Nina Spencer

Fighting for Your Monday Morning Heart-Break

One-third of employees loathe their jobs according to a Towers Perrin study of 1,100 employees polled across Canada and the United States. Employees cited boredom, overwork, concern about their future and a lack of support and recognition from their bosses as key reasons for their unhappiness. And to many, Monday mornings are the worst part of their glum workplace experience.

How you feel about your work has much to do with how you feel about the rhythm of your week. For too many people Monday is Doomsday. Does your 6 a.m. alarm hit you like a bolt of lightening? Does the whole of Monday morning pass by in a vague and nauseating blur? Take a survey. What percentage of your colleagues and friends report Monday as their least favourite day of the week? How many upbeat, inspirational songs are written about Mondays? Are there any restaurants named, "Mondays"?

One gray Friday morning in the winter of 1969 my beloved grade six teacher, Miss Lakatos, playfully chalked "T.G.I.F.!!!" in the upper right hand corner of the blackboard. She then asked us to guess what it meant. We couldn't, so she told us (need I say? Thank goodness it's Friday!!!). Miss Lakatos taught us, all those years ago, to celebrate Fridays--and it was fun! But find joy in Mondays? Wash your mouth with soap!

The majority of heart attacks occur between 8 and 9 a.m. on Monday mornings, reported Max Wyman in the Vancouver Sun a few years back. He should know--he was one of them. I had often heard this statistic, but never conducted research of my own. I was sure this "fact" was an urban myth, concocted by some fellow speaker to illustrate a platform point about reducing stress. So before repeating this data, I enquired with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario. Sure enough, a member of their External Relations Branch confirmed it's true! These findings are supported by multiple medical studies, one of the most respected of which is the ALLHAT study (an international, multicenter study funded by the American National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Cooperative Studies Program, with multiple teams across Canada and the U.S.A).

Why Monday? Think about your own weekend--if you're single, maybe you "party hardy"! If you're "married with children", you probably blend in a frenetic agenda of mundane chores and tasks with quality family time activities, which may very well include driving the kids here, there and everywhere. You may get up just as early (or earlier), but go to bed later. Be honest, haven't there been some Monday mornings where you've flopped into your office chair, exhaled (for the first time in two days) and said, "I had to come back to work today to get a rest!"

Playing around with your Circadian rhythm is a major factor in flirting with Monday morning heart attacks. Circadian rhythm refers to daily cyclical variation or patterns of behaviour or physiological functions in all living beings--even those of the singled cell variety. These are the patterns of activity that occur on a 24-hour cycle and are important biological regulators in virtually every living creature. In mammals, the internal Circadian clock resides in the brain and sunlight is the cue that rewinds this clock. Daily Circadian rhythms and your "biological clock" go hand-in-hand. Psychiatric and medical studies have shown that Circadian rhythm is involved in some forms of depression, jet lag, drug tolerance and efficacy, memory and insomnia. This "body clock" manages daily functions such as core body temperature, hormonal release, cognitive ability/comprehension, as well as wakefulness and sleepiness. When these natural rhythms are disrupted (as they usually are on weekends), resulting symptoms may include sleep disorders, severe fatigue, major digestive problems and the inability to react or concentrate. Is all this enough to scare a person into working seven days a week? I certainly hope not! It may give you cause, however, to pause and examine how shaking up your weekend rhythms, coupled with a sinking dread of the impending Monday morning, may be bad for your health.

What can you do to help make a more peaceful emotional and biological/physiological transition from Sunday night to Monday morning? The impact of Monday morning blues can be devastating enough at the best of times; now fold in those potential February blahs and you could really be pushing it.

Valentine's Day has passed, but all of February is Heart Month. Be kind to yours...both your emotional and physical ticker, by fighting for your Monday morning heart-break with these suggestions:

  • start early, on Friday afternoon, clearing and cleaning your desk before leaving for the weekend; even if you can't complete all your work, tidy up and complete as much as possible. It'll be easier on your eyes and your heart come Monday morning
  • think of Sunday night as a "school night"; go to bed at least 30 minutes before your later-in-the-week bedtime; you'll probably slip along the timeline as the weekdays go by, but at least commit to starting the week off by getting to bed earlier than usual; a late Sunday night coupled with an early Monday morning can be a real killer-literally
  • lay off coffee, tea and alcohol on Sunday evening--even all day if you can stand it; it will give you a better chance at having a peaceful and deeper night's sleep to fuel and energize you through the next five days. As an extra guarantee for a good night's sleep, medical evidence proves that a nightcap of a warm glass of milk with a little bit of honey is a "good thing", too
  • imagine that each of the "sheep" you count (as you drift off to sleep on Sunday night) represents one of your life's blessings; sincerely count your blessing that you have a job to go to and be proud of it--no matter how humble or grand. Martin Luther King, Jr. put it so eloquently, "If a man is a street sweeper, he should sweep the streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well."
  • banish old 1960's and 70's music messages from The Mamas and The Papas ("Monday, Monday, can't trust that day"), and The Carpenters ("Rainy days and Mondays always get me down"); think of some new, upbeat songs to sing in your head
  • skip the news Monday mornings--if it's serious, sad or worrisome enough, someone is bound to tell you, anyway, because people love to be the ones to report bad or scandalous news; it doesn't necessarily make them cynics or dark souls, but it does seem to be human nature to want to be the conduit of shocking or breaking stories
  • if possible, and if you did go to bed early enough Sunday night, arrive at work 20 to 30 minutes earlier than everyone else; there's a lovely serene atmosphere to many workplace environments when no one else is there
  • consider a four day work week from Tuesday to Friday; pitch the idea of working from home on Mondays
  • plan your Monday morning "to do's" on Sunday evening (it's better to come into a plan, than come in to plan)
  • brighten up your Monday morning workstation; how about flowers, a special picture, framing an inspiring quote or personally meaningful passage or bit of prose, for the balance of February a welcoming bowl of Hershey's kisses or red hot cinnamon hearts; or how about saving a special voice mail message from a loved one, and play it back when you feel a possible twinge of Monday morning blues coming on (as for me, my daughter is 25 now, yet I still resave each Monday morning a message she left me when she was 16, and another from one of my dearest friends who, five years ago, left me a lovely birthday message. I saved it just because it made me smile. One year later she died. While some may think it morose or "stuck" that I've rolled her message over for four years, for me it's a happy heart-felt moment every Monday morning to come to my office and hear her cheery and loving good wishes for my day
  • decide, on purpose, that this is the month--this is the Monday, that you're going to improve your conscious awareness of saying what you need to say--to yourself and others--in a positive way, come what may
  • speakers, workshop facilitators, OD specialists and the likes, all champion "essential conversations", putting the "elephants on the table", being up-front with negative feedback, etc. We're pretty good at facilitating strategies and courage to "speak the unspeakable" (which usually involves feedback another may experience as negative); but how about a long-overdue, good ole heart-to-heart conversation with a workplace colleague, personal friend or family member from time-to-time, too...to clear those clogged emotional arteries. Many a workplace or personal relationship strain--that ends up hurting the hearts of both--comes from the withholding of authentic, warm and honest conversation

May these suggestions, at best, liberate you to re-connect with your original passion for your work; or, at least, refuel your enthusiasm for showing up on Monday mornings. That Towers Perrin Study stated, "employers have a lot to gain by harnessing employee passion in their current work forces--gaining this discretionary effort from employees may be the last remaining source of increased productivity, now that so many companies have already captured the efficiencies of technology and streamlined work processes". So it's late February now. The year is getting older quickly, but still young enough for you to resolve to do better...by heart. Getting back to your passion for your profession, and reclaiming what you love about the core essence of your work (despite the occasional Machiavellian backbiting of colleagues and irritating office politics), can start by getting the Monday Morning mumbles and mutterings out of your system.

Give yourself and your heart a break on Monday mornings--your physical heart as well as your emotional. Fortify yourself with mindful and scheduled Monday morning heart-breaks, to protect your heart from a literal heartbreak.

It is very important to generate a good attitude, a good heart, as much as possible. From this, happiness in both the short term and the long term for both yourself and others will come. -- Dalai Lama

Wherever you go, go with all your heart. -- Confucius

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. --Steve Jobs

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. -- Steve Jobs

A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination. -- Nelson Mandela

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson