it.
Even if you can’t get it all in during the weekend, at least help out your Monday-morning self. Lay out your work outfit the night before, pack your lunch, and get to bed early so you can get a solid eight hours of sleep before the alarm goes off.
Work out in the morning
As Elle Woods wisely said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” And happy people have happier days! Break a sweat in the morning to keep the good vibes going all day long.
Don’t blow off Fridays
When Friday finally does roll around, don’t phone it in. It’s easy to count down to the weekend by stalking Buzzfeed and spending the last few hours of the workday scheduling your upcoming plans—but putting off work will inevitably leave you with more to do later. Get done as much as you can on Friday, and if you can knock out some of your Monday tasks, that’s even better. Knowing that you’ve given yourself a little cushion to ease back into the grind will help lower anxiety levels, big time. Make life even easier for yourself by writing a list of your to-do’s for Monday morning on Friday afternoon. That way all you need to do at the start of the next week is pour yourself a cup of coffee and get started working.
Remember, you’ve got this. If you like your job, being a little more deliberate with your time will make coming back to work a little less painful. And if you don’t, remember that you deserve to work at something you’re completely passionate about—and do something that makes you look forward to Monday mornings.
Illustration by Karley Koenig