It is pretty well known that after a long week at school or work people tend to extend their bedtime and are able to compensate by sleeping in or simply doing less the next day. With some few but noteworthy exceptions (e.g., parenting a young child), your schedule changes, and re-acclimating yourself to the weekly schedule tends to be the toughest on Monday. Those people who get really poor sleep, and come in to work to find some unwelcome stress may also get the Monday blues or emotional dips.
The body’s natural switch to the changes in environment and sleep from Sunday to Monday is normal, and not a cause for worry if the experience of this shift is limited to Monday. However, there is a growing population of people that seem to be affected by these symptoms throughout the week. It would be easy to call them lower lying symptoms of depression, but that simply puts a medical name on these symptoms rather than actually addressing the problem.
If you are feeling tired nearly every day, there could be a number of potential causes:
· You may not be getting adequate sleep every night and the sleep-deprived state made manifest by Monday simply grows.
· The requirements of your job may directly conflict with your core values. Your nutrition may not be adequate to your needs. If you find yourself eating at odd times during the day and this eating is primarily carbohydrates and sugar, you are likely experiencing an energy increase and an energy crash; a process that will affect your mood over time.
· It may also be that you are working 7 days a week in ways that might surprise you. For instance, if you are at your physical workplace 5 days a week, and then engaged in really substantial perhaps even stressful activities or emotional relationships on your 2 days out of work. The body is affected by all of that work, and needs time to rejuvenate.
· You may have a young child, who requires a lot of attention and has yet to develop a steady sleep schedule.
· Lastly, you may not be getting enough sun or engaging in enough physical activity to help your body reach its natural sense of fatigue (this is especially true for folks that have to be at a desk and in doors for their work).
Even if we are aware of these difficulties, they tend to persist because they either appear unavoidable or they have become entrenched habits, and are simply difficult to change both on a behavioral and neurological level. Because these reasons are understandable, understanding will be a natural first step towards resolving these issues, followed by some suggestions about how to respond to them.
First, adequate sleep is important. Forget the signs that say things like you can sleep when you are dead. You won’t be asleep; you will be dead. The most important thing to do to manage sleep issues is to take requiring sleep off the menu because the pressure and eventual criticism involved will actually be detrimental to your goals. Set an alarm, but do not check the clock. Come up with a bedtime routine that allows you to move from a sense of striving to a sense of peace and ease, such as reading, television, meditation, music, or other activity that simply feels good and does not get you too excited. Being excited is great. It’s just not great for sleep. Then, and this is perhaps the most important part, come up with a plan of what you will do if you cannot sleep that is solely about bringing kindness to your experience.
So many of us get frustrated when we can’t sleep, and our first response is to turn this anger on ourselves. Not being able to sleep is like being sick, you come by it naturally, and as such, you deserve kindness. Take care of yourself as you would anyone who is sick, and give yourself permission to be kind to yourself. When your body naturally finds the will to sleep, you will sleep, and begin to fear insomnia and its consequences a little less each night, which will even make getting to sleep easier!
Second, the requirements of your job may conflict with your core values. In life, we have many responsibilities: bills, taxes, healthcare, food, dates, hanging out, taking care of family. Many of these responsibilities are time sensitive and require money, so we take a job that is available and try to make the best of it while we take care of our responsibilities. Unfortunately, if this job turns out to be a poor fit and does not nourish you and your core values and beliefs, the day-to-day frustrations can pile up and feel quite heavy. I don’t know if you have ever tried to exercise or even walk in one of those weighted vests, but brother it is heavy!
Here are a couple of things we can do to lighten the load. We can explore our options and if the job we have is truly the only option for the time being, we try to set a time limit on it and find other areas of our life where we can explore our true values and beliefs to feel that we are living a meaningful life. If we are able to take a step back and maneuver towards a job that brings us a greater sense of meaningfulness and vitality, acknowledge that your body and mind have been making you aware that they are suffering and this act would surely be one of kindness.
HARD WORK + HARD RELATIONSHIP
Third, hard work plus a hard relationship will eventually lead to feeling burnt out. The body only has so many resources, so when these resources have been used up it will make it apparent to you physiologically that it is in need of attention and rest. During this time, we need to be really honest about what is expected of us, locate our priorities, and think about where we can advocate for ourselves. If the priority is your relationship, then find ways where you can advocate for a little less work. If your priority is work, find ways where you can advocate for a little less stress in your relationships. Neither of these actions are easy, but they are necessary to maintain your health and sense of well being without which you will not be able to attend to work or your relationships.
Sometimes there are smaller changes that can help reduce stress, such as clearly defined hours that you spend with work and friends, and time you allot for your own rest. My friend, Chris, took her work email off of her phone to maximize the rest that was available to her outside of work. I have another friend, who simply takes Sunday off from all activities to get himself back together for the week, and another friend who takes lunch away from colleagues every day to get a little break. In your personal relationships where advocating may feel the most difficult, remind yourself gently that if you do not let your friends or romantic partners know what you need, these relationships will grow to be too much over time anyway and potentially fail. In this way, advocating for yourself is advocating for the relationship, and gives people the opportunity to inspire your confidence in them to appreciate rather than depreciate you.
PARENTING A YOUNG CHILD
Fourth, you have a young child who requires a lot of attention and is sleeping very little. Of course, this is a tough one because you cannot beseech your infant to need a little less or rest a little more. You can, however, begin to think about how you might take care of yourself during the small breaks that you have. Think about what you need and prioritize these things. Think about whom amongst your support group might be able to contribute to these responsibilities. Think about hiring a babysitter if funds allow as often as you need to catch up on sleep, exercise, or simply get out of the house to spend time with friends.
Parenthood is a marathon not a sprint and no child grades you on every moment. The children who do seem to offer this judgment tend to be kids that are dealing with their own stuff and are simply projecting their frustration on you. This will pass. The better you take care of yourself, the better you can take care of your children, and the better model that will give them of self-care. No matter what people tell you, I have been seeing kids in varying professional capacities for about 12 years and at their core they just need to know that their parents love them and want to be there for them. You don’t need to be perfect. In fact, being imperfect and showing kindness to yourself in view of your children will actually increase their capacity to deal with stressors and imperfections in the future. Be kind to yourself, you are working the hardest job in the world, and if you are showing up you already have so much to be proud of.
NO EXERCISE OR LIGHT
Fifth, we tend to commit to work in a way that our experience is organized by the parameters of work. Instead of work functioning as one of the necessary activities of our life, it becomes the only activity with real priority and the other areas of our life suffer. The shortcut to this is to plan to walk or go to the gym directly prior to or directly after work. If you leave too much time, your body will simply feel too tired and you will miss your opportunity. Do these activities no matter what (like you do work), and your body and brain will slowly work to accommodate these practices into your schedule. The longer these practices last, the more energy and well being you will actually have for work anyway, so it is a win for everyone!
With all of these challenges, just remember to practice self-compassion and be kind to yourself. You have come by these difficulties naturally. They indeed are difficult. Otherwise, you would not be suffering and thus require effort and insight to ameliorate them! We always feel like we can be doing more, which is ok, but simply witness this feeling as it comes up without feeling that you have to react or change it and let it pass. This will make room for opportunities to do what is necessary to have fewer Mondays!
Whatever your circumstance, think about where you might be able to add some self-compassion during your day, whether it is taking a few minutes for the 10-20 long breaths (6 second outbreaths like blowing through a straw) we are always talking about, the self-compassion phrases, or simply mindful walking (feeling your heal and toe as they touch the ground) or eating (noticing the flavor and smells or food as you ear it savoring each one).
As always, you are more than enough, as your true nature cannot be affected you are whole, and as a human being on this path with the rest of us you are deserving of well-being and kindness in response to your suffering.
365 Days of Compassion. Day 30. In the Books.