You may have heard them called the ‘Sunday Scaries.’ Perhaps the term ‘Monday Blues’ is more familiar to you. Whichever term you use, if you have that mix of dread, anxiety, irritation, and/or sadness once you realize the weekend is over, you know what we’re talking about.
So are the scaries or the blues real things? They are. It isn’t uncommon for my patients to report an uptick of anxiety as Sunday comes to a close, or feelings of sadness or irritation when they find themselves back at work on Monday. What we need to know is what is driving these feelings, and (more importantly), what we can do about them. Here are 5 tips:
1. We assume that any increase in negative feelings must mean that something is wrong, but that’s not necessarily true.
You can truly enjoy your work and still experience negative emotions. For example, they could be the result of being concerned about a big project, or feeding off of other people’s negativity. That being said, maybe something does need to be changed. If you’re persistently unhappy at work, consider taking some time off, or even a possible career change. But if it’s just at the start of the week, it may just mean you need better stress management.
2. Take care of the hard things at the end of the week.
This accomplishes two things. One, you can go into your weekend knowing that everything is wrapped up. Two, you can head into the next week without a grim task hanging over you. We generally procrastinate because we convince ourselves that ‘future us’ won’t mind the task as much as ‘present us’ does. But the truth is that it won’t be any less unpleasant in the future, so you may as well get it done.
3. Accept that work is rarely as fun as time off.
Sometimes we place unrealistic expectations on work. We expect it to secure us financially, provide social outlets, give us purpose and meaning, and define our identity. If work can do all of that, that’s amazing! But I would guess that even in the best of situations, that happens at a maximum of 80% of the time. That is because work is often, well, work. Even those of us lucky enough to love our vocations still have days that are drudgery. And rarely does work ever compete well next to a beach vacation. So perhaps we have negative emotions because we are heading back from our weekends to a situation that isn’t going to match what we just did. It may seem counterintuitive, but accepting a situation as it is is less painful than continually being disappointed. If you can’t accept it, then change it. But if you can’t change it, you’re better off accepting it.
4. Add some fun to your Mondays.
Part of why we enjoy the weekends so much is because we spend time doing things we enjoy. So why not use this same principle with work? Dress in a favorite outfit, go out to lunch or bring a special treat, plan a date night after work. Life is like a pendulum--if it swings hard one way, it will swing back with equal force in the other. So if we cram all of our fun or relaxation into a few days, then the next two days full of just work are going to seem really difficult by comparison. So spread out the fun and put some enjoyable activities into your early work weeks.
5. Practice good self-care.
Maybe the problem isn’t that you’re having so much fun on the weekends that work seems terrible by comparison. Maybe the issue is that you aren’t having fun on the weekends. If you don’t actually take time to disconnect and recharge, then of course the early work week will be really difficult. It’s like running two marathons without the appropriate amount of rest in-between. Of course you are going to be tired--and tired of running. So make sure that you really do disconnect from work on your days off, and do some fun things that you enjoy. Just make sure you leave some for Monday!
If you try any or all of the above and still can’t get a handle on those work week emotions, consider professional help. A therapist can assist with managing the unpleasant thoughts and feelings, as well as supporting you if you do need to make a change. Otherwise, assess your self-care, expectations, and routines, and see if you can’t kick those blues to the curb.
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