We all look forward to our weekends. They’re the part of the week when we get to spend time with loved ones and/or engage in pleasurable activities, whether that’s going for a hike or sleeping in. For some of us, our “weekends” are mid-week, or shorter or longer than the traditional two-day Saturday and Sunday weekend. Wherever your weekend falls, and however long its duration, you may spend the day before your work week commences bemoaning the idea of the work week. For the purposes of this blog, we’ll refer to a Saturday/Sunday weekend, but we know that there are many people whose schedules rotate or are on “days off” while the rest of their friends and family are working, and vice versa.
If in the midst of your weekend activities, you find your Sundays being hijacked by the upcoming work week, you are not alone. Whether you call it the Sunday Blues or Monday Anxiety, it is a common stress response where you find yourself worrying about the new week and all that comes with it instead of being present in your weekend. This sort of anxiety can be frustrating to deal with, and you may find that you are hard on yourself about it, which adds additional stress to the anxiety you’re already feeling about the impending work week.
Signs and Symptoms That You Are Struggling With The Sunday Blues
Starting Sunday afternoon (or even earlier in the day!), you may experience a change in your mood that you can’t shake off. The shift in mood can show up as fatigue or irritability. You may be more likely to engage in numbing actions such as excessive drinking or video games as a way to escape this uncomfortable feeling. Even if you entered the weekend optimistic about doing something fun or achieving something productive, you might instead find yourself binge-watching your favorite series with a large pizza in your lap. There is nothing wrong with a good snack and film fest as part of a balanced work-life-rest schedule, but if this becomes a weekly routine and you feel bad about it, it is definitely a sign of a coping mechanism as opposed to a positive activity.
There can be external events that can exacerbate the Sunday blues, including work that may have piled up from the previous week, an important meeting or a presentation, and upcoming work travels. These events can trigger the underlying performance anxiety, where you may fear that you will not perform up to your part at work. If you are struggling with imposter syndrome, this can exacerbate your feelings of inadequacy. Resenting the idea of going to work may not be about work in general; many of us prefer to have time off and do fun activities to having to go to work. Instead, this anxiety may be caused by specific aspects of your job environment and/or your response to them.
3 Ways to Cope With the Sunday Blues
1. Acknowledge your feelings:
It is important to understand that there is a name for what you are experiencing. It is real. It is not a diagnosable emotional experience in and of itself; however, that does not make it any less valid. Too often, we get caught up in trying to determine whether or not we “should” be feeling a certain way. We think, “Oh, I don’t have it that bad,” or, “This shouldn’t even be a big deal.” Talking to ourselves that way doesn’t do anything to help us cope with what we are feeling. It doesn’t help us identify triggers or make any sort of plan for how to handle the situation. We first have to acknowledge without judgment.
Notice your feelings and track when they begin to show up. Are they stronger or more difficult to cope with if you’ve had a weekend with too many plans or not enough plans? Do they occur weekly, on most Sundays, or every other Sunday? Do they depend on the work week you had before the weekend? How do you experience these feelings in your body: do you have trouble sleeping, do you feel tired, is your heart rate elevated? Is that how you can tell that you’re stressed? What about your behavior? Does that hold some clues? Are you short with your loved ones, or perhaps avoidant of them?
The best way to hold space for your emotions is to begin with mindfulness and compassion. You have to be willing to stay in the present and turn towards your feelings so you can identify them. It is important that you don’t shame or judge yourself for your feelings and instead stay empathetic. If people around you make it challenging to be compassionate toward yourself, you might ask yourself if you need to address it with those people or perhaps take a small break from them (if you are able).
In acknowledging your feelings, you may also want to share them with someone you trust or someone you live with. Putting them into words and speaking them aloud greatly takes some of their power away. If you’ve been feeling frustrated about your depression and anxiety because you feel like you “shouldn’t” be complaining about going to work, this is a good way to take some shame away from yourself. The messaging we are given in this country is that working hard – overworking, even – is a badge of honor. It is “just what everyone does.” It can feel like a failure to admit that you are struggling with a part of your life that takes up so much time and space and has been sold to you as “the bare minimum.” In actuality, it takes a lot of time, effort, and mental pressure to work and run a household; for a long time, either/or was a full-time job. You either worked or tended to your home. Now, we are asked to do both. That’s not easy. Be kind to yourself about it.
2. Make a plan:
As you become more aware of your Sunday blues and Monday anxiety, you can do something about it by adjusting your habits and actions. This may not completely get rid of the emotion, but making a plan can help you ride the wave of that emotion more effectively. A lot of what we work toward here at our therapy practice in Woodland Hills is emotional regulation and resilience. Making a plan is a great way to set yourself up for success in many aspects of your life, including the Sunday blues.
For example, when you anticipate feeling the Sunday blues let’s say, by the middle of the day, you can move your Sunday brunch to early dinner so that you have company in the late afternoon and early evening. This gives you something to look forward to earlier in the day and something happy to do later in the day. If your regular brunch crowd can’t change the time you all meet, consider making plans with someone else later in the day. You might go for a walk, take in a movie, or meet for an evening tea somewhere. Maybe you can get together and meal prep for the week together; nobody said you couldn’t make “life tasks” more enjoyable! If you anticipate feeling lethargic or anxious on the day before your work week, you can also consider signing up for your yoga class during that time. Going on your own to see the latest movie during that time is a better option than not going if no one can go with you. It would keep you busy and keep you company as you feel your feelings. It is important to be proactive and choose the coping strategies that will keep you safe and grounded during Sunday afternoon. Committing to getting out of the house and changing your scenery is usually enough to keep you from powering down into a depressed state.
As you make plans, consider things you can plan that would better support you in the coming week. Would you want to use a planner that helps you keep a balance between your personal and work-related appointments? Are there any chores you can do to keep your space feeling comfortable for you? Choosing your clothes for the week and hanging them in outfits? Taking out the trash and doing the laundry? Can someone in your network help you do these things, even just come over to sit with you and chat while you fold? Or can you schedule a phone call with a loved one for that time?
3. Practice positive affirmations:
We have said this a handful of times, and we will keep saying this: how you think affects how you feel, which affects how you behave. While you can’t always know “why” you are feeling a certain way, there are still some times when you can pinpoint a negative thought that is fueling your anxiety and stress. Reducing these self-defeating thoughts can change your entire outlook on life.
There are many ways negative self-talk may show up in our lives, but there are also definitely some common traits, those being catastrophizing, fortune telling, and labeling. Catastrophizing is when you are thinking about the potential outcomes of a scenario, and you assume that the worst-case possibility is destined to occur. Often, it includes exaggerating the seriousness or enormity of the problem you are facing and the potential chain of events; “If I don’t do this, then I can’t do that, and then I won’t do that, and my life will be meaningless.” Fortune telling is a cognitive distortion in which you decide how something is going to go. “This coming week is going to be terrible.” Labeling is just how it sounds: reducing a person or situation to only one thing. For example, thinking that if you don’t get a promotion at work, you failed and therefore are “a failure.”
As you notice the negative stories you are telling yourself about the upcoming week, do your best to catch them and turn your attention towards more supportive thoughts. This doesn’t mean that you stand in front of the mirror and tell yourself, “Everything is going to be fine.” After all, we don’t know that. But what you can do is focus on your resilience and strength to handle whatever may come your way this week. Positive self-talk is not pretending to know the future or being self-indulgent. Positive self-talk is about being able to see our strengths so that we can feel grounded and centered.
When deciding on your affirmations, remember that scenarios are unpredictable but that you can always rely on your positive core traits. “I am resilient,” “I have the strength to do what needs to be done,” and “There is more to me and my life than my job” are some examples of positive affirmations. You may want to speak to a therapist about your work situation and brainstorm these affirmations together. Sometimes, an outside perspective can help you to see and validate your own strengths. If you have a friend in a similar situation, you might want to buddy up and work on your affirmations together. Maybe even text each other an affirmation first thing on Monday morning. Find ways to make your affirmations accessible to you.
There will always be a time when doing what “needs to be done” won’t feel thrilling. We don’t always want to do our laundry, cook dinner, or even go to work. There is no shame in having times where you would rather just avoid doing something because you’d prefer to be doing something else. What you shouldn’t have to live with is all-encompassing anxiety and/or depression that sucks the joy out of the time you have to yourself. (Ideally, you are also able to avoid a job that makes you feel that way while you’re working, but that’s a blog for another day. Or maybe you want a career change.) Remind yourself that you deserve to spend your free time doing things that support your mental health and happiness. This includes setting yourself up for success by acknowledging how you feel, taking action to feel better, and cheering yourself on. It is normal to feel nervous if you know you have a big presentation or evaluation coming up in the work week. It is normal to have work weeks that are better than others. You deserve to experience those times as anomalies and incidents, not as a persistent cloud hanging over your free time as well. Give yourself permission to advocate for your needs so that your Mondays don’t overtake your Sundays. Create a routine and support network that holds your work week at bay until it actually begins. Lean on those people and embrace the happiness you can share with each other. You are worthy of free time that is all your own, to be enjoyed as you see fit.
Embracing You Therapy Is Here To Help You
Here at Embracing You Therapy Group, we invite you to explore with us how life would be different if you had more control over your thoughts and emotions. We invite you to consider that it is possible to accept things just as they are, embracing imperfections to create a gentler place for calm in your life.
If you want to take back and enjoy your entire weekend again, reach out today and learn how anxiety therapy can help you. We’ll work together to find tools that help you respond to life in a healthy, calm way. Contact us today for your complimentary 20-minute phone consultation with our Client Care Coordinators!