The Monday blues are when you feel down at the start of the week. You might feel anxious, depressed, or have a sense of dread about Mondays.

Dragging yourself back to the working week after a two-day break can feel like a chore — all the more so if you’re unhappy in your job. But for some people, the start of the week is more than a minor irritation. It can be a trigger for a significant decline in mood.

Much like the Sunday scaries, “Monday blues” is a casual term describing a set of symptoms that occurs at a specific time of the week.

The term “Monday blues” is widely used to describe a set of negative symptoms that coincide with the beginning of the work week.

It isn’t a medical term and doesn’t describe a specific condition that can be diagnosed. As such, it’s not in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR).

If you’re wondering whether the Monday blues are a real thing, research indicates that the answer is yes.

A 2020 study explored employees’ emotional well-being on Mondays. Researchers asked whether people tended to feel rested and restored after the weekend — or the opposite. The results showed that at the beginning (versus the end of the week) employees reported:

  • lower levels of job satisfaction
  • higher levels of job stress

Some people may find that their Monday blues lead directly from a case of Sunday scaries. The latter involves many of the same symptoms, such as incessant worrying, agitation, and dread, but it occurs on Sunday night.

There are a lot of potential reasons for the Monday blues, but here are a few common causes:

Job dissatisfaction or burnout

If you consistently dread returning to work and find yourself “living for the weekend,” it may be worth taking a closer look at your current position.

Even a job you love can leave you feeling burned out if you’re taking on too much or facing stressors that are out of your control.

Reassessing your role doesn’t have to mean a drastic career change, or even looking for a new job in your field. Adjusting your current responsibilities or your hours may be enough to make things feel more manageable.

Cognitive distortions

A cognitive distortion is an exaggerated, typically harmful thought pattern that affects a person’s worldview. Some examples include:

  • catastrophizing: catastrophic thinking means you assume the worst
  • overgeneralizing: applying the outcome of one situation to all situations
  • black-and-white thinking: also called “all or nothing” thinking, you think in extremes and aren’t able to see nuance

Assuming the worst about the week ahead — or about your performance at work more generally — can contribute to the Monday blues.

Disruptive weekend habits

It’s natural to want to relax and let loose at the weekend, especially if your work week is highly structured. But your weekend activities — even ones that seem relaxing — can have a real impact on your Monday mood.

For example, catching up on sleep at the weekend is generally a good idea. But if your weekend sleep routine looks radically different from your Monday-to-Friday routine, research says it could throw off your body’s internal rhythms.

Using alcohol or other substances at the weekend may also result in a hangover or comedown, which can easily affect your mood come Monday morning.

The symptoms of the Monday blues overlap with those of depression, anxiety disorders, and adjustment disorders.

Symptoms of the Monday blues can include:

Because the Monday blues isn’t a clinical diagnosis there are no specific treatments. In general, psychotherapy can be an excellent way to start unraveling the causes of low mood.

For example, if you experience excessive worry or intrusive thoughts about the week ahead, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you to identify and shift these cognitive patterns.

Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) is another option. This therapy focuses on treating depressive symptoms that arise from a specific life event or situation. IPT may be especially helpful if particular relationships are contributing to your stress.

If your Monday mood has become hard to manage, there are lots of self-care strategies you can try at home. Here are a few ideas:

  • Journaling: Spending a few minutes writing out your anxieties about the week ahead may help to put them in perspective. You can also try writing out some actions you can take during the week to address whatever’s worrying you. Journaling has many mental health benefits.
  • Meditation: When your anxious or sad thoughts feel overwhelming, meditation can be a great way to give yourself a mental break. You could try this on Sunday night as a preemptive measure to boost your mood and help you to sleep well.
  • Exercise: For some people, scheduling a workout for Monday morning can be an effective way to avoid a bad mood. Evidence has long shown that exercise reduces the symptoms of anxiety, depression, and many other mental health conditions, and it’s also a way to distract yourself from whatever thoughts are getting you down.
  • Schedule something fun: Instead of saving all your socializing for the end of the week, you might try scheduling a fun activity on Monday, like a walk with a friend during your lunch break. Having something to look forward to can sometimes be enough to shift your perception of the day.

We all know how it feels to dread the start of the week, and in most cases, the Monday blues aren’t a cause for concern. But if you’re experiencing symptoms like intense sadness, excessive worrying, or a lack of motivation on an ongoing basis, it may be a good idea to talk with a mental health professional.

Monday blues that are severe enough to interfere with your ability to function could signify another mental health condition, like generalized anxiety disorder, depression, or adjustment disorder.

A doctor or therapist can discuss your symptoms in detail, help you to identify the root cause, and develop a treatment plan that makes sense for you.

Balancing your work schedule with other priorities is one of the great challenges of life, and sometimes it takes an episode of the Monday blues to make you realize that the balance is off.

Research from the U.K. indicates that Monday is the most stressful day of the week for most people, so if you have trouble with this, you’re not alone.

The beginning of a new week doesn’t have to bring dread or anxiety. Acknowledging whatever feelings are driving your post-weekend mood can help you figure out the best next steps for you.

Whether it’s speaking to your manager about adjusting your responsibilities, attending therapy to shift your thought patterns, or simply scheduling more fun activities toward the start of the week, you’ll find a way to leave the Monday blues behind.