Joyce Marter Psychotherapist
Posted: 03/02/2014 9:44 am EST Updated: 03/02/2014 9:59 am EST
It’s Sunday afternoon, and suddenly you feel a pang of anxiety. The relaxation and enjoyment of the weekend seems to come to a halt. Preoccupation about the work week invades your brain. Thoughts of everything you need to do fuel feelings of overwhelm and dread. Your mood takes a nose dive, and you start feeling irritable and restless. You look around your home and feel annoyed by the mess from the weekend’s festivities, the pile of laundry and the empty refrigerator. You start combing through stressful work emails and bickering with your partner about who is going to do what to prepare the household for the upcoming week. You even have a hard time falling asleep (or staying asleep) as ruminating thoughts about the workweek relentlessly flash through your mind, preventing the rejuvenation that’s needed for the week ahead. You have a case of the Sunday Blues.
In my practice, it is extremely common for people to report experiencing a spike in anxiety and depressive symptoms on Sundays. After nearly 20 years of practicing as a psychotherapist, I recommend the following:
1) Have some self-awareness. Make a mental note that you are crabby and understand this is a common experience for many people on Sundays. Perhaps this isn’t the time to engage in silly arguments that have less to do with the content (are you really upset that your boyfriend wants pizza instead of Thai?) and more to do with your angst about work. Instead, “be a duck” by letting the small stuff roll off your back to decrease negativity and save yourself some energy.
2) Use Sunday afternoons to prepare for the workweek. Clean and organize your home (you and your partner should have a routine of who handles what, so you don’t need to argue about it). Grocery shop for the week and plan out healthy meals, perhaps even cook one or two that can be easily reheated after a long day at the office (a healthier choice than grabbing fast food because you have nothing at home.) Do your laundry and make sure you have clothes for the workweek. Fill your car with gas and make sure you have cash for the week. These things will give you a sense of control and preparedness for the week to come.
3) Don’t skip your workout on Sundays. Exercise to burn off the anxiety and increase endorphins. Exercise is nature’s antidepressant and will also encourage a good night’s sleep. Even a brisk walk around the block will clear out the cobwebs.
4) Avoid self-medication. While a couple glasses of wine might sound like a good way to take the edge off, alcohol is a depressant and is going to leave you feeling even lower in the morning (Monday is the most popular day to call in sick). Instead, make a healthy meal and enjoy with some herbal tea or some seltzer water with lemon.
5) Have a Sunday evening ritual. I used to take a yoga class on Sunday nights and loved that it cleared my mind and set a positive tone for the work week. In the summers, my family and I have dinner picnics on the beach on Sundays. During the school year, we make it family movie or game night. All these things are enjoyable and take my mind off of looming things at work that I can’t control. Pick something that works for you and make it your routine so you don’t even have to think about it.
6) Promote relaxation before bed. Meditate, take a bubble bath, read a good book, stretch or practice yoga, listen to calming music, give yourself a facial or mani-pedi. Don’t have your laptop or work papers in your bedroom — keep the place that you sleep a sanctuary for rest.
7) Reframe your perspective so it is positive. Do some deep breathing and imagine you are breathing in what you need (strength, peace, calm) and breathing out what you don’t (worry, fear, stress). Make a gratitude list. Practice affirmations. Practice the power of creative visualization and imagine your week going as best as possible. Create positive intentions for the week. Plan things to look forward to later in the week (my husband and I do Wednesday night date nights and it makes the long workweek so much more bearable.)
8) Access support. Instead of internally combusting, reach out to loved ones and ask for what you need (to vent, a hug, a pep-talk, some company, etc.). Tap into your spirituality by handing your worries over to the universe or your higher power.
9) Resist the urge to skip all of the above to get some work done instead.While you might feel that getting some stuff done will decrease your anxiety, this is a recipe for work-a-holism and burnout. The reality is “enough is never enough,” and the deeper you get into it, the more overwhelmed you will become. Also, if you start your week with an empty tank, you are setting yourself up for failure. Instead, take no more than 30 minutes to look at your calendar and your “To Do” list to organize when you are going to handle what throughout the week. Then let go and trust that all will get done and all will be well.
“You can’t change what happened last week, but you can learn from it, and choose happiness this week!” — Anton K. Kressnig