Wisdom Wednesday: Beating the Sunday Scaries

What’s this? It’s Wednesday and we’re already talking about Sunday? What?

I know, I know. It seems awful to contemplate, but there’s a method to this madness. Trust me.

For those who are unfamiliar, there’s a common fear going around amongst the working class, particularly those among the Millennial generation. Sundays are terrifying. The realization that you have to put an end to your luxuriously un-scheduled weekend and go into work the next morning is so panic-inducing, that this particular breed of anxiety has been given a name – the Sunday Scaries.

The cause of the Sunday Scaries varies widely, depending on you, your personality, your job and how much pressure you’re under during the work week. The result is the same. 7:00 p.m. rolls around on Sunday night and you’re already contemplating calling off the next day because you’re sick to death of the idea that your energy and free time will again vanish for another week.

What’s the solution? In an ideal world, we would all be among those blessed few who love our jobs so much that we get to go to work, instead of have to go to work. It is not an ideal world. Instead, those of us who do a job to pay the bills are left with one option – to muddle through as best we can.

It’s taken me nearly 40 years to learn this, but preparation is the key to success in all things. If you prepare as much as possible without making yourself insane, you will generally have a much easier time of everything.

Since I am still among the have-to-work crowd, here are five things I do to beat the Sunday Scaries:

1.)    Make your little decisions - Steve Jobs wore the same black shirt and jeans every day. Towards the end of his life, it was all anyone ever saw him in. Do you know why? Because it was one less decision he had to make every morning. If he wasn’t devoting any brain power to what to wear that day, his brain was free to devote that energy to something more important. While I’m not saying you should wear the same outfit every day, you could reasonably set up a handful of outfits for at least the next couple days. Because my brain works incrementally, I find setting up three outfits on Sunday night and two more on Wednesday night works out pretty well. I’ve just done laundry, so I’m not hunting for pieces. I’ve got everything in the same hanger stack, so all I have to do is pull out those two or possibly three hangers and I’m ready for the next day. I don’t have to think about it. The same thing works with lunches, though I admit, I’m not as successful at setting up my lunch for the next day. Regardless, make those decisions on Sunday night and Monday morning will be that much easier. 

2.)    Start a Sunday night routine – the biggest contributing factor to anxiety for most people is the sense of not knowing what you’re doing. Whether that’s with your life in general, or the next immediate step you should be taking, the feeling of being lost is dreadful for most of us. Take a few minutes to figure out what you want to do each night to prepare for going to bed. Once you’ve made those decisions, they’re done, and you don’t have to think about them anymore. Do the same thing long enough and you don’t even have to think about doing it. It’s one less thing to worry about.

3.)    Make prepping your morning routine part of your evening routine – again, going back to little decisions here – if you set up all the things you’re going to need for the next day the night before, you’re usually not going to be scrambling to get out the door the next morning. If you want to exercise in the morning or work on whatever your passion in life is, set up the things you need to do those things the night before. Not only will you be ready to get things done, you also won’t have an excuse not to do them, because you’ve already done half of the work to get there.

4.)    Go to bed at a reasonable hour – Do not fall into the trap of thinking you’ll sleep when you’re dead. You won’t. You’ll be too busy being dead. Plus, the dead really don’t get a lot done. You need to devote the correct amount of time for sleep each night. If you’re not doing that, being tired will be one of those things that makes you feel bad about having to get up the next morning. The flip side to this is making sure you’re setting aside time to get your evening routine done before bed time. You don’t even have to devote a lot of time to this. If it helps, break up that task list into bite-size pieces. Start doing a few things on your evening routine list about an hour before bed. During a commercial break, wash you face and brush your teeth. On the next one, set out your clothes for the next day, and so on. By the time Game of Thrones is done, you should have most of your evening things finished and be ready to hit the hay.

5.)    Give yourself permission to hate it – Personally, I find my biggest drivers of anxiety are the words “should” and “shouldn’t.” I should have done more with my weekend. I shouldn’t hate getting up for work in the morning. Let that shit go. No one, and I mean no one, does what they should do 100% of the time. So, don’t spend your last few hours of freedom before you have to go devote the bulk of your Monday – Friday to someone else’s goals worrying about what you should or should not be doing. Embrace the fact that for eight hours a day for the next five days, you’re no longer free to wear pajamas until noon and binge watch The Crown. Be mad about it, but remember two things – you’re doing this to yourself for a reason, and you’re choosing to go into work each day. If you don’t like either of those things, you have to be the one to take the necessary steps to change them.

Bonus Tip: I don’t always do this, but, occasionally, I will do a very little teeny baby amount of my 9 – 5 work on Monday morning before I head into the office. Mondays are generally pretty hectic, and I also work in a very global job. The start of my day is the end of my London office’s day. I don’t do this all the time, but, occasionally, I will take 15 minutes before I leave for work, hop on my VPN, and sort my inbox. I try as hard as I can not to action anything, because that’s a whole whirlpool of trouble threatening to derail my calm Monday morning, but I will sort things out into the subfolders where they belong so that when I get into the office, I’m not staring down 97 emails from over the weekend. I have an idea of the most important things that I need to address first, and if anything was really on fire overseas, I’ll have a chance to get a message off to my team in China or wherever before they’re gone for the day. I don’t recommend making a habit of this, but it will help set your mind at ease if you can walk into the building with an idea of what lies ahead.

I can’t promise these steps will make Mondays completely painless, but they will help mitigate the trauma of having to go back to work.

“The preparation is what allows the success to happen naturally.”

Jake Arrieta