Think back to last Sunday evening. Did you get that niggly feeling in the pit of the stomach at the thought of walking into the office on Monday morning?
Did the idea of the week ahead fill you with dread? You are not alone: a recent survey* showed that two thirds of Brits suffer from “Sunday Dread”.
Why does this happen? How did we get to a point where so many of us spend a staggering 70 per cent of our week looking forward to the weekend, to then only enjoy one day fully?
Sunday Dread has many causes, but long working hours and inflexible working conditions are big contributors. We might love the nature of our jobs, but it’s easy to resent them if we feel constricted and not in control of own our time.
But what if Sunday nights became a time to reflect, relax and, why not, bookend the weekend with something we enjoy? After all, we use Friday night to celebrate the beginning of the weekend, so why shouldn’t Sunday night be a celebration of the end of the weekend and the beginning of the week? Of course, it’s not that simple and it requires some investigation into the cause of Sunday Dread as well as some adjustment to our routine, but it can be done. Here is how.
Connect to your priorities to get to the root cause of Sunday night dread
In order to understand how we can fix our Sunday Dread, we need to understand what’s causing it. Making a list of priorities really helps to connect to what we want from life and sheds light what is causing our distress – it’s usually that we’re not fulfilling one or more of our priorities.
Grab a pen and paper and start thinking about what your priorities are. Do you enjoy being challenged? Doing sports? Connecting with people around you? Having the freedom to manage your own time? Write whatever comes to mind and then, with your weekday life in mind, go over the priorities. Which of these are currently not being fulfilled?
In most cases, this exercise shines light on four causes that could be causing Sunday Dread:
i. Feeling like we haven’t achieved enough over the weekend
ii. Not enjoying the nature of our work
iii. Disliking our work environment (e.g. toxicity, colleagues, bosses)
iv. Resenting the pace at which we work
If it feels like the only solution to your Sunday Dread is to change jobs, then evaluate whether that’s possible, how it could be done and make sure to lay out clearly what you would look like in a new job. Changing jobs is of course not always easy – or feasible – so it’s good to make some changes to routine in the meantime. The following changes can really help.
Inject some fun or down-time into the week
Do you feel like your week is missing in fun or down-time? These sound like opposites but, in reality, they are both activities that re-charge our batteries. If you feel like all you are doing is working, sleeping and eating, evaluate whether you could mix this up. Could you add in a dinner with friends, an exercise class, a movie night or some cooking? Could you go for a mindful walk at lunchtime?
Some jobs are too demanding to allow for any fun or down-time but, in most cases, we can all spare some time to do something for ourselves. For those jobs that truly don’t allow for anything outside work, try to use your commute in a way that helps you to reconnect. A quick meditation, reading a book, listening to a podcast, journaling or even just mindfully walking can make a big difference to how we start and finish our day.
In particular, scheduling something for Monday night is a good way to have something to look forward to.
Remember what you enjoy about your weekday life
We sometimes get sucked into a spiral of negative thoughts and forget that there are parts of our working life that we actually enjoy and look forward to. Why not take a moment on Sunday evening to make a list of things that you love about work? It could be the content, the people, the commute, the area or whatever else. Doing this will help to reframe your thinking and will remind you that there is some positivity in your Monday to Friday routine.
Give yourself a break
It’s normal to have high hopes for our weekends, but it’s also OK – and necessary – to use weekends to unwind. Try not to beat yourself up for not doing everything you had set out to do, and instead accept that resting your mind and body is a crucial for your wellbeing and will pay off in the long run.
Start a Sunday night ritual
What if you had something fun to do on a Sunday night rather than sitting around worrying about the week to come? Try scheduling something that you can really look forward to and which fits with your priorities. This could be a meal with loved ones, a relaxing bath, a cinema outing, whatever. Doing this every week will make Sunday nights something to look forward to rather than dread.
Take it easy on Saturday night
The only thing worse than Sunday Dread is Sunday Dread with a hangover… It might feel like going all out on Saturday is a good way to make the most of your weekend, but it’s actually just ruining half of your weekend (i.e. Sunday) and increasing the likelihood of feeling anxious and being tired on Monday. While fun is a crucial part of wellbeing, alcohol is a depressive which can seriously affect how you feel. So why not try to cut down and see if it makes any difference?
About the author
Margot is leading a mental health movement through thecorporate world. She is the founder of YourMind (www.yourmind.co), a mental health consultancy that loves making companies look as good on the inside as they do on the outside.
Margot is a speaker, writer and host of the ‘Being Human’ podcast