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Tell me why … I don’t like Mondays

Cluster of loudspeakers 

BBC Radio Scotland Interview with
Dr David Mason Brown
Friday 21 May 2010

“I Don’t Like Mondays”

New research from a mental health charity has found that more than a quarter of people in the UK dread work on Monday morning so much that it ruins their entire weekend.  The interview looked at how we can stop the Monday dread and reclaim our weekends.

A quarter of the people in the UK is quite a high figure, why do you think this is?
First, for many there is a love-hate relationship with the working week, unless one is lucky and does work one loves with really great colleagues.  Thus thoughts like ‘roll on Friday’ are common.  The dread of Monday for some has always been there, but with the recession more and more employees are feeling extra pressure with increased workloads, unrealistic deadlines and worries about redundancy being summed up in a feeling of not being in control.

Secondly, many individuals or groups have learnt to think in negative ways; even a feeling of “I can’t, but I have to”.  We Scots are well known for our negative thinking, like the old Scottish expression “Dinnae worry, there’s worse to come”.

Dreading Monday is a horrible feeling – what is the first step to making the dread disappear?
Firstly becoming aware, that if one feels this way, that is how one is thinking and feeling.  Getting that insight is the first step.
Everything is habit, habits that we have learnt, that can be changed by learning new habits.  So decide you are going to do something about it. Start enjoying, as much as possible, to associate with the more positive, cheerful colleagues.  Avoid those that moan and groan – they are contagious.

Enjoy the satisfaction of what you achieve.  Start to see and feel things differently.  Many conscientious people are too hard on themselves.

Why is keeping busy better than chilling out and relaxing if you are stressed – don’t you need to relax?
Everything is about balance.  Life work balance is about pacing oneself, knowing when to relax and have breaks, and also have a sense of humour.

The two biggest work curses of British work practice are:


You need the abilities to focus and prioritise.  You also need to get outside at lunchtime, get some exercise and sunshine, socialise, relax, and even power nap for ten minutes.  It is time well spent.

How easy is it to change the way you think?
It is much easier than people realise.
First, there is the insight that one is actually thinking in unhelpful, negative ways.
Secondly, the individual needs to have the desire to change.
Thirdly, realise it is no longer thoughts such as: I can’t, or maybe I will some day.  It is deciding now I will do it differently.  Think in purpose, what is one actually trying to achieve, or what possible solutions or opportunities are there?

And if any individual feels really stuck, there are so many techniques out there:  POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY, COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY, NEURO-LINGUISTIC PROGRAMMING, HYPNOSIS AND OTHERS.

What impact does the way we think have on our bodies and stress levels?
The answer is it can be immense.  Negative thoughts and emotions, especially chronic worry, fear, and anger, combined with the feeling of not being in control lead to the excess release of adrenaline and cortisol.

The right level of adrenaline can motivate us, give us a buzz or even, in an emergency, save our lives.  But adrenaline can be addictive and excess that is not used up by exercise and relaxation can prevent a good night’s sleep, increase the incidence of high blood pressure, strokes and heart disease, and even cancer.

This has been known for a long time.  In the New England Medical Journal of June 1998 there was an article on the Multi-System Damage of Chronic Stress due to Excess Adrenaline and Cortisol.  In reality it has been speculated for a long time.  In 1808 Dr Furlong Churchill wrote that the state of DIS-EASE (how it used to be spelt), if you were not at your ease for any reason for a sufficient length of time you would eventually become ill.

What can you do to start becoming aware of negative thought patterns?
One useful technique is to buy a hand counter, such as aircraft cabin crew use to count passengers.  Press it every time you become aware of a negative thought.  As you do so you will become more and more aware and, even be amazed by how many negative thoughts you have.

There are about 47 negative emotions and some can be very insidious.

What can you do once you are aware of them to reduce their impact?
After using the counter, one can keep a notebook.
Note the date, time, place and the emotion experienced.
Next write down how you would like to have felt or handled the situation.

In three weeks the habit really begins to change and in three months you become the new thinker.
Also decide to be more RESILIENT with boldness, confidence, courage, assertiveness, and decide to obtain more insights over time.

It is important to remember that some individuals may have states that need treatment such as depression, rage states, or being obsessional or even paranoid.  Phobias can really cramp one’s style and can usually be easily treated.

How effective is meditation in helping get rid of stress and dread?
At the simplest level it helps to slow down the brain waves, turn off the excess adrenaline and the Fight Flight Response, and replace it with Noradrenaline and the Relaxation response (as described by the cardiologist, Dr Herbert Benson of Harvard in 1976).

The Noradrenaline and the Relaxation State use the Brain Wave Level of Alpha and:
Slow the Pulse Rate
Lower the Blood Pressure
Relax the muscles
Reduce the thoughts (turning off the chattering monkey of the mind)
Later there is a feeling of peace and the dread just goes
The state also increases creativity and helps healing

Can short naps also help?
Yes, a short ten minute power nap at lunch can help an individual function better with the afternoon circadian dip being reduced and the individual being more productive.

A ten year study in Greece of ten thousand workers showed that the men who had three or more siestas a week had 64% less heart attacks than the men who had no siestas.  A study in Australia of a smaller number showed a reduction of 32% over five years.

Is it possible to keep yourself busy whilst simultaneously slowing your life down?
During the working day it is important to pace oneself, whilst getting routine tasks done quickly and out of the way.  These use fast thinking.

There is also a place for slow thinking, which is more creative and can help find new solutions to work smarter rather than harder.

Whenever one feels stressed during the day, take control of the breathing, slow it down and deepen it for a minute.

If one feels the muscles tight get up and walk around, shrug the shoulders, have some water.

But for part of each day, it is essential to really slow down and be kind to ourselves.  The Slow Movement, which started with the Slow Cooking, now covers many areas of Life as described in the book “In Praise of Slow” by Carl Honore.

Sted Nadolony said: ‘The whole struggle of life is to some extent a struggle about how slowly or quickly to do each thing.’

Do you have five top tips for getting rid of the Monday dread?
Tip 1: Use the weekend well.  Get fresh air and exercise.  See friends, do what you love and be kind to yourself.
Tip 2: On Sunday evening, watch a film or whatever relaxes you, such as a hot bath.  Get a good night’s sleep.
Tip 3: On Monday morning, have a good breakfast. Use your commute to work to relax and decide to enjoy the day.
Tip 4: Live in the moment, focussed on the most important task and return to it as soon as possible if interrupted.
Tip 5: At any stage of the day, if you feel stressed: stop, relax your breathing and re-evaluate how you are feeling.

Remember – you can choose to be relaxed and calm.

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