Monday morning blues. I think we all know the feeling, especially now that autumn is well under way – waking up to darkness, the press of the week weighing us down, the thought that our weekend freedom is lost, an internal “to-do” list perhaps accompanied by a vague, uneasy sense of guilt that things from last week are still left undone.
Sometimes I can feel close to tears with a sense of overwhelm and lack of ability.
A couple of things have happened recently to help me and I’d like to share my learning with you.
On one such Monday morning my chiropractor suggested I should think about starting Mondays differently. Could perhaps I start it later? Or start it more slowly?
This week when I woke up I did do things differently. Not, I’m afraid to say, motivated by my chiropractor’s suggestion, but by my guilt about lack of exercise and too much good food! So it was what my husband calls a “London walk” (i.e, brisk by his long legged standards) to the railway station and then a dog walk.
What changed the day for me was stopping to photograph the autumn leaves. I even found one leaf swaying in mid-air, suspended on an invisible skein of spider’s web. Trying to get an artful shot to publish on Instagram while admiring the colours released a real sense of peace for me.
I’ve been studying something called Compassion Focused Therapy which is a psychological approach with a Buddhist influence and what happened to me on Monday illustrated the theory beautifully.
The Compassion Focused Therapy model is of three emotional systems:
- threat, or protecting
- drive, or wanting
- soothing, or connecting.
Our threat system will always dominate when it is activated. Simply, this is what has helped us to survive. In today’s world we need to engage our soothing system which will enable us to cope with the threats around us.
On a Monday morning the likelihood is we are fired up and ready to tackle the week’s tasks: this is our drive or wanting system. We might also feel worried or grumpy: this is our threat system.
However, by slowing down, by relaxing through taking photographs to share with other people and petting the dog, I was enabling my soothing/connecting system to get to work and lower my threat levels. The physical exercise also helped to ground me.
So how can you apply this to help you in your Monday morning feelings?
- See if you can incorporate some exercise into your morning routine. Could you walk or cycle some of the way to work, to school, to the shops? Even a ten minute brisk walk could make all the difference to your day. Threat and drive systems are very much “in our head” activities, exercise helps us to get back into our bodies and release endorphins.
- A few minutes of slow, calm breathing also helps to activate our parasympathetic nervous system - the soothing side of our nature – slowing our heart rate and bringing our blood pressure down.
- Slowing ourselves down enough to notice the small things around us, such the smell of freshly brewed coffee, the touch of a breeze on our face, the sound of the birds or the sight of clouds scudding across the sky, can help us appreciate our day whatever the agenda.
- Connecting with others also calms us down. It can be as simple as stroking your pet, having a chat with a fellow commuter or co-worker, or holding your child’s hand.
- Most of all, recognise that you are not at the mercy of your day. Whether it be a good day or a bad day is up to us. What do we choose to focus on? Can we choose to slow down and appreciate the small moments? Why not try it, and see how you feel?
Here's my vlog on the subject: