It was Monday morning. I was stuck in a hot car park with my husband and 18-month-old son. We were an hour out of Sydney. Our car was broken down. My email inbox was chock-a-block, there were a bunch of voicemails on my phone and I had a ‘To Do’ list as long as my arm. We’d just spent the weekend on the Hawkesbury River at a holiday house only accessible by boat and after successfully transferring our luggage from the boat to the car with relatively little fuss from my son, we discovered the car had a flat battery. The research on Monday mornings and their relationship to stress and health is both fascinating and a little frightening. You are more likely to die from a heart attack on a Monday morning than any other time of the week. A study published in the British Medical Journal looked at the Scottish population where nearly 80, 000 men and women died from coronary heart disease in a ten year period. The study showed people under 50 were nearly 20% more likely to have a heart attack on Monday than any other day of the week.
Numerous studies from around the world have all come to similar conclusions. Why? The simple answer is that Monday is the most stressful day of the week. As we wake from our weekend and consider the week ahead, our bodies are flooded with stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. A study carried out by Japan's Tokyo Women's Medical University and published in the American Journal of Hypertension showed that the blood pressure of workers soars as they return to the office after the weekend.
For my documentary The Connection I interviewed Dr. Craig Hassed, one of the world’s leading experts on how the mind affects our health. In this video he talks about a remarkable study done during the 2006 World Cup in Germany which found that on days of matches involving the German team, the incidence of cardiac emergencies in men was 3.26 times higher than during the control period, which is to say that viewing a stressful soccer match more than triples the risk of a heart attack. Here’s a video of Dr. Hassed elaborating.
So how can we control our stress and emotions in order to ensure we avoid the unfortunate fate of the football fans affected by their team’s performance well and truly out of their control? In the above video Dr. Hassed makes the final point that the ideal situation would be for us to have the mental flexibility to simply start barracking for the winning team.
So as my husband and I found ourselves stuck in a hot car park on a Monday morning with a flat battery, a baby and the inevitable wait for road side assistance, we took this as an opportunity to extend our weekend. The morning ended up being a wonderful opportunity for the three of us to invent games and spend even more time together. It’s amazing how much fun can be found at the wheel of a broken down car.