It's Sunday morning.
You wake up after a fun night out with friends. You snuggle a bit deeper under your covers thinking you might drift back to sleep. Then all of a sudden your eyes pop open... Effffff it's Sunday!
Before you know it you are overcome with anxiety about the work week ahead of you. At the time, Friday night and Saturday seemed like they would last forever. But here you are on Sunday morning with less than 24 hours between you and your desk.
What is a girl to do?
If you're anything like me, you'll probably try to push these thoughts out of your head for as long as possible - avoiding the problem. If you're a Sunday Scaries veteran, you've probably already made plans for the day, preempting them so you don't have to deal. 10am spin class to sweat it out, followed by noon brunch with your girlfriends. As your 2 hour brunch comes to an end, you (not so) casually suggest to your friends that you all keep hanging out so that you're not left alone with your thoughts.
Post gal pal hangout you go straight to the grocery store to brave the lines and stock up for the week ahead. Meal prep will make you feel more in control, right?
Now that you've cooked dinner and planned your week, you throw on some Netflix to binge old Scandal episodes and get lost in Olivia Pope's world. She always makes your life feel normal in comparison.
But as the clock gets closer to midnight, the anxiety starts to creep back in. Unfortunately, you can't outrun it forever. So you start to think of a myriad of ways to get out of work the next day. Fake sick? Just did that 2 weeks ago. Family emergency? Seems a bit dramatic. Car troubles? You don't even drive to work...
You fight going to sleep because you know when you open your eyes it will be Monday and you'll have to be in the office. Now that work is so close, you start to think about all of the things you didn't get done over the weekend that you had promised yourself you would do. You almost decide to pull an all-nighter just so you can say you accomplished something this weekend!
At the same time, you know Monday will be so much worse if you don't get a good night's sleep. So eventually you turn off the TV, take some melatonin and have a few stressful work dreams before your alarm goes off at 7am.
Welcome to the Sunday Scaries.
Even if you've never heard of the term before, I guarantee that at some point you've experienced them. While your version of them may be less extreme than what I've described, we all feel the anxiety of the Sunday Scaries at some time in our adult lives.
I know I used to get them a lot!
WHY WE GET THEM
While each of us has our own reasons for our Sunday Scaries attacks, they usually stem from work-related stress. Maybe you're really unhappy with your job and the idea of having to sit at your desk for another 5 days makes you want to run and hide. Or maybe you love your job, but things have been stressful at the office lately with additional responsibilities you've taken on.
As humans, we are really good at worrying about potential future events and outcomes. Left to our own devices, we'll play our stress stories on loop in our brains, only adding to our feelings of panic. Hence, our heightened dread of Monday morning and all of the things to get done throughout the week ahead.
Add into the mix any thoughts of having wasted the weekend you just spent: Why did I hang out with friends rather than tackling that to do list I had so clearly written out? Why wasn't I more productive?
And, if you've been drinking, there might be some additional stress around the events of Friday or Saturday night: Did I really cry at the bar?! Why did I have so many margaritas?
Mix all of these together and voilà!
It's the perfect recipe for the Sunday Scaries!
HOW TO COMBAT THEM
Different strategies may work for different people, but if you want to get serious about getting rid of the Sunday Scaries, you have to face the root of the problem.
Sorry ladies, that means numbing out with boozy brunch doesn't count. That's just covering up the issue and pushing it off to deal with at a later time.
Here are my thoughts on getting serious about ridding yourself of the Sunday Scaries and how to best make space to face them head on.
1. Give yourself a break
Alright, you've admitted that you're dealing with the Sunday Scaries and you're ready to banish them. Congrats! Now to start, don't beat yourself up over the fact that you got the them in the first place. It's okay! We've all experienced them at some point!
Second, give yourself a break for not getting everything you "should" have gotten done that weekend. Maybe there is a reason you didn't get to all of your to do list. Maybe you needed a little break from deadlines. Maybe you needed to let loose and have some fun.
Being hard on yourself for not meeting your weekend expectations is only going to add to your stress. By no means is that helpful, so let it go. (Singing "Let It Go" from Frozen can help. I'm just saying...)
2. Get clear on why you are getting the Sunday Scaries in the first place
Be honest with yourself: where are they coming from?
Often we start getting these anxious feelings before we even realize there is a problem. We often push it away, but then find ourselves in the same place the following Sunday. And then the following...
When we develop a pattern like this, our mind and body are trying to tell us something. Getting clear on what that something is will help you come up with a solution.
For me, the Sunday Scaries have usually been a sign that I'm unhappy with my job. While I didn't necessarily recognize it right away, looking back I can see that this was my pattern: I'd find myself Sunday after Sunday doing whatever I could to take my mind off of the coming work week. Each time, I was quite literally working for the weekend, but then part of my weekend would be consumed with anxiety about the upcoming week.
When I got real with myself, I'd finally admit that I was miserable and that something had to change. (In contrast, now that I'm doing something I love, I get excited on Sundays to plan out my week and get working on different projects. It is such a better feeling!)
So find yourself some quiet time, light a candle, grab a notebook and get it all out. Free write whatever comes to mind. No judgements, just let it out. Or if meditation is your thing, grab your cushion, quiet your mind and see what comes to you.
The key here is to make the space you need to actually face and put a name to this thing that you have been avoiding that is causing you to get the Sunday Scaries each weekend. Once you know what you're dealing with, you can actually start to work on it and make a change.
3. Create a short term strategy for the week ahead
Look at your calendar and schedule in some things that you can look forward to. Bring some fun into your week!
Take a yoga class. Book a dinner with friends. Go on a date. Plan a trip for next weekend.
Figure out ways to make it to Friday again with the least amount of stress possible. Yes, you'll still have to go to work. Yes, you'll still have to meet your deadlines. But if you have some things on your calendar to look forward to outside of work, the week won't feel so overwhelming.
Also, come up with some strategies you can use in the moment to calm yourself down when things get stressful at work. For example, any time you have a tense meeting, you could go take a 10 minute walk out of the office to clear your mind. Or maybe you plan to grab a green juice on your way to work if you feel your heart start to race as you get closer to the office. Or if you work at a hip startup with a nap room, decide that you'll go take a quick nap when you need a few minutes away from your computer screen.
Pre-determine some ways to distance yourself from stressful situations throughout the work week so that as they happen, you're better prepared to handle them.
4. Look at the big picture and create a long term plan
Since you now know the source of your Sunday Scaries, how are you going to address it over the long term so you don't keep feeling like this every weekend?
Determine what you need to do to solve the underlying issues. Maybe this means finding a new job. Maybe this means taking some courses on time management or discussing your overwhelm with your boss.
Then, find an accountability partner, whether it's a friend, your significant other or a coach like me. Set some goals and timelines for yourself and determine the best way for that person to hold you accountable throughout the process.
Having someone to hold you accountable to the changes you want to make will help keep you from pushing them off and you will be more likely to succeed.
So remember, the Sunday Scaries are real and while they may vary in intensity and frequency, they can be an important sign that something isn't quite right in our work lives. Recognize that you are not alone in experiencing them. We've all been there! But also don't ignore them - that's only going to compound the stress over time. Get yourself the help you need to go into your week feeling full of energy rather than overcome with anxiety.
Now have at it, girlfriend! Take on those Sunday Scaries! I have faith in you!
And as always, I'm here to help!