Raise your hand if you sometimes get up on the wrong side of the bed and dread the day ahead. I thought so. Some days can be hard just getting out of your warm, cozy bed after a long weekend or a late night, especially when it’s cold, gray, and rainy.
The ‘Start-Of-Day’ Blues
A study by Nancy Rothbard and Steffanie Wilk revealed that morning moods can stay with you all day long. The duo observed a group of customer service representatives (CSRs) in an insurance company’s call center over several weeks. They found that CSRs varied from day to day in their start-of-day mood, but that those who started out each day happy or calm usually stayed that way throughout the day. Plus, interacting with customers tended to further enhance their mood. On the other hand, employees who started the day in a terrible mood didn’t really climb out of it, and felt even worse by the end of the day—even after interacting with positive customers. The researchers discovered something they called, “the misery loves company” syndrome. Some CSRs who felt badly at the beginning of the day felt less badly after interacting with customers who were in bad moods. The researchers interpret that finding to mean that when confronted with a customer’s perspective, CSRs felt their own lives weren’t so bad after all.
10 Steps to Sidestep Start-of-Day Blues
When you broaden your perspective and consider possibilities, you can sidestep a negative “start-of-day mood” with these 10 mindful tips and begin and end your day on an upswing.
1. Avoid Deep Diving. If you go swimming for the first time, you don’t dive in over your head on the first day. You wade in the shallow water to get acclimated to ease your mind. Avoid over-scheduling yourself with huge challenges or adding additional responsibilities to your calendar. Tackle as many of the unfinished tasks the previous week so your dread won’t feel so insurmountable. Sometimes the blues come from thinking about everything on your to-do list. Taking one step at a time prevents you from overwhelming yourself. Focus on the most important task, put the rest out of your mind, and complete the one that needs immediate attention.
2. Make Your ‘Start-of-Day’ Adventure Days. There’s a thin line between excitement and dread (think bungee jumping). When you frame upcoming challenges as curious adventures (“I wonder if I will land that account”) instead of problem (“If I don’t land that account, I’ll be upset”), it reduces dread because you’re not pressuring yourself with expectations. You could even ask yourself, “I wonder what interesting events will happen today.”
3. Avoid “Stinkin’ Thinkin’.” It takes three positive thoughts to offset one negative thought. Positive thoughts work in the opposite direction, helping you stack a start-of-the-day positivity deck. Look for the upside of a downside situation. Avoid blowing disappointments out of proportion. Look for gains in your losses. Focus on solutions instead of problems. And pinpoint opportunity in a challenge. Think of one thing—no matter how insignificant it might seem at first—to look forward to at the start of the day. It could be chatting with a friend, helping a client you enjoy, the excitement of presenting a new idea to your manager, or having lunch at your favorite restaurant. Plan to reward yourself at the end of the day with something fun. article continues after advertisement
4. Sidestep “Musturbation” And Empower Yourself. Usually the start-of-the-day blues hit because of your perspective. If you’re like most people, you have a relentless faultfinder living in your brain, ruling your mind. It bludgeons you with oppressive words that pressure you such as must, should, ought and have to: “I must finish cleaning out the garage; “I have to get the house in order”; “This project should be perfect.” When you’re aware of the oppressive voice (the psychologist Albert Ellis dubbed it “musturbation”), you can choose more empowering, less stressful words such as “I plan to,” “I want to” or “I choose to.” Empowering self-talk eclipses the dread and lifts your mood. Mentally trace the choices you’ve made in your life—your neighborhood, your friends, your job. As you name all the aspects of your life that you’ve chosen, you start to feel lighter, freer, and more empowered over the oppressive thoughts.
5. Self-Soothe And Take Action. Pinpoint why you feel the start-of-the-day dreads. It could be the boss from hell, a bad relationship with your main squeeze, worries about a child or boredom. Go within and see if you can connect with the part of you that dreads facing the day. Observe it as a separate part of you, instead of you—with objectivity much like you would notice a blemish on your hand. Talk to it like you would a best friend and express empathy for it. Unlike the old myths about the insanity of talking to yourself, the modern-day approach of talking to your inner parts is one of the best strategies for clarity and self-calming. As you separate from the dread, you notice a feeling of inner calm. Then take steps to change circumstances that reduce the dread.
6. Quiet Your Mind. Start-of-the-day blues happen when your mind is stuck in the future. You’re trying to solve a problem or afraid you won’t be able to achieve a certain goal. Taking time out from the intrusive thoughts to quiet your mind with idle moments—such as a short five-minute meditation or contemplating some aspect of nature—brings your mind into the present moment and helps you unwind, clear your head, and relax your mind, body, and spirit.
7. Stay in Good Shape. Think of your mornings as the Olympics or the National Cup. Your physical and mental endurance at the start of the day hinges on being fit. Prepare yourself for workday mornings by unplugging on weekends and taking care of your physical and mental health. Avoid long nights trying to hit deadlines, preparing for a big presentation, or analyzing that endless task list. Prime yourself with good food, regular exercise, and ample sleep. Avoid nicotine and use alcohol in moderation. Recharge your batteries and balance your work life with fun, leisure, and time with friends and loved ones. article continues after advertisement
8. Break Routines. Break the monotony of rules, ruts and routines. Make sure you plan to take your breaks and lunch hour and stretch them into doing something different. Change scenery by getting outside even if it’s only for 10 or 15 minutes. Dine away from your desk in a park or a different restaurant. Consider giving your workstation a makeover.
9. H-A-L-T. The acronym H-A-L-T stands for “hungry, angry, lonely or tired.” This alert signal is a gentle reminder for you to stop, slow down, and bring yourself back into balance when your mind starts to dread early mornings: eat when hungry, let out your anger in a constructive way, call someone if you’re lonely and rest when tired.
10. Act “As If.” Acting as if is a powerful tool that says you can create outer circumstances by acting as if they’re already true. You give yourself to a certain performance as if it’s how you feel. When you act as if, the mood you pretend becomes a reality. When you dread an upcoming day, your body goes with the downturn of your feelings, making you feel worse. You might even hold your head down or slump when you walk. Making body adjustments—pulling your shoulders back, standing or sitting up straight or walking in a more expansive way—can pull you out of dread. Even smiling when you don’t feel like it can jump-start a genuine smile and lift your mood for real. Your facial expressions influence your emotions by triggering specific neurotransmitters, the brain’s chemical messengers. When you smile, you feel good not just because it reflects how you feel, but the facial expression contributes to how you feel.