By Annie Daly, SELF
Everyone struggles through weekday drudgery to reach their weekend fun. But what if you could reclaim every day of your life?
Take a minute to look in the mirror right now. Like what you see? Your answer could depend on the day of the week. According to a new survey by the global media agency PHD, we feel least attractive on Sundays and Mondays. This could be because our moods tend to be at their lowest point then. “People can come to feel that the weekends are their freedom time and the weekdays are their grind time,” explains Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and coauthor of Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice. The problem with this mind-set is that you start behaving as if you’ve handed over your life to work. “You can end up feeling like a victim during the week,” Firestone says.
But if we all wish our weekdays were more like our Saturdays, maybe that’s because they should be. “When your weekdays aren’t the polar opposite of your weekend, you feel more balanced and your quality of life improves,” explains David Watson, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Notre Dame. The gap between the weekend and weekday mind-set is massive, but what you have to do to bridge that gap isn’t. Just make these four easy tweaks to your days.
Head off “social jet lag”:
The first step to reclaiming your Mondays is taking a good look at the weekend that comes before it. For starters, Saturdays and Sundays may seem like they’re built for sleeping in, but those endless hours under the covers come with a price. “When you push bedtime and wake-up time later, your body has to shift back from your ‘weekend time zone’ on Mondays,” explains Carl Bazil, M.D., director of the Division of Epilepsy and Sleep at Columbia University. Experts call this effect social jet lag, and it can make that dreaded Monday morning wake-up call (and possibly the ones that follow) tougher. This might help explain why 25 percent of Americans rarely or never get a good night’s sleep on weeknights, according to a 2013 survey by the National Sleep Foundation.
But you don’t have to cramp your weekend style just to save your sleep on weekdays. “Social jet lag really only occurs if you stay up more than two hours past your normal bedtime,” Dr. Bazil says. So if you normally go to bed at 11 p.m. on weeknights, it should be fine to go to bed at midnight or even 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday and push your usual wake-up time forward by an hour or two as well. For those occasional but epic all-nighters, Dr. Bazil advises not sleeping in more than two hours later than normal, even if that means clocking less than seven of shut-eye. “That way, you’ll be sleepy for your Sunday-night bedtime,” he says.
Pick two happy meals:
This means revamping another favorite indulgence: that Friday-to-Sunday all-you-can-eat buffet. For most, this is your main time to let loose — and that can translate into eating more and exercising less. “Many women are strict with their diets during the week and only allow themselves to splurge on the weekends,” explains Lisa Young, Ph.D., a nutritionist in New York City and author of The Portion Teller Plan. “This all-or-nothing attitude is an invitation to overeat, and you can go into Monday feeling bloated and dehydrated.” After the pleasures of the weekend, Monday feels like the time to make penance. Between diet remorse and work stress, you can feel doomed.
No human with passion can bear to give up the tasty rewards of the weekend — and you don’t have to. When the weekend arrives, choose a happy meal out a day — and keep eating your healthy go-to foods for the other meals. (So if you have Greek yogurt for breakfast at work, have it for breakfast on the weekend, too.) “Keeping some semblance of your daily routine makes it easier to stay on track,” Young says. Then, spread those indulgences out more. “I tell my clients to go out to dinner once or twice during the week,” Young says. “This way, you don’t feel so deprived by Friday that you end up housing everything in sight.” When your favorite pencil skirt zips up without a struggle on Monday morning, your day — and your week — become less of a struggle, too.
Kiss early wake-ups good-bye:
You’ll kick your week off right if you can avoid those Sunday blues that tend to set in around 5 p.m. They’re an example of what psychologists call anticipatory anxiety, a reaction that flares up when you start thinking about stressful or uncomfortable tasks you have to do in the near future — like dragging yourself out of bed at some godforsaken hour. “This type of anxiety can overwhelm your brain, making you less functional and less happy,” says Rachel Merson, Psy.D., a psychologist at the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University. To avoid getting to work already in a funk, set your alarm for a reasonable time.
While everyone wants to tackle the week like a superstar (“I’m waking up early and slaying my entire to-do list by noon!”), that mind-set can backfire, leaving you feeling disoriented. “On Mondays, your mind is still transitioning, and every task takes just a little longer to complete than it does on other days,” says Watson. “Go in guns blazing, and you set yourself up for failure.” Another way to make your Mondays a little easier (and more efficient)? Do a bit of prep work on Friday. Before you leave the office for the weekend, take 60 seconds to compile a list of simple to-dos, like emailing your client about a lunch or scheduling the conference room for your sales meeting. Leave the list on your keyboard so that when you come in on Monday, you can warm up from weekend mode with a few basic tasks and not become swamped trying to figure out how to start your day.
Line up a Wednes-date:
The PHD survey found that we feel our most attractive on Thursdays. Coincidentally, that’s when our weekday mood perks up. So what does Thursday have that Monday doesn’t? For one, you’ve gotten most of your stuff done, but it’s also the anticipation factor. “The proximity of the weekend can lead to a mood boost, along with a sense of accomplishment for having checked things off your to-do list all week,” explains Merson. So start building more anticipation into every day of your week, says Robert L. Leahy, Ph.D., a psychologist in New York City specializing in anxiety and depression and author of Beat the Blues Before They Beat You. Doing little things for yourself helps you reclaim your week, too: It means you’re prioritizing yourself, not just your job. Map out little pit stops of fun — plan to venture outside of the office cafeteria on Tuesday, see a cheese-ball movie with your boyfriend on Wednesday, or schedule a blowout at your hair salon on Thursday. You might find that every day has something worth celebrating. Yes, even Monday.
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