This article originally appeared on VICE Italy.
Humanity’s obsession with measuring time is as old as humanity itself. The first evidence of the concept of the seven-day week appeared over 4,000 years ago in Mesopotamia. The Babylonian astrological calendar later spread to Greece and the Middle East, before – around the 6th century BC – the Bible introduced a day of rest: Saturday. Thanks largely to 19th and 20th century workers movements, our one day off became two.
Everyone has their least favourite day in terms of mental health, stamina and productivity. Mondays get a bad rep because everything starts all over again, but some people view it as a clean slate. Others hate Sundays because it’s the end of the fun, while some think Wednesdays suck because your energy is at its lowest.
Productivity coach Annalisa Stella is in the Monday camp – it’s when her clients have the hardest time. “Mondays are seen as a day full of excitement for new projects,” she said. “At the same time, they generate fears of not being up to par for the upcoming week.” Sometimes, people also have to deal with tasks they didn’t get done the previous week, which can lead to “stress, concentration problems, muscle tension, agitation or apathy, all exacerbated by the change of pace from the weekend”, Stella added.
If you’re frequently overwhelmed by Mondays, Stella suggests talking to a therapist. In more manageable situations, however, she advises “working consistently and patiently on your planning skills”. For instance, make a thorough to-do list for the following week as soon as you consider your current one finished. That will help you move on and enjoy your rest time. She also stressed not becoming too obsessed with productivity, but rather developing planning skills to carry out your tasks more calmly.
Some of Stella’s clients feel generalised discomfort on Sunday afternoons if they know the upcoming week will be a tough one. For many people, the Christian day of rest is not really that restful, but more a transition from the (always too short) weekend to a week full of activities.
“Sundays have become increasingly like weekdays,” said Rome-based psychologist Marilena Iasevoli. Students are often busy with coursework, while adults spend the day picking up household chores or feeling guilty for neglecting them. Some never really switch off from work, others are overwhelmed by negative feelings for having “wasted” their precious off-time.
Iasevoli said her Sunday-hating patients often experience “sadness mixed with growing anxiety” about the impending week. If we’re not busy on a Sunday afternoon, our minds tend to reflect on issues we wouldn’t dwell on during our weekly routines. “You feel worst in those moments because you have more time to think,” Iasevoli said.
A trick to reduce this negativity is to occupy your time with regularly-scheduled activities. “A study showed that those who go to Mass on Sundays experience greater levels of well-being,” Iasevoli said. “It’s not really about religion, but fixed and repeated appointments help a lot to make sense of the day.”
A 2015 study by the University of Lincoln in the UK showed that we tend to view Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as one block. Precisely for this reason, yoga teacher and mindfulness expert Claudia Curunella thinks Wednesdays are the worst. She teaches yoga on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and says there is always a drop in attendance in the middle of the week. That’s when you might realise that “you don’t have the strength or the clarity” to achieve the goals you’ve set yourself that week, she said.
Mondays might be difficult, but at least we’ve had some time to rest and recharge on the weekend. But on Wednesdays, “you wake up in the morning and think, ‘What, are we still here? It’s still that long until the weekend?’” she said.
This halfway mark can drain you of the motivation you had at the beginning of the week, and leave you feeling discouraged, or like you’ve failed. Even though it’s natural to feel bad about not reaching your goals, it’s also important to realise your mental and physical energies “aren’t infinite”, said Curunella. “You might just need to re-evaluate your plans.”
Curunella believes working on your emotional intelligence is key: “This is the ability to regulate emotions to promote growth, and it can be refined through meditation.” It doesn't mean you won’t feel frustrated at times. “I don’t teach people to repress emotions, just how to manage them,” emphasised the mindfulness expert.
“The way we experience small moments of failure is always quite personal,” said Curunella, and so are our emotional weekly cycles. If there’s a day of the week that just doesn’t sit well with you, don’t fight it. Tomorrow is another day.