If you don’t ever get that feeling, consider yourself lucky; according to a LinkedIn survey, 80% of professionals have feelings of dread or anxiety the day before returning to work.
It’s Friday! The whistle blows, you slide off the back of your brontosaurus, leap into your car, shove your feet through the floor boards, get a running start, and off you go, home free for two whole days.
Ah, the weekend, plans or no plans, you’ve got two days free from work and are open to doing what you want. And that’s great until Sunday night rolls around, and you start to get that familiar pit in your stomach. That weird wave of worry crashes on your brow, and your lovely weekend turns to panic and fear.
That is the Sunday scaries, sometimes known as the Sunday blues.
If you don’t ever get that feeling, consider yourself lucky; according to a LinkedIn survey, 80% of professionals have feelings of dread or anxiety the day before returning to work. And 90% of Millennials and GenZers feel it as well.
The Sunday scaries or Sunday blues are very real for a large swath of the country and maybe even the world.
Most surveyed tell us that the Sunday scaries are caused by and exacerbate their stress level.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), stress is the number one health epidemic of the 21st century. Yes, we’ve all recently suffered through and still suffer with the latest pandemic, but unlike COVID-19, which was a new disease in our ecosystem, stress has been with us for a lot longer, and it doesn't seem to be going anywhere soon. In fact, doctors have warned that not only is stress a severe problem, but the problem also continues to escalate.
According to this report by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 40% of workers say their job is very or extremely stressful, and 25% of workers point to their job as the number one stressor in their lives.
With all that, it makes sense that people experience some form of dread toward the end of Sunday. The Sunday scaries or Sunday Blues, the anxiety you feel before returning to work, are not something to take lightly. Of those surveyed, 76% say their Sunday evening scaries are really bad, some to the point of debilitating.
These anxiety-filled Sunday evenings can move very quickly from an emotional feeling to a physical manifestation, such as,
- Racing heartbeat
- Difficulty breathing
- Trembling’Upset Stomach
- Trouble sleeping
- In extreme unchecked cases, heart attack
This situation may sound silly to some; why does going to work upset you so much? But for a significant number of people, Sunday scaries are quite, well, scary.
The scaries are triggered when we start to prepare or even contemplate preparing for work on Monday. We’ve been in free mode and play mode for two days, and now, the brain has to switch to work mode, even briefly. This stark, 180-degree change triggers a lot of emotion.
Some of the Sunday night scaries stem from our brains gearing up to engage parts we don't use when we’re not working. That is a jarring situation and can cause a dearth of emotional and physical responses. Thus, the scaries.
For some, the scaries are mild, and they pass quickly once the Monday plan is in place. For others, the scaries can start as soon as their feet hit the floor Sunday morning and stay with them all day, getting worse as the minutes tick by.
Perhaps it’s prepping for Monday; perhaps there is something wrong at work, a fight with a co-worker, a boss that makes you insane, or you just can't stand your life and feel stuck, and the job represents all you’re unhappy with. No matter the cause, you are not alone; a significant part of the population feels the Sunday night scaries.
How to Handle the Scaries
Although the scaries are common, they are also very personal. Each person experiences their own scaries and their specific anxieties. Because of this, there is no one size fits all treatment. However, you can take some general actions to get on top of the Sunday scaries, and maybe you can defeat them altogether. Here are some ideas.
Schedule an Activity
Unstructured time is excellent, do what you want or do nothing at all; that’s the beauty of the weekend. However, all that unstructured time also allows for the scaries breeding thoughts to creep in.
Plan fun and exciting distractions, whatever that means to you. Plan a weekend getaway, a fun activity, or focus on your hobby. Keep yourself distracted and active and when the scaries start to show their ugly heads, counter them with something fun. Be aware of the feelings, but don’t focus on them for too long; change the focus to something fun.
Disconnect from Work
Don't just leave the office for the weekend; put it behind you. Put away the work phone, disconnect from email, and be removed from all work or ideas of work for two full days. Set boundaries and stick to them; don't allow work to creep in during your weekend at all.
This can be as extensive as not talking about work with loved ones, not about a problem you have or someone who upsets you, even jokingly, because the joke keeps your work in your head all weekend. Try setting boundaries and keeping them, and you’ll see how much you have allowed work to encroach on your free time.
Sunday Night Routine
A routine is great because it helps in transition. So, Sunday night, have a routine. Watch a special TV show, make a great Sunday night meal, set time aside to read a book chapter. Create a special Sunday night routine and stick with it.
Our bodies and minds love a routine because once you’ve set it, it’s not that demanding, and the mind can wander the body can slowly get ready without being thrown directly into the fray. Having a Sunday routine can ease you into Monday with a lot less stress.
Plan Your Week on Friday
Set time aside on Friday to schedule the upcoming week. Set up emails, clean out your inbox and meetings, and lay out your coming week, so you’re ready on Monday. This will ease your mind and body transitions from free time to work time.
Have a Monday Morning Tradition
Is there a coffee shop that’s a little out of the easy that you love, make it part of your Monday morning treat or tradition. Maybe you have breakfast in a diner on Mondays or set aside time to read the paper before you work. Do something that makes Monday stand out, not just because it’s time to get back to the salt mines.
A lack of good, deep, restful sleep leaves us vulnerable physically and mentally. If you’re tired going into the weekend, then you don’t sleep all weekend; you’re starting Monday behind the eight-ball.
Also, know that it is a myth that you can “catch up” on sleep; you cannot. When you don’t sleep, you get yourself into what scientists call sleep debt. If you don't sleep at all on the weekend or during the week, you cannot make it up by sleeping late on Saturday. Studies show that if you miss even one hour of a good eight-hour rest, it takes four hours or more to make up for it. Once you’ve gone into sleep debt, it’s tough to get out. So, you keep piling stress on yourself come Monday.
A lot of stress and a massive portion of the Sunday scaries can be dissipated with good sleep.
Get a new Job
If you’ve tried any of the above and still find that come Sunday night, you’re ready to claw your eyes out or spend the evening curled up by a nice cool toilet; there might be a deeper problem.
Our bodies are wise, sometimes more so than our brains. If you find that every Sunday night, you’re back to square one and you’re feeling the dread of Monday, perhaps it's time for a new job or career path.
If it is the job that’s causing you to feel this way every Sunday night, pay attention to what your body is telling you. It doesn’t matter who says you have such a good job; if you don’t feel that way, stop wasting time and change the scene.
Stress is a slow killer, and don't doubt this; stress can kill you. If you live in a state of constant stress, then the stress hormones that release adrenaline keep you in a constant state of vigilance. You’re in fight or flight all the time. This will lead to heart disease and worse. Living in a constant state of stress is not worth any job perk. Listen to what your body is saying and do something about it sooner rather than later.
You’re Not Alone
Talk to your friends and co-workers and share your Sunday scaries; you may be surprised by how many people you work with feel the same way. Somehow, knowing you’re not alone in this situation can make things a little easier. Perhaps you can start a Sunday Night Scaries group and work with friends and co-workers to ease the feelings.
Our lives have been very different since the pandemic, and ignoring that can lead to more Sunday night-like scaries. You might discover you have a toxic workplace, and together you may be able to solve that.
No matter what, take time to really examine your Sunday Night scaries and ask yourself the hard questions: is this the right job for me? Is this a good career path? And most of all, can I keep living this way, spending a portion of my weekend depressed about Monday morning?
Our time on this planet is a brief candle; keep your job from snuffing it before your time is due.