How do you typically feel at 5 p.m. on a Sunday?
If you’re like most Americans, a sense of panic creeps up as the last few hours of the weekend slip away. You feel like you’re staring down an oncoming train: 40-plus hours of work that you dread.
If you can relate, chances are you’re suffering from a case of the Sunday Scaries. It sounds almost childlike, doesn’t it? Like a spooky children’s book? But it masks a serious problem.
You see, the Sunday Scaries just set you up for a case of the Mondays—making you feel like you’re trapped on a hamster wheel. But they’re a symptom of a deeper issue. After all, 70% of Americans are not engaged at work.1 So, I get it. Why would you be excited to show up to a job that sucks the life out of you?
Folks, hear me on this: This problem can be fixed. I want you to be set free from anxiety and doubt about your work. But before we talk about the solutions, let’s define the problem.
What Are the Sunday Scaries?
The Sunday Scaries are the heavy sense of anxiety and dread that sets in on Sunday afternoon or evening as you look toward the workweek ahead. It’s a term that has become popular in recent years.
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And if you’ve experienced any kind of anxiety before, you know it’s no joke. My friend Dr. John Delony describes anxiety this way: “Anxiety is like a smoke alarm. It goes off when it detects a ‘fire’ in our hearts or heads—like a feeling of being in danger or an unpleasant emotion.” Maybe that “fire” in your head is the feeling of being stuck in a job you don’t enjoy.
There are plenty of physiological symptoms that go along with anxiety too, like a racing heart, inability to focus, insomnia, loss of or increased appetite, and a sense of impending doom or panic—all related to future events and what-ifs that you feel like you can’t control. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to feel like that every Sunday night.
But sadly, having the Sunday Scaries is a widespread problem. And even though the name might sound made-up, the issue is completely real. In fact, 80% of Americans say they worry about their upcoming week on Sundays.2 Did you catch that? 80%! But just because anxiety about work is everywhere doesn’t mean it should be normal. There’s a better way.
Causes of the Sunday Scaries
You might be feeling the Sunday Scaries due to one (or maybe a combination) of these five reasons:
1. You’re not doing the work you were made to do.
You were designed to play a unique role in life. If you’re not fulfilling that role, then you probably feel like you’re missing out—because you are. I believe you should wake up excited (not anxious!) to go to work. You might think finding your passion is a mythical quest, but trust me: It’s possible.
2. Your workplace is toxic.
Nobody wants to work in an environment where gossip is the norm, competition is cutthroat, and it feels like nobody can be trusted. If your workplace has more drama than a reality TV show, then you shouldn’t be surprised when the Sunday Scaries set in.
3. You’re buried by your responsibilities.
Being overworked takes a toll on you. Anxiety is a normal consequence of always feeling like you can’t keep up with the pressures of your job. The key here is to figure out whether your workload problems are within your control or outside of your control.
- If your problem is your fault, you might be saying yes to work when you should say no. Or maybe you don’t know how to manage your time. Don’t be afraid to sit down with your leader and ask for help prioritizing your work. Take control of what matters the most by getting clarity.
- On the other hand, outside circumstances might be dictating your huge workload. Maybe you’ve been assigned you too much, or you’ve got a big project to tackle. Respectfully ask your leader something like: I’ve got a lot of plates spinning right now, and I can’t keep up. If I had to drop a plate or two, which ones would you say I should drop? If nothing changes after this conversation, then it might be time to move on and find a place that doesn’t bury you in nonessential work.
Quitting your job might be the right move, but it is a big deal. To help you out, my team and I created the free Should I Quit My Job Quiz to offer some clarity before you make this big decision.
4. Your work isn’t valued.
Maybe your leader doesn’t recognize your hard work, or maybe celebrating wins isn’t a part of your company’s culture. Either way, feeling underappreciated will make it a lot more difficult to get juiced about showing up to the office. I’m not saying you need endless pats on the back, but without any recognition, it’s easy to feel like what you do simply doesn’t matter.
