It’s common to meet a morning person—maybe you are one—but it’s incredibly rare to meet a Monday morning person. Why? Because, in my humble opinion, Monday mornings are a universally disliked time of the week. Even if you don’t typically return to work on Mondays, it’s not unusual to describe another day as your “Monday,” is it? Sometimes when a Tuesday or Wednesday is weird, I describe it as having “Monday energy,” which is to say that the day is hard and unpleasant.
Yes, Mondays return us to work responsibilities, school stress, and other obligations that we might have delayed so we can enjoy our weekend. This is why I wasn’t super surprised to learn about research that suggests the risk of a cardiac emergency, like a heart attack, actually increases on Monday mornings, according to Harvard Health Publishing. To be fair research on this topic is inconclusive and isn’t limited to Mondays—a 2017 study published in the American Heart Journal suggests that events like Christmas and New Year holidays might also be popular culprits. Either way, the beginning of the week is tough. And many of us experience Sunday scaries, those anxieties that creep up as early as Sunday afternoon.
If you’re no stranger to Sunday scaries and you’re bad at being cheerful on Mondays, maybe I can help. Before the new coronavirus pandemic started, I set out to discover small ways to make Mondays less terrible. Now that the pandemic has turned the world upside down, I need these mood-boosters even more. Having a job is an even larger privilege now than before, given mass layoffs and economic hardship, but the uncertainty of living through this time—and the fact that you can no longer have the type of restorative weekends you used to enjoy—makes Monday mornings even more difficult than before.
Some of the tips that help me on Monday mornings were more relevant before the pandemic (when I wore actual clothes to work), but many of these tips are easier now that I don’t have a morning commute. I also don’t have children, which factors in. Overall, feel free to adapt these tips to make them more realistic for your situation.
Whatever your circumstance, I hope these suggestions help make the first day of the week a bit easier—or inspire your own ideas for how to make Monday mornings a little bit better.
1. Plan your Monday mornings on Friday evenings.
Creating your to-do list at the end of the day is a reliable productivity hack for anyone who has trouble turning their brain off at night. On Fridays, write down the things you need to do (I find it helpful to assign blocks of time to each task) so that you know what to expect when you return to work on Monday. This allows you to leave your obligations behind for the weekend and may help you feel less disoriented on Monday morning.
2. Schedule “planning time” into Monday mornings.
Along with brain-dumping all of my responsibilities for Monday onto a to-do list, I schedule something I lovingly refer to as “planning time.” This is the time I spend planning for the week. For me, that might involve emailing potential sources, responding to a few emails, or looking at next week to see how my priorities need to shift. But your planning time might be brainstorming time or time to think. You might also consider taking a “creative break” to dance, sing, or inspire yourself for the day ahead. Incorporating at least 30 minutes into your Monday to be proactive can help you feel more in control of your day.
3. Do something physical on Sunday evenings.
When rethinking Mondays, I noticed exactly when anxiousness crept into Sunday afternoons. My Sunday scaries start around 4 P.M. every week, so I try to distract myself with light exercise. Whether it’s a yoga class or some time on my rower, I’ve found that working out a little helps me get over the hump when Sunday scaries start. There’s a reason this works: As SELF previously reported, exercise can help ground you when you’re feeling anxious, and it’s often more effective than trying to talk yourself down. Even deep diaphragmatic breathing can activate your relaxation response and help make Sunday nights and Monday mornings a little more manageable.
4. Reconsider “hanging out” on Sunday nights.
As an introvert, being social on Sunday nights makes me grumpier on Monday mornings, so my Sunday nights are “me-time.” I might make dinner, read a book, or watch something silly. It’s not completely devoid of human contact—I might text or chat with friends on the phone—but I don’t do any Zoom hangouts or social gatherings after 4 P.M. on Sundays.
5. Get up a little earlier on Monday mornings.
It might seem like this would make me less pleasant, but getting up 30 minutes earlier allows me to ease into my day. I have to admit, this was much harder (and way more unlikely) before the pandemic, but now that I don’t have a morning commute, I use the extra time in the morning to open my curtains, make coffee (or sometimes lie in bed and scroll on my phone), and remember that I’m more valuable than whatever challenges are waiting for me this week.
6. Make yourself laugh on Monday mornings.
Sometimes, to perk myself up on a Monday, I’ll listen to one of my favorite podcasts, like The Read (which never fails to make me cackle). I’ve found that laughing eases me into my morning, so by the time I have to interact with people, I’m a bit more relaxed and agreeable. If funny podcasts aren’t your thing, figure out what brings you happiness. Senior health editor Anna Borges has written about how playing video games in the morning helps her start the day off well. Get creative and see if there’s a small playful element to incorporate into your Monday morning.
7. If you still get dressed for work, wear something delightful.
Back when I worked outside of my apartment, I’d sometimes get excited for Monday mornings by choosing something colorful or fun to wear. In fact, I tried a clothing rental company, Rent the Runway, to inspire me. Did wearing something pretty solve all of my Monday woes? No, it didn’t. Did it make me a little more excited to hurl myself out of bed on Mondays? Sometimes it did. I want to be clear: You don’t have to wear a fancy rented dress. Maybe you have favorite socks, or—now that many of us are working from home—maybe No-Pants Mondays might lift your mood.
8. Give yourself permission to be grumpy.
Listen, sometimes Mondays suck. It’s okay if we don’t optimize our mood to be the most enthusiastic and productive versions of ourselves. It’s okay if you have to give yourself an entire pep talk to get out of bed. Life is incredibly challenging right now, and if you have to meet Monday with a snarl in order to get through it, I salute you (and I snarl in solidarity). While I hope some of these tips make your day a little easier, I’m a huge proponent of normalizing bad moods. If, however, your Monday mood feels more like an endless season of Mondays, don’t be afraid to talk to someone you trust, or even a medical professional, about how you’re feeling. Getting out of bed right now can be tough, and you might benefit from additional support to help you sort through all of the feelings you might be experiencing on Monday and beyond.