We’ve all had that feeling. When the alarm clock rings out first thing Monday morning, and you groan at the realisation you are once again at the furthest point from the next weekend.
But is that all it is? With statistics like thirteen per cent of the UK working more than forty-nine hours per week and work-related stress costing UK employers £1.24 billion, could these Monday morning blues point to a bigger problem?
Read on to find how being unhappy at work impacts all aspects of our lives.
Sunday night anxiety
Is it just an early morning wake-up call after perhaps a long luxurious lay-in over the weekend that causes us to feel depressed going back to work? Maybe, if you only feel blue every now and then. But what if it’s every week? And if that ‘blue’ feeling isn’t restricted to Monday, but rears its ugly head on Sunday? Then the unhappiness runs deeper.
Studies have shown that actually four out of ten adults start to dread work around 4:13pm on Sunday. For others, the anxiety grows throughout the course of the day. It starts as a shadow in the back of your mind, knowing that this is your last day of freedom before the nine to five, no doubt longer, starts all over again.
Gradually as the day passes, the shadow becomes a solid lump in your gut. Your shoulders droop. You find yourself sighing heavily, maybe even yawning more frequently and loudly, as just the thought of waking up for work is tiring you out. This spills over to Monday, when apparently we feel so depressed some of us won’t even be able to smile until we’re at least three hours into our working day.
So if ninety-nine per cent of us dread Monday morning and feel anxious Sunday night, what’s the big deal? Stress is the deal. It can affect every individual differently, but those so-called ‘blues’ may be the first sign of work-related stress.
Stress is a surge of hormones in our bodies that are designed for the ‘fight or flight’ mode. It can affect sleeping, eating, self-esteem and confidence. It also affects our general mood and behaviour changes, such as aggressiveness and overreactions to the smallest things, like dropping a pen on the floor.
Stress that goes unchecked can cause serious health issues like high blood pressure and it’s important to notice the triggers and how to manage it.
Exercise and meditation can help. Keeping a diary and noting down what happened at work to make you feel stressed, how you felt both physically and psychologically will help you recognise stress in the future.
The ripple effect
Monday morning blues could be the tip of the stress iceberg.
If you’re tired and sleep deprived then irritability is bound to follow. Cue the tension in your relationships with loved ones, especially your partner or spouse who will be the nearest person to feel the full force of your unhappiness and stress at work. Studies have shown that when you’re facing problems at work, this not only puts strain on your marital satisfaction,
Unhappiness can seep into all aspects of your life. Your appetite may be non-existent, which can lead to you feeling more tired and weak, as well as disrupting mealtimes with the family at home. You may turn to comfort eating, binging on high fat and high sugar to feel good from all the happy endorphins they offer. But then this is short term, and what follows is the guilt and low self-esteem.
Stress can also weaken your immune system. When we feel run down we can pick up all sorts of bugs and germs. In fact over one hundred and five million days are lost to stress-related sickness in the UK every year.
With sick days comes the fear of financial instability or being seen as unreliable by your employer. Responsibilities at work are neglected and then cause further anxiety when you eventually return. Seeing as you spend five days out of seven each week at work it’s easy to give it priority and forty per cent of employees neglect other aspects of their life, whether it be their relationships, marriage, family or home responsibilities. Home then becomes a reminder of your failure, or your inability to manage and juggle all of life’s jobs.
For some, work is just work. It pays the bills. For others, it’s about career. It’s about being recognised as a professional or expert in your game. We seek this appreciation and recognition and when we don’t get it, we immediately assume it’s because we’re doing something wrong. Feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness can then settle in. And if your employer does little to change this view, then it can feel like your ship is sinking and you’re drowning.
This all sounds rather bleak and inevitable. Unhappiness at work can affect more than your career, it can put strain on relationships, and your health and wellbeing, both physically and mentally. It’s all about finding ways to balance out the heavy weights.
If you feel work demands are too much then speak up. Talk with your manager and identify ways they can help you with the pressure. Ensure that you prioritise work tasks and recognise that you can’t do everything. Manage the time you have and take a break in between large jobs. Try and leave the office and take a walk. The exercise will help shift any stress that is building.
Changing your scenery too will mentally feel like you are getting away from it all, if only for a moment. This can help put things in perspective too. Respect leisure and personal time just as much, if not more, as you do work time. Just because you’re paid to do a job at work, doesn’t mean that taking time for you is not as rewarding. In fact, it’s priceless.
Know your limits
We all have limits and they’re often regarded negatively. But just like out fight or flight hormones, our limits are also there to shield us from stress and all the other unhappy feelings that follow. Recognise when work pushes you too far, and don’t be afraid to push back… first thing Monday morning.
Hayley H is a health, fitness and lifestyle blogger who’s best known for the content she provides for ResultsWithLucy.com. Alongside writing about the latest diet and workout ideas, she also specialises in helping both women and men achieve their optimal work/life balance and regularly provides tips and advice to users via the Results with Lucy website.