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  • Writer's pictureDominic S.

How to Reduce Your Sunday Scaries After a Holiday Weekend

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

Returning to work after a Holiday weekend can feel psychologically painful. A perfect example of this is the fact that the risk of heart attacks is 11% higher on Mondays. Compounding holiday stress onto the average Monday only exacerbates the dread captured in the well-known term the "Sunday Scaries" (the feelings of anxiety, stress, and dread of returning to work).

The Sunday Scaries

In a 2018 LinkedIn Survey, 80% of respondents reported experiencing the "Sunday Scaries", with Millennial’s and Gen Z reporting the highest levels of the "Sunday Scaries" at 91% and 94%. The top three reasons for the Sunday Scaries were attributed to:

  1. Worrying about workload

  2. Balancing to-do lists

  3. Worrying about open/incomplete tasks

We've all experienced these feelings at some point or another and in companies with toxic cultures, this is unfortunately a common experience. Luckily for us, there are a few things we can do to reduce the often-experienced anxiety and stress associated with our return to work.

The Five Steps to Take Control

  1. Reframing the Sunday Scaries

  2. Don't Start Work Before Work

  3. Prioritize Your To-Do List

  4. Time Blocking

  5. Be a Human

1. Reframing the Sunday Scaries

The first step is a Reframe. When you recognize the Sunday Scaries creeping in take a deep breath. Slow yourself down and remember this ancient wisdom:

If the problem cannot be solved worrying will do you no good.” ― Shantideva.

Our brains cannot fully distinguish the difference between our imagination and reality. Anyone who's ever watched a scary movie has experienced this. You're perfectly safe in your home with a friend or significant other, yet you get goosebumps, close or hide your eyes, and some get so startled they involuntarily scream. With this realization, we're going to just take a minute to recognize the anxiety and associated thoughts to then disengage them as there is no sense in worrying about something in advance. If the thought is lingering, try to write it down a note to revisit during an appropriate time to deal with the concern.

2. Don't Start Work Before Work

When waking up Monday morning - Do not start your day by checking your email in bed. This is the easiest way to bring back that anxiety. We're not going to dive down the morning routine rabbit hole in this post, however, make the most of your mornings as they can either set you up for a great day or deplete your energy before you've even begun. While it is tempting to dive into a sea of emails, social media posts and the news feeds of negativity, this will only perpetuate your Sunday Scaries morning of. Instead, we're going to take advantage of our mornings by cultivating some healthy practices that set our days up for success.

3. Prioritize Your To-Do List

Starting your workday - Again avoid diving into emails right away! Instead, take a few minutes to get organized and review your to-do list. In structuring your to-do list, it is best practice to have your top three (3) priorities listed with additional task items noted elsewhere. This advice is well supported by a survey conducted by LeadershipIQ where respondents who reported having a short list of essential priorities are nearly 50% more likely to leave work feeling like "today was a really successful day" than those with never-ending to-do lists. It is estimated that roughly 41% of the items on our to-do lists never get completed, and 50% of the items are completed within 24 hours of being written down. Making the most of these insights, try reordering your task list to see how it impacts your productivity.

4. Time Blocking

With our day organized and tasks prioritized the next step is to schedule time on your calendar for distraction-free work. When it comes to productivity, distractions are the number one-time saps we experience. A study conducted by the University of California Irvine found, “it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task”. In another study conducted by Mopria Alliance, survey respondents reported being distracted on average once every 31 minutes. We are literally being distracted moments after we regain attention in what can feel like a never-ending cycle of work. To avoid this, begin by blocking off time in your calendar when you'd ideally like to get your tasks done (Top 3 prioritized by most important/impactful - 1 at a time). Keep your energy levels in mind when making this schedule. You don't want schedule cognitively demanding tasks during low energy points, like returning from lunch, or after a mentally taxing meeting.

5. Be a Human

Lastly, take it easy and be a human. Everyone is returning from a Holiday weekend, so check in on your co-workers and see how everyone's doing (within reason). Holidays can be stressful for some, and provide entertaining stories for others; so, share, listen, and learn.

Additional Healthy Habits to Adopt

There are a few additional healthy working habits we can adopt to avoid the downsides of being hunched over a computer or confined to a certain environment, deprived of natural sunlight, movement, and nutritious foods. Try some of these proven tactics out to help your productivity and sense of well-being:

  • 52:17 Rule - Take about a 15-20 minute break for every hour of work

  • Blood Flow - Do something to get your blood flowing, quick walk, jumping jacks, pushups, air squats, etc...

  • Hydrate - It has been estimated that roughly 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Drink some water more frequently!

  • 20-20-20 rule - To help with eye strain, for every 20 minutes spent using a screen, you should try to look away at something that is 20 feet away from you for a total of 20 seconds

  • Pareto Principle (80/20 Rule) - The Pareto principle states that for many outcomes, roughly 80% of consequences/output come from 20% of causes/input

  • Diet - Have some healthy and energizing food and try to avoid overeating

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