It’s 4pm on Sunday; you’ve still got hours of the weekend to enjoy and, yet, your mind has sped ahead to tomorrow morning – and all the work you need to do
CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Huffington Post
‘Sunday dread’ – when the stress of Monday seeps into Sunday – is common. A recent survey of 2,000 adults found 88% regularly experience anxiety as the weekend comes to a close, with 3.58pm on Sunday being the most likely time for concerns to kick in.
In psychological terms, the tendency to think ahead too much is known as ‘future tripping’, explains psychotherapist Lucy Beresford. “It’s a sign of anxiety, and of not being able to stay in the moment,” she tells HuffPost UK. “For most people, Sunday is very different in tone to Monday, so Sunday dread is when you pitch yourself into the future, focusing on the stimuli you expect to have to deal with the following day.”
As well as ruining your well-earned weekend, Sunday dread can have wider implications for your health if it’s not kept in check, Lucy B says. If we’re not relaxing in our downtime it can leave us feeling stressed – which may affect our sleeping and/or eating patterns.
“We also over-stimulate our fight-or-flight responses by anticipating things to be dealt with, eg. that presentation, that awkward conversation with a client or even just the rubbish commute on a drizzly day,” she says. “Our adrenaline levels are raised and we can start to feel overwhelmed.”
Make a plan to tackle dread
So, how do you keep Monday in its rightful place and ensure you’re enjoying every moment of the weekend? The first step is to address the underlying problem, says therapist and Counselling Directory member Lucy Fuller. Ask yourself if there’s a specific aspect of your job you’re repeatedly thinking about on a Sunday night – then make a plan to tackle it.
“Rather than getting into the same cycle every weekend, think about what needs to be done to lower your stress levels at work,” she tells HuffPost UK.“Should you, perhaps, be having a chat with your boss about the fact you’re given more work than is humanly possible to get through in a week? Has the behaviour of a co-worker got out of hand, and you need to talk to someone about it?”
We sometimes cast these bigger questions to one side during the busy working week, explains Lucy F, which is why worry can rear its ugly head when we’ve taken time to stop and reflect at the weekend.
Another way to take control, she adds, is to avoid leaving all the preparation for Monday morning to the end of the day on Sunday – spread it out, instead. “Put the washing in the machine first thing Saturday morning,” Lucy F suggests, “and finish off paperwork on a Friday afternoon, rather than letting your Friday afternoon drift away and letting that ‘weekend feeling’ set in too early.”
Create a Sunday ritual
Creating a Sunday afternoon or evening ritual that can both ‘occupy yourself and calm your nerves’ may also ease the dread, as this gives time for nurturing.
“Get your chores out the way and have an evening ritual, such as a long bath and then an episode of your latest Netflix favourite, a cosy supper with close friends or a couple of hours on a pleasurable hobby,” says Lucy F.
Getting outside for a brisk walk can also help, Lucy B adds. “Swing your arms as you do so,” she advises, “and, as evening sets in, write down five amazing or beautiful things you saw or did during the day to keep you in the Sunday headspace.”
Whatever you decide to do, the key to beating future tripping is to keep yourself in the here and now, says Lucy B.
“When Sunday dread strikes, gently guide yourself back to be in the moment,” she explains. “Focus on where you are – sitting or standing – feel your feet on the ground, and take three deep breaths, letting them out as slowly as you can. This is all about being mindful.
“Whether you’re chopping carrots for the Sunday lunch, or washing up after supper, do things that keep you focused on the here and now in your body – really feel the texture of the carrots, or of the sudsy water on your hands.”
Finally, it can be useful to remember that sometimes, the idea of Monday is actually worse than the day itself. To switch up your thinking, give yourself something to look forward to by starting the week with a treat – a nice breakfast or your favourite coffee.
These small acts of self-care can make a big difference.