Pop culture hasn’t exactly helped Monday’s cause. Over time, we’ve attributed whole personalities to different days of the week — the “Sunday Scaries”, “Monday Blues”, “Wednesday Hump Day”, and “That Friday Feeling”, all of which are plastered across social media in meme form. Kylie Minogue can’t get Blue Monday out of her head, and neither can New Order in their classic ‘80s hit, “Blue Monday”.
Coach, author, and lecturer Natalie Trice says: “Over time and with the introduction of the internet and social media, these names have been used for marketing campaigns and stuck.” Although they aren’t helpful, “when they are in memes and on greeting cards, it can be hard to escape them”.
“Our original primitive mind that ensured our survival in those prehistoric times has remained largely unchanged. The primitive mind only cares that you stay alive — it’s not bothered about you thriving.”
Vicky Haig, Clinical Hypnotherapist
Our Primitive Brains
Clinical hypnotherapist Vicky Haig points out that, scientifically, our brains are wired to focus on the negative. “When we get to Sunday/Monday, [our brains] can go into overdrive, filling our mind with all the things we’re not looking forward to,” she explains.
“[Although] we no longer live with the threat of attacks from wild animals or competing tribes, our original primitive mind that ensured our survival in those prehistoric times has remained largely unchanged.”
Our modern world is full of stressors, which Haig deems “much more complex but less of an immediate threat”. These stressors “move us from our much more developed rational, intellectual mind into our primitive reactive mind”, because it wants to keep us safe from any potential “dangers”. Basically, “the primitive mind only cares that you stay alive — it’s not bothered about you thriving.”
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Business coach, author, and co-founder of Laugh. Think. Play, Em Stroud also reminds us of the “slightly relenting” external pressures we are constantly facing. On our weekends — no matter what days of the week they may be — we enjoy moments of freedom, joy, and “really good human stuff”, but often on a Monday, “it’s back onto the treadmill of work”.
Those who are freelance, or work to schedules that don’t align with the ‘traditional’ working week, will of course still experience this idea of the Sunday Scaries. As Trice says: “It may well be that whatever job you do and whatever day it’s done on, there will be an element of fear or worry before you get started.”
Stroud adds: “I think since Covid — because that affected how we all work and how we all show up — we’ve become busier, not less busy.”
GP and mental health coach Dr Hana Patel agrees, and highlights recent research from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID), which shows that 67 percent of the British public regularly experience the “Sunday Scaries”, rising to 74 percent for those aged 18 to 24. Although it’s natural to be anxious about the week ahead, Patel says it becomes a cause for concern if it’s affecting “our well-being [and stopping] us from enjoying our time off from work, affecting our sleep and mood.”
Dr Thomishia Booker (L) and Dr Hana Patel (R).
Blurred Lines Of Work And Home
According to the Trade Union Congress (TUC), regular home working by UK workers has tripled since the pandemic. In fact, data from Journo Resources’ own jobs board shows that two out of five journalism jobs are now listed as fully remote, while research by Press Gazette puts the number at 30 percent hybrid or remote. For freelance journalists, working from home is largely the default.
Whilst remote working has many benefits, the lines between home and work can become blurred. In a society obsessed with productivity culture and the hustle, it can feel like there’s a pressure, or a requirement in some cases, to have achieved things before Monday has even begun.
For journalists in particular, there’s an ingrained pressure to never completely switch off from the news agenda. According to newsbreak, an organisation which provides a space for journalists to talk about their mental health, struggling to switch off is the number one issue raised by their community.
Dr Radha Modgill gives tips for journalists to look after their mental health.
Clinical psychologist Dr Laura Williams says the pandemic will have had an inevitable impact on how we experience work dread. “We got to work from home, and I think it gave people more of a feeling of autonomy and being the director of their lives,” she explains. Now that we’ve switched back, we could feel out of control again.
Haig thinks it’s a fine line. She says those that now have more autonomy over their schedules may feel the “Monday Blues” less — but only if they have “the time and space on Monday morning to plan their week”. However, if Monday involves full inboxes and busy meetings from the outset, “they are more likely to start ruminating on those things Sunday evening”.
In many ways, it’s something that remote work has exacerbated. Combined with instant access to the world of work through apps like Slack and bog-standard email, it can be difficult to completely switch off. If somebody else sends an email outside working hours, even if they aren’t necessarily expecting a reply, the recipient may still feel obliged.
As a result, there have even been calls for a legal right to disconnect, and some companies in other countries have implemented legal tools to ensure disconnection. Trice says: “Everyone has different demands on their time, so for some people, Sunday might be a day of getting ready for the week ahead, or you might have young kids or other caring responsibilities”. It’s crucial for companies to set expectations here — and empower employees to turn their tech off.
