We are all familiar with the feeling of Sunday dread. That sudden anxiety about everything waiting for you in the week ahead upon your return to work on Monday. Although a certain level of anxiety about workplace pressure is normal, intense feelings of Sunday dread should be addressed both in our own attitudes and routines, and with our employers.
Even if we love our jobs, why are the Sunday Scaries so common, and what can we do to challenge them?
Accept that the new world of work is challenging
In many ways, it feels as if we have moved far beyond covid, but the huge shift in our lives and working patterns still has a lasting impact. For many of us, we were working from home for months and although challenging, that created a sense of freedom, comfort and safety in our own homes. In the post covid world, many workplaces are divided. Some, for example expect employees to come back to the office full time, which can feel draining and potentially really anxiety-inducing for us.
For people working remotely regularly or even full time, Sunday Scaries can become an even bigger issue as there are no clear physical boundaries in the week. We eat, sleep, work, repeat in the same space which can have a real impact on our mental health.
Having open conversations with managers and employers which set clear boundaries is crucial. We must not feel embarrassed to request clear working hours, clear lunch breaks and to call out those who are not respecting these boundaries.
Assess if your workplace is toxic
A toxic workplace can be a significant contributor to employees feeling anxious returning to work after the weekend. Toxicity can manifest in various ways within the workplace, including ignoring the boundaries of those in our teams, cliques within teams which make others feel excluded, or an unsupportive environment where people feel anxious to share ideas out of fear of being criticised.
Any toxic behaviours that are emerging in the workplace must be confronted. Leaders should actively discourage behaviours like ignorance to boundaries or overly critical remarks made among colleagues and call out employees when this occurs.
When employees feel emotionally safe in their workplace and supported by management and colleagues, the feelings of Sunday dread should dwindle. As emotional wellbeing is a huge contributing factor to productivity, making employees feel as positive as possible about coming to work is key.
Ongoing open communication between employees and leaders is crucial
Being able to have open communication about work, pressure management, stress or any concerns between management and employees is fundamental.
Managers should be active in spotting wellbeing issues among staff, and take immediate action when they feel that something is wrong. Conversations between employer and employee should not just focus on work and productivity, but also how they are doing and if there is anything they are struggling with.
Generally, if a workplace is a psychologically safe space then employees should feel comfortable discussing any concerns with management. If you are not feeling there is a safe space for honest and robust conversations about wellbeing, performance and progression, it is important to question why.
Voicing a lack of communication to HR or a manager, should you feel safe enough to do so, will help open up a conversation about how you could feel supported and protected at work.
Address self-limiting beliefs
Often we are our own harshest critic, and this negative self-talk can begin to define us. If we are constantly criticising and doubting our abilities at work, we can grow anxious about our performance and become obsessed with how our colleagues and managers see us. Addressing and challenging these self-limiting beliefs is crucial to feel more positive about work.
Self-limiting beliefs are usually instilled in our psyche in early childhood, and can often stick with us our entire lives. It is important to catch negative thoughts about ourselves at that moment. As soon as you think something critical about yourself, catch that thought and inspect it. Why am I talking to myself like this? Am I relating this to a past experience? Has someone made me feel this way before?
Once we start investigating these beliefs we can begin to unpick our thought process and challenge these beliefs. Consider how others would talk about you, whether that be friends, family, colleagues. It is unlikely they would ever speak about you in the way you speak about yourself, nor would you speak about them in that way.
Ensure you are balancing work life and personal life
Taking time away from work to recharge, spend time with loved ones and do things that we enjoy is really important to help us get back into the right headspace for the working week.
No matter how tempting, it is important for our wellbeing to resist the urge to check our emails or complete a quick task over the weekend. Although this may seem productive, the lack of balance will begin to impact how you feel about work and potentially make you more anxious to return on Monday.
While returning to work after a relaxing weekend may feel a little sad, if we are well rested and have topped up our energy levels with allocated time to other important facets of our lives such as hobbies and family, it should ease the impact of any lingering Sunday dread.
Dr Amanda Foo-Ryland
Dr Amanda Foo-Ryland is a TedX international keynote speaker, coach and best-selling author of Knowing You. She is a neural coding expert, and the founder of Your Life Live it, and together with her team she works with thousands of clients around the globe to help them achieve lasting personal change.