Heard in the Lunchroom is a Robert Half blog series offering real-world advice on navigating tricky topics that can impact your professional happiness and career prospects.
Most professionals have dealt with it at some point in their careers: that slow-creeping feeling of dread about the week ahead and a kind of mourning for the weekend that is nearly over. Psychologists call it a situational depression, a short-term form of depression. It's also known as the Sunday night blues, and it’s more common than you might guess.
If you’re working just in anticipation of the weekend, it can be understandable to be a little bummed come Sunday night. But you can turn that feeling around by re-envisioning your weekend.
Of course, just thinking happy, Pollyanna thoughts won’t do the trick. Here are seven real-world steps that you can take to beat the "Sunday scaries" and prepare yourself for the week ahead.
Prepare for Monday on Friday
Sunday night is when work-life balance is really tested. If you find Monday’s tasks are regularly creeping into your Sunday, souring your whole weekend, see if you can set better boundaries. Before you leave the office on Friday, tidy your workspace, tend to unanswered emails and prepare a to-do list for Monday morning. That way you can make the weekend an entirely work-free zone and let yourself disconnect. Listen to your gut: If you feel better and more recharged after a work-free weekend, run with it. But if you can assuage some anxiety by clearing out your work email inbox Sunday evening, by all means, go for it.
Work out your anxiety
Studies show that exercise can improve both your physical and emotional health. Exercise not only releases feel-good endorphins, but it will also help you get a restful night’s sleep before Monday morning arrives. Make a point of going for a walk or a hike on Sundays, or schedule a regular Spinning session or yoga class to wind down your weekend and exercise your mind and body.
Stay on top of household chores
Are you putting too much pressure on your weekends? If your Sunday stress is caused by an undone to-do list, try distributing your chores and errands throughout the week after work instead of saving them all for the weekend, or try making Saturday your getting-stuff-done day. Save just a few low-stress items for Sunday: Prepping meals for the week, catching up on laundry or making sure you’ve got a full tank of gas.
Make fun plans for Sunday evening
There’s no rule that says you can’t have fun on Sunday night. Often our social lives are busier on Fridays and Saturdays, but if you’re regularly fighting off the Sunday night blues, it’s worth revamping your schedule. Invite friends over for a game night or family dinner on Sunday evenings. Make an excursion to a park or a museum you haven't visited in a while. If you make a standing appointment to spend time with loved ones, you’ll get out of the habit of dwelling on negative feelings and get into the habit of enjoying your weekend.
Anticipate the week ahead
The Sunday-Monday divide is totally psychological: One day flows into another like a river. Break down Sunday depression by making fun plans to look forward to for the coming week. Schedule time for meals with friends, note upcoming classes or happy hours on your calendar, and make a point to explore new interests. There’s no time like the present to make space for enjoying yourself and taking care of your needs outside of work.
Appreciate your accomplishments
As Sunday night approaches, reflect on the weekend and appreciate the things you did. Try to focus on the positives. So maybe you didn’t clean out the garage like you wanted to, but you did prep your meals for Monday and you saw some good friends. That’s still a weekend well-spent.
Look at the larger trends
Evaluate the origins of your stress: Could it be the nature of the job you’re in? Are you experiencing the Sunday scaries because you no longer enjoy your work, or is it more of an occasional issue tied to looming deadlines? If you’re finding yourself coming down with the Sunday night blues every week, it might be time to consider looking for a new job or trying a new career path. (Here are questions to ask yourself if you are pondering leaving your current position.)
Solving the Sunday blues could mean taking more time to prepare for the coming week or easing up on your self-inflicted to-do list pressure. Or it could be that a serious career audit is what you need. Either way, taking steps to counteract what’s causing your funk can free you from that unwelcome Sunday night syndrome — as well as a case of the Mondays.