5. You’re bored out of your mind.
Too much work can drain you—but so can too little work. Without a healthy level of challenge, you’ll be bored, you won’t grow, and you definitely won’t look forward to Monday morning.
5 Ways to Get Rid of the Sunday Scaries
The only real cure to the Sunday Scaries is finding your dream job. There’s no room for anxiety when you’re filled with passion for your work.
You may not be able to quit your job on Monday morning, but you can get one step closer to a job you love. Until you can make the transition, I want you to combat the Sunday Scaries by making intentional choices about how you spend your time. These small steps will help you get in the right place—mentally and emotionally—to eventually land your dream job.
1. Change your mindset.
Your mind is powerful. Instead of getting stuck in a negative rut, change your perspective: This current job is funding your future, and you don’t have to stay there forever.
Trust me—I’ve been there. My day job funded my future for nine years. It took a long time to get to where I am today, but boy was it worth it. Choose to look at this job as a stepping-stone to your next opportunity.
And in the meantime, you can find things to be thankful for right where you are. It will change your mood immediately. Make a list of all the positive things your job provides—literally write them down—and notice how doing that changes your outlook. At the very least, your job is providing financial stability. And what about professional experience? And the friendships you’ve formed with your coworkers? Even the worst situations can offer something good with the right perspective.
2. Overcome your fears.
You know what’s at the root of your Sunday Scaries? Fear. That might seem obvious, but until you get face-to-face with the enemy, you won’t be able to overcome it.
The reality is, you can’t fully eliminate fear. It’s like jumping hurdles: You get past it, but pretty soon there’s another one in your path. Even when you land your dream job, new fears will pop up. The question isn’t how to get rid of your fears—it’s how to overcome them.
Here are the three steps for overcoming your fears:
- Identify the fear. What’s actually causing your Sunday Scaries? Is it a who or a what? Maybe you feel pressure to perform. Or maybe there’s tension with a team member. Start by getting clarity on the core issue(s) before moving on to the next two steps.
- Deconstruct the fear. Fear is a liar. It feeds you falsehood and makes you think it’s real. Thoughts like you’re not good enough or you don’t have what it takes are just plain old lies! You need to pick them apart and recognize how stupid they are if you’re ever going to push past them.
- Refocus on the truth. Once you’ve deconstructed the fear, you can replace it with the truth. This is so important because the beliefs you hold determine your outlook on life. It’s like a filter: You’ll see evidence for whatever you believe everywhere you turn. So choose to focus on the truth.
3. Learn something.
Don’t spend Sunday evening whining about how much you hate your job. Instead, get clarity on what it is you actually want to do, and start educating yourself to get there. If your true passion is to be in technology, then teach yourself to code! Or research workshops in your community that you can attend that week. The point is to fill your brain with meaningful knowledge that will move you one step closer to your dreams. Here are some practical things you can start doing this week:
- Listen to podcasts from people you admire.
- Sign up for a webinar.
- Read books and articles about your industry.
- Get an online certification in your area of interest.
- Attend workshops in your community.
4. Plan something to look forward to.
Along with education, you need to focus on getting experience. This is a great thing to plan on Sunday afternoons because it gives you something to look forward to. For example, if you’re interested in nursing, ask a friend if there are volunteer or shadow opportunities at their hospital and schedule something for the upcoming week.
Here are more ideas on ways to get experience without leaving your day job:
- Shadow someone.
- Attend an event.
- Launch your side hustle.
- Work on a new skill.
- Find a way to serve.
Being active helps you focus on what you’re excited about instead of what you’re anxious about.
5. Connect with someone.
Make it a weekly goal to set up a meeting with someone who can help you move to the next phase of your career. Networking and making connections is a crucial step in finding your dream job. So think about who you can invite to coffee, lunch or dinner.
Trust me: Meeting with potential connections and building relationships will be a much better use of your time than bingeing Netflix on your couch and letting the Sunday Scaries simmer.