Mondays are inevitable. The Monday blues? Turns out, they don’t have to be. As you gear up for the busy fall season, try these tips to start off your week in a healthier way.
Garfield the cat got two things very right: First, lasagna is delicious. Second, Mondays can be a real drag. It’s not merely the transition from playtime to the work and school week. Many of us stay up later on weekend nights and sleep in during the day, messing up our circadian rhythms and making us grumpy and irritable when the alarm goes off on Monday morning. The stress of starting the week may even affect our health. A 2004 study found that blood pressure tends to be highest on Monday mornings, while another concluded that Monday is the most common day of the week for heart attacks. All of this may make you want to hit snooze and spend Mondays under the covers.
Fortunately, you can reverse the trend and set yourself up to have a positive, healthy start to the week. Here, experts weigh in on eight ways to make this a reality. (P.S. If you don’t work a traditional Monday-to-Friday schedule, this advice is adaptable to whenever you switch from off- to on-duty.)
1. Make a Monday to-do list—on Friday.
The end of the week may be cause to celebrate, but don’t make it official until you’ve written a to-do list for Monday. Everything you need to accomplish next week will be top of mind, so it makes sense to capture it at this time. But there’s another reason. “If you start the week without this list, you’ll have to brainstorm on Monday morning about the lingering projects from last week, which could be tough when you’re sluggish. You’ll already be starting off a step behind,” says Samantha Ettus, a Los Angeles–based entrepreneur and the author of The Pie Life: A Guilt-Free Recipe for Success and Satisfaction. With this list waiting on Monday, you may be more productive and have an easier time focusing. Check off a few easy tasks to start, and then dig into your most challenging task as quickly as possible. “If it’s hanging over you,” says Ettus, “the day will be that much more of a drag.”
2. Follow the one-hour rule.
No more trying to catch up on lost sleep on Sunday mornings. “Initially, it was thought that weekend recovery sleep was sufficient to pay back sleep debt,” says Annise Wilson, MD, assistant professor of neurology and sleep medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. “But more recent research suggests that weekend recovery sleep may not reverse the effects of chronic sleep deprivation, and that an irregular sleep schedule can make it harder to fall and stay asleep.” Staying up late isn’t a great weekend habit either: It can lead to feeling even more tired on Monday. So sticking with a consistent sleep schedule all week long is best. At the very least, says Wilson, try not to go to bed or wake up more than an hour past your normal times, and if you need to nap, a brief snooze (under 30 minutes) in the early afternoon should help you avoid grogginess and disrupted nighttime sleep.
3. Rethink breakfast.
“Eating a satisfying and balanced breakfast will allow you to hear appropriate hunger and fullness signals throughout the day,” says nutrition therapist Elyse Resch, RDN, coauthor of Intuitive Eating and author of The Intuitive Eating Workbook for Teens. But don’t think you have to eat immediately upon rising, which is the biggest misconception people have about breakfast. If you get up at 6 a.m., you may not feel hungry then, and that’s OK. Wait until you do, and then eat breakfast, says Resch. You’ll get the energy you need and enable your body to eat more healthfully the rest of the day because you won’t be starving. You’ll also get a mood boost, according to a review in the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science. When you eat, aim to get about 15 to 25 percent of your total calories (between 300 and 500 calories for women) from that meal, says review author Charles Spence, PhD, professor of experimental psychology at the University of Oxford.
Try oatmeal with blueberries and walnuts, or whole-wheat sourdough toast and avocado, with fruit and yogurt on the side. Resist dashing to the coffeepot when you first get up. Caffeine is more effective if you wait to sip your first cup until you’ve been up for an hour or two, when stress hormone levels naturally decrease. Not into caffeine or fresh out of beans? Sipping decaf, smelling coffee, or even just thinking about coffee can be enough to give you a boost, notes Spence.
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