If you hate Mondays, you’re not alone.
After a few days off work, many of us find it difficult to get back into work routines and responsibilities. In fact, you can experience fear and anxiety on weekends, we usually know as “ Sunday scaries ”.
You may not always be able to change your schedule or work demands to make your Monday more enjoyable, but you can “reprogram” your brain to see your week differently.
Because our brains like predictability and routine. Research shows that a lack of routine is linked to decreased well-being and psychological distress . Even though the weekend is a relaxing and fun time, our brains are actually working hard to adjust to this sudden change in routine.
The good news is that it doesn’t take our brains too much effort to adjust to the freedom and lack of routine on the weekends. However, it’s a different matter when we return to activities that are less enjoyable, such as working on things that must be done on Monday morning.
One way to adjust to changes after the weekend is to introduce routines that last throughout the week and can make our lives more meaningful . This could include watching your favorite TV show, gardening or going to the gym . It can be very helpful to do these things at the same time every day.
Routine promotes a sense of coherence , a process that allows us to make sense of the puzzle of life’s events. When we have established a routine, whether it’s working five days a week and taking two days off or engaging in a series of activities each day, our lives are more meaningful .
Another important routine that needs to be implemented is the bedtime routine. Studies show that to enjoy Mondays, consistent bedtime can be just as important as how long you sleep or the quality of your sleep.
Changes in sleep patterns can cause ” social jetlag “. For example, sleeping later than usual and later on holidays can create a mismatch between body clocks and social responsibilities. This is related to higher stress levels on Monday mornings.
Try to set bedtime and wake times, and avoid naps. You might also create a 30-minute “rest” routine before bed, by turning off or putting away your digital devices and practicing relaxation techniques.
Hijack your hormones
Hormones can also play a role in how we feel about Mondays.
Cortisol, for example, is an important multifunctional hormone. These hormones help–among other things–control our metabolism, regulate sleep-wake cycles, and our response to stress. This hormone is usually released an hour before we wake up (it helps us feel awake) and continues to decrease until the next morning, unless we are under stress.
When experiencing acute stress, our bodies not only release cortisol but also adrenaline in preparation for “war” or “escape”. When this happens, our hearts race, our palms sweat, and we may act impulsively.
This is the time when our amygdala (a small almond-shaped area at the base of our brain) hijacks our brain. This creates a very rapid emotional response to stress, even before our brains can process and think about whether this response is necessary.
However, if there is no real threat, this response will be mitigated once we can think – activating our prefrontal cortex which is responsible for reasoning and execution abilities. It is a constant war between our emotions and logic, and keeps us awake in the middle of the night when we are too stressed or anxious.
It’s no wonder that our cortisol levels, as measured by saliva samples from full-time workers, tend to be higher on Mondays and Tuesdays, with the lowest levels recorded on Sundays .
To combat this, we need to trick our amygdala by training our brains to notice only real threats. In other words, we need to activate our prefrontal cortex as quickly as possible.
One of the best ways to achieve this and reduce your stress is with relaxation activities, especially on Mondays. For example, practicing “ mindfulness ” (mindfulness), which is associated with lowering cortisol . Spending time in nature is one method–getting out as soon as Monday starts or at your lunch hour can make a significant difference to how you see the start of your week.
Give it a break before you check your phone, social media or the news. It’s a good idea to wait for the peak cortisol to decline naturally, which occurs about an hour after waking, before you are exposed to an external stressor.
By following these simple tips, you can train your brain to believe that weekdays can be (almost) as good as weekends.
Author Bios: Cristina R. Reschke is a Lecturer in the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences & Funded Investigator in the FutureNeuro Research Centre and Jolanta Burke is a Senior Lecturer, Center for Positive Health Sciences both at the RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences