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We’ve all had those days: The alarm keeps beeping, but you just cannot convince yourself to get up for work. While it’s perfectly understandable to be cozy in bed, most mornings, we have enough motivation to start the day anyway. The next time you wake up feeling firmly set against work, do some investigating to figure out whether you should push through or give yourself the day off.

Start by Journaling

The early morning feeling of dread or low energy can come from many sources. The first step is to identify the reason behind your feelings (or identify that you don’t know the cause, which is legitimate, too). Set a timer for 5 minutes and write. Don’t try to structure things or force your writing in a particular direction. Simply answer the prompt, “How am I feeling right now?” Your words will give you a lot of information.

Decode Your Thoughts

Look back at your writing and try to find phrases and patterns pointing to the issues behind your lack of motivation today. Here are three common underlying problems and some words or framing that might come up for each.

Low Energy from Physical Exhaustion

If physical exhaustion is your primary culprit, you may see many references to feeling tired, lazy, or drained in your writing. Your penmanship might be sloppier than usual, and you may have written less than usual. Phrases about the process of getting ready and getting yourself to work might pop up.

Stress or Anxiety About the Day Ahead

When stress and anxiety are the main forces at play, you might see a lot of references to specific projects or tasks you’re avoiding. Often, anxiety causes us to write a lot quickly, so notice if you are unusually prolific. There may be phrases that include wants and needs or discussion of feelings like guilt, frustration, fear, and annoyance.

Mental Exhaustion or Disengagement

If you’re truly worn down and mentally overwhelmed, your writing might exhibit a lot of all-or-nothing thinking and declarations. You may write “I don’t know” a lot since there’s often a level of emotional disengagement that comes with mental burnout. 

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Tips for Getting Energized

Alright, you’ve determined that low physical energy is the culprit. What now? If you have time before work, get outside. Being outdoors is the best way to quickly boost your energy levels. Take a walk, eat breakfast outside, or even park a block away from the office so that you have to walk a bit. You should also change parts of your everyday routine to force your brain to wake up. Drive a different way to work, wear an unusual pair of shoes, or add a new flavor to your water. A throwback pump-up playlist can do wonders, too.

Coping Strategies for Stress and Anxiety

If stress and anxiety are at play, the best coping strategies involve being realistic and jumping into work ASAP. Start the task you’re worried about by emailing a coworker or friend to tell them you’ve committed to the project for the day. External accountability can push you past your internal roadblocks. Write or revamp your to-do list by breaking everything into tiny (tiny!) pieces so that you can check items off quickly and frequently. If you experience physical symptoms when stressed, make time to address these. Take a walk at lunch, treat yourself to a special tea, or download a calming, focused playlist to enjoy throughout the day.

Embracing a Day Off to Recover

If you’ve determined that a mental health break is probably the answer, then commit to the break without guilt. Treat it like a physical illness. Do nothing but rest and recover. You might also feel physically drained, so staying in bed is a legitimate plan for the day. If you have some energy, ask yourself what physical activity feels right. A slow yoga session, walk around the park, or intense dance class may all fit your needs. Avoid the temptation to check in at work or do “just a little bit.” Just like rejecting rest when you’re sick, refusing to completely disengage means it will take longer to rejuvenate mentally.

Listening to your body’s cues is essential, so the next time you wake up unsure about the day, take the time to figure out what’s best.