How do you usually feel on Sunday nights?
Well, apart from when there’s a football match which fails to make history.
If the answer is ‘awful,’ ‘anxious’ or anything in between, you might be looking at a case of Sunday Scaries. This term denotes a creeping sense of anxiety for the work day to come, which becomes more and more intolerable as you feel like you’re stuck in an inescapable work routine. Going to work on Mondays feels like a waste of time, a drag or – worse – an endless cycle of pain and dread, one which makes you wish for a better job most days and weekends.
Sunday Scaries are rooted in irrational fear; the kind of fear that makes us feel the impending doom of Mondays as the next session in our life’s helpless hamster wheel. Some motivational career coaches may say that it’s quite normal to feel a bit anxious on a Sunday and you should embrace a different mindset – after all, what comes next is a day of obligations and responsibilities. Those can never be fun, right? In truth, I like to believe that the best kind of work is the one that traps you in positive loops, not ones of dread and mental illness.
Sunday Scaries are a symptom of something far worse than a simple Monday morning. If you live for the weekend and constantly count down the hours that lead to the end of the work day, there is an underlying issue that needs to be tackled.
And believe it or not, the answer may not be as simple as quitting your job.
Why do you get the Sunday Scaries?
There can be several reasons that lead to you having the Sunday Scaries, but the most important and significant one is certainly that your work does not engage you as much as it should. From this master issue then stem all the other branches of Sunday-Scaries-ism, ranging from workplace issues to negative feedback loops and leadership. Let’s look at them one by one.
Image credit: Rob McDonald
You’re not doing the work you were meant for
This may not be the most common reason, but it is nonetheless the most important one. I believe we are all meant to perform well in work that engages us on a deeper level than simple repetitive tasks and routine, especially as creative professionals. We thrive in challenges, we find solace in completing projects and we want to be part of a successful team that champions the right kind of growth – one that may not be necessarily related to better results at the end of the financial year.
Whether it’s due to the way we’ve been brought up as kids, our education or our initial hobbies, we all find peace of mind in different things. For me, it’s writing a story, a well-researched article, or finishing up a small project. For you it may be anything, from leading a team of creatives to working with a senior copywriter to deliver an outstanding campaign.
If you are not doing what you want, and if you’re stuck in a place that doesn’t welcome your creative stimuli, you will find it harder to wake up every day and shift to your desk for another long day of work.
Your workplace has serious issues
Nothing makes you more anxious than a toxic workplace. If your team members are all bitter towards you, if your managers don’t value your opinions enough or (even worse, but sadly possible) if you suffer constant abuse at work, you are trapped in a toxic workplace that will never value you for what you are worth.
Often, not doing what you love and being trapped in a toxic workplace combine – which is when it’s easy to spot the issue and act about it. But what if you’re doing what you love, and yet the place isn’t right for you? What to do then?
You are stuck in a negative feedback loop
Strictly connected to toxic workplaces is the issue of not feeling valued for your work. No matter what you’re doing and how many efforts you’re putting into your role, gratification never seems to come and the best you can aspire to is a “Thank you” at the end of a long day.
Over time, it becomes incredibly frustrating to have to deal with these issues. What even is the point of working if you don’t feel satisfied enough, your bosses don’t tell you that you’re working well, and maybe – on top of that – you are also underpaid?
Image credit: Agnieszka Pasko
You have too many responsibilities
Maybe you don’t like the pressure of responsibilities. Maybe you don’t mind it, but you still are in charge for way more than your capacity allows. Humans are not machines and it’s entirely possible that you are being overworked, dealing with tasks over the team’s capacity because you are understaffed or you have poor leaders.
On the other hand, maybe you have too few responsibilities. Which leads me to the final point.
You are bored to death
Starting a new job is always exciting. There’s that thrill of novelty at the beginning, that feeling of wanting to stay in your workplace for as much as you can. Hopefully you are doing something way better than your previous job and it just feels good – finally. Until it doesn’t anymore.
Once the novelty wears off, what are you left with? Do you feel like your days are dragging, repetitive task after repetitive task, without a chance to fully express your creativity? Do you feel like you could do so much more, and yet you are stuck doing so little?
Ambition is a positive trait. Never doubt that. When ambition meets a poorly organised hierarchy and staff, there’s a recipe for disaster, depression and burnout.
How to fight the Sunday Scaries
So now you have acknowledged the possible causes of your Sunday Scaries. What to do then? How do you find a solution, and is it really as easy as leaving your job as soon as possible?
Sometimes, it is. If you feel like your job is having a powerful, negative impact on your mental health, you may want to consider leaving as soon as it’s financially feasible for you to do so. Remember that your health is worth way more than all those hours spent in a place you don’t want to be.
However, often the solution may not be to change jobs. Sometimes there are softer approaches that can help you adjust, especially if you think that the issue is not the job, but it could be you. Maybe you can’t say no to all the different tasks your boss assigns to you. Maybe your manager doesn’t even know that you are feeling this way, or that the workplace isn’t as healthy as it should be.
Whatever the cause, take some time to reflect on what is leading to your Sunday Scaries. If the answer is as simple as “I hate everything about my job”, you’re lucky; but often, there will be shades of grey to consider, and the answer will be way more complex than that.
Image credit: Derek Bacon
If the problem can be solved by speaking, then by all means speak up. No one truly likes conflicts and it’s easy to dread that terrible talk with your boss, that rush of blood flowing throughout your body and pumping from a loud heartbeat in your chest. But once you do tackle the topic, you’ll feel much lighter. If your manager/boss listens, perfect; if they don’t, you’ll have made one further step towards understanding what you truly want from a career.
If everybody else seems to love what they’re doing but you, it could be that you’re not cut to do the job – but it could also mean that you’ve met a roadblock in your workplace satisfaction, and your mindset is now unfairly changed. Take a moment to reflect on your mindset and see if there’s something to do there. Can you be more positive on the job? Can you be more collaborative? Perhaps you can be the one making your job more enjoyable for yourself?
Another solution which has worked exceptionally well for me in the past is starting a side project. Be it freelance writing in my case, finishing a novel or the story for a game, or even starting a few courses, getting started on a side project can take your head off things and help you escape the gloomy reality of your busy days. Try to focus on something that isn’t work-related and harness one of your passions to create something. However, beware the alluring psychology of side projects; they will give you some pleasant satisfaction knowing that you’ve achieved something for yourself, but often they may attempt to mask a broader issue with your current professional life. You don’t want to lie to yourself to make work more tolerable.
If all else fails…
If all of the above doesn’t work for you, then the answer is blatantly simple: you need a change. Perhaps you have that passion in the back of your mind which you know you could turn into a profitable job. Maybe there’s that skill you developed some time ago that you’ve always wanted to revisit. You must find the right balance between what you are good at (skill) and what you love to do (passion). Only then will you be able to understand what it is that you really want to do.
Life is too short to spend it in a job we hate. Take the leap and find something that you truly love and cherish. Your mind, social life and health will be forever grateful.