If there’s ever been findings from a study more personally relatable than the one I’m about to detail, I’ve yet to find it.
New research from The Sleep Judge (an organization that helps people get a good night’s sleep) showed that an astonishing 81 percent of workers answered yes to the following question: “Do you experience elevated anxiety on Sunday in anticipation of Monday?”
I remember this feeling from my corporate days all too well. As an entrepreneur now, I’m blessed to no longer experience this feeling. Not to say I’m never anxious, it’s just a steady low-humming anxiety that comes from living a life with variable annual income as opposed to a gut-wrenching, sick to my stomach feeling as I face the week ahead.
The research indicates that the Sunday dread starts out lighter on Sunday morning, then builds throughout the day, culminating by evening into heavy anxiety, irritability, headaches, depressed mood, and restless sleep.
Surprisingly, the sense of dread is not primarily attributed to a poor relationship with a boss. In fact, people who reported having a good relationship with their manager reported having even higher anxiety than those who had a poor relationship with their manager (80 percent versus 75 percent). Counterintuitive at first, but the study showed it’s because a good boss-employee relationship often adds up to more work and higher expectations.
So while a bad boss certainly contributes to the anxiety, other things contribute even more like workload, pressure to perform, and a fear of being laid off.
And the effect is fairly universal across profession types, although the study showed the three highest professions professing Sunday night anxiety as education, legal, and finance and insurance (86 percent versus 81 percent average), with marketing/advertising and IT following closely at 85 percent.
Another surprise from the study, people who work remotely reported even higher rates of the Sunday night blues (84 percent). The research states it’s due to interruptions, isolation, and longer work hours bleeding into personal life.
It’s about the work we do and our relationship with it, more than anything else.
Here’s what to do about that Sunday night dread:
1. Sense what the sense of dread is telling you.
Work can be so much more than just “work” and simply shouldn’t be producing a sense of foreboding for any length of time. Sure, we all feel work-related anxiety occasionally, but don’t accept it as okay.
Take a hard, honest look at the why behind what you’re feeling. Is it signaling that you don’t love what you do anymore? That you long to pursue a different passion? That you just aren’t cut out for the job or that it has forced you into behaviors you don’t like, like seeking approval of others too much?
I’ve coached more people than I can count and can tell you the temptation to accept Sunday might malaise is all too common.
Let me describe the opposite. My Sunday’s get better now as the day progresses. I have a great morning, do energizing things during the day and relax and unwind at night, eager to attack my Monday to kick off another week of doing what I love and what makes a difference in something that matters to me.
You deserve a Sunday night surging feeling, not sinking feeling.
2. Don’t bring home work on the weekends.
Taking a break from your work is critical. Yes, you know on Sunday night you still have to go back to it tomorrow morning, but a weekend pursuing other interests will charge your tank enough to cope.
Interestingly, the study shows that those who bring home weekend work at least occasionally are significantly more likely to feel Sunday anxiety than those who never bring work home on the weekends.
3. Plug in those outlets.
Exercise, watching TV/movies/entertainment, and spending time with family and friends were the top effective remedies listed by study participants for minimizing Sunday dread. Giving your brain a break and taking time to reflect and put things in perspective is critical.
4. Play a different mind movie.
The “Sunday Night Movie of the Week” stars you, and is often an imagination of all the things that can go wrong that week. Author, anxiety coach, and hypnotherapist Chloe Brotheridge told CNBC to think of it as a successful athlete approaches an upcoming sporting event they’re worried about: “Almost like playing a movie in their mind of the event, they imagine feeling strong, confident and calm. If we all did this — instead of imagining what could go wrong — we’d feel a lot more relaxed going into Monday morning, or going into that important presentation.”
Pay attention to the message behind the malaise and put this above advice to work for you, so that work can work for you.