Equally, for those of us working more flexibly, it’s important to be mindful — scheduling emails and best-practice email signatures can help, for example.
“Putting on some music and having a little boogie can fundamentally change how you feel.”
Dr Thomishia Booker, an author and licensed therapist, acknowledges that there needs to be a shift in work culture — one that normalises asking for help and provides resources for those in need. On an individual level, she stresses the importance of having a self-care routine. “Self-care looks different for everyone, but we all need a plan for caring,” she says.
Haig advises focusing on the small things. As well as trying to get a good night’s sleep (and swapping screens for more mindful activities like reading and meditation), she recommends “planning one small thing you will do that you enjoy”. It could be a peaceful morning cup of tea, a walk, a phone call with a friend, or even a small task you know you’ll be able to tick off your to-do list.
Ultimately, she says: “Don’t believe every thought […] Not everything we tell ourselves is true. Instead, take a moment to focus on what’s been good.” Trice echoes this and says that if you’re able, take some time for yourself on a Sunday. That might be reading the paper in a coffee shop, or going for a long walk — the important thing is to “find something that is symbolic for you as a Sunday reset” and you “put it in the diary and do it”.
Organisations To Help Your Mental Health
Mind: The UK’s leading charity organisation that provides advice and support to empower people experiencing mental health problems.
Headlines: A network focusing on driving conversations towards improving mental health in the media and communications industries. They also provide mental health training and resources for journalists, as well as a podcast.
Shout: The only free, confidential, 24/7 text messaging support service for people in the UK who are struggling to cope.
Samaritans: A charity organisation working towards suicide prevention by providing a listening ear without judgement or pressure. You can reach out via their app, phone, email, physical branches, or even writing a letter.
Stroud, who is also a performer, MC, and classically trained clown, has some good advice for low-level, everyday things to implement. Firstly, although it might sound simple, Stroud urges us all to “take more breaks”.
Having worked with people at all levels of seniority around the world, she says not taking enough breaks is a very common theme. “By not taking enough breaks, we don’t give our brains any chance to catch up on ourselves.” According to Stroud, we should never underestimate the power of a five-minute break — this is possible in even the busiest of newsrooms.
In those five minutes, Stroud suggests doing something that makes you happy. “When we’re working at home, just going downstairs and putting on some music and having a little boogie can fundamentally change how you feel.” She also points to a scientific study on happiness and productivity which revealed that those who watched a short comedy clip were 10 to 12 percent more productive than those who did not. “Do something that brings you joy,” she concludes.
Something that often characterises the Monday Blues is the escalation of our inner critics. Whilst that voice of doubt might usually be a subtle whisper, it can become more of a yell on a Sunday evening or Monday morning. Stroud points out that a common reaction to this is to immediately try and squash it down. However, “underneath critical voices, quite often can be a good intention”.
She explains: “We have to spend our time getting to know it a little bit better, rather than just trying to dismiss it, because if we dismiss it, it just gets bigger.” Stroud recommends writing a letter from your inner critic to yourself. Unleash it all. Then, write a response to it — a kinder one. She says that it’s important to complete both stages, and that sometimes, it can be the driving force to your success. Stroud notes that it’s important to use a pen and paper because “we connect on a very different emotional level when we write versus doing this on screen”. Not to mention, with most people’s daily grind dominated by screens, it’s always nice to have a break from digital tools.
The important thing is that you know your feelings are valid and that you can recognise when you might need to seek additional help. Of course, there are wider structural changes that have the potential to make a real difference to the way we work — like the adoption of a four-day week and blocks to out-of-hours emailing. For now, however, we hope you’ve found at least a few practical tips to make Mondays suck a little less.
Header image courtesy of Miriam Alonso via Pexels
This content is editorially independent and put together by the Journo Resources in-house team. It was funded and made possible through the support of ResponseSource, one of the UK’s leading services to help connect journalists and PRs.
One of their key tools for journalists is the Journalist Enquiry Service, which helps thousands of journalists connect directly with experts, charities, companies, and PRs, to give them the information they need quickly. It’s a completely free tool for journalists to use.
Hannah is a recent graduate from Loughborough University, where she studied a BA in English and Sport Science and an MA in Media and Cultural Analysis. Alongside her studies, Hannah was on the editorial teams of several student magazines, and in 2018, was awarded ‘Best Student Journalist, Midlands’ by SPA. She was a BBC Sport Kick Off Reporter in 2019 and in 2021, co-founded and edited a one-off 40-page print and digital magazine in celebration of International Women’s Day. Along with her work for Journo Resources, she is currently studying the NCTJ diploma at News Associates and freelance writing.