Sunday syndrome; That sinking feeling on a Sunday when you realise that you have to go to work the next day.
Rationally you know that it’s still Sunday and you have hours of weekend left. Objectively you know that no matter what lies waiting for you at the office on Monday morning IT’S STILL SUNDAY yet you can’t shake off the uneasy feeling of melancholy dread that Monday is looming.
Why do we get this?
I remember getting Sunday syndrome when I was at school because we had double maths on a Monday morning. I wasn’t very good at maths and I was scared of my teacher.
I thought Sunday syndrome was a hangover from double maths Monday dread, but over the years I’ve realised that most people have experienced Sunday syndrome.
Sunday syndrome is a form of anticipatory anxiety. This is when you experience increased levels of anxiety by thinking about an event or situation in the future, for example going to work, or turning on your laptop for work tomorrow, or anxiety about the working week ahead.
It strikes me as a bad thing, most of us spend 40 or more hours a week working and the thought of going back after a couple of days off should not be so awful.
You already know that sleep exercise and eating well will help you manage your mood and your Sunday syndrome. I’m not including these in my list of tips below because you know them. Plus, when someone says to me how it’s important to get a good nights sleep, the pressure is on and I end up having the worst sleep of my life which exacerbates the looming dread of Monday.
Here’s three tips to help you manage your Sunday syndrome anxiety.
1.Ask Why? Ask yourself ‘Why?’ What’s going on for you that the Sunday syndrome is a problem. Do you dislike your job? Perhaps you feel disconnected, undervalued? Maybe you’re bored? Or are you massively overworked and resentful? If you can start to understand what is causing the slow feeling of dread of Monday, you can start to work to overcome it.
2.Step away from your emotional response to Monday morning. Human beings are emotional animals and our first response to anything is emotional. Then our rational brain catches up. If you can step away from your emotional response it can help you think more rationally. For example, you’re feeling angry about having to work on Monday, or you’ve agreed to step up to do a presentation that makes you feel afraid, or you’re feeling sad that the weekend is over. Step back. Take a breath. Disconnect yourself from your emotion by saying to yourself. ‘I have the feeling of being angry/afraid/sad’. Saying to yourself that you have the feeling of being angry rather than you are angry can help to remove some of the emotion. This enables you to apply some rational thought to why you’re experiencing Sunday syndrome.
3.Work on managing your anxiety. Feeling anxious is exhausting which in turn massively impacts how you feel about your working life as well as impacting on your confidence. You spend a considerable amount of your time at work, it needs to be a happy and fulfilling experience not one plagued by a weekly dose of Sunday syndrome.
In order to be able to manage your feelings of anxiety, you first need to notice your early signs that anxiety is building. What happens to you? For some people it’s a lack of concentration, others report feeling irritable and short tempered, or having feelings of brain fog or even becoming clumsy.
What are your early signs of stress? Take a moment to think and write down.
The important thing is to notice early because what’s happening is that your cortisol and adrenalin levels are increasing and you’re getting ready to fight, flight or freeze. What you need to do to start to manage your feelings of stress and anxiety is to stop your cortisol and adrenalin levels rising but you have to catch it early. You do this by changing your state; by that we mean your physical position and your mood or mental state of mind. One tactic that is so simple it sounds ridiculous is to breathe.
It seems small, but it’s not – it’s a big deal and is a powerful stress reliever and confidence booster. Here’s some quick tips on a breathing technique called ‘box breathing’.
- Sit up straight in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor. Keeping your hands relaxed in your lap with your palms facing up, focus on your posture.
- Slowly exhale, getting all the oxygen out of your lungs. Focus on this intention and be conscious of what you’re doing.
- Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose to the count of four. In this step, count to four very slowly in your head. Feel the air fill your lungs, one section at a time, until your lungs are completely full, and the air moves into your abdomen.
- Hold your breath for another slow count of four.
- Exhale through your mouth for the same slow count of four, expelling the air from your lungs and abdomen. Be conscious of the feeling of the air leaving your lungs.
- Hold your breath for the same slow count of four before repeating this process.
Did you do it? How do you feel?