Does this ever happen to you?
It is Sunday. You’ve had a great weekend so far. Maybe you spent some time with family or you got outside in your garden or went on a hike. You are feeling relaxed and connected. Then it happens. (cue the theme from Jaws). The Sunday Scaries.
Sunday Scaries is the term for the anxiety and dread that show up on Sundays. When it shows up I will feel it in my body first, a tension appearing in my neck or a knot in my stomach. Then the conscious thoughts arrive and the thinking (or overthinking) begins. The thinking usually revolves around “to do” lists and calendars. “When is my first appointment on Monday? What do I need to do to prepare? How am I going to get this done?” and so it goes. Personally, I love my work so it is not about dreading my job. I tell you this so we can acknowledge that Sunday Scaries can happen even when you love what you are doing.
The proof is on my phone.
According to a study performed by LinkedIn in 2018, 80% of Americans worry about the week ahead on Sunday. We worry about our workloads, the tasks we didn’t finish last week, and balancing our professional and personal tasks. I am not surprised by this number.
To assure you that the struggle is real and that this isn’t just some trendy new idea, I included a couple of images as proof. Out of curiosity, I recently looked through the stress data on my phone, which is connected to my smartwatch. There is a clear pattern on Sundays. The images are just a couple of examples. On Sunday, May 16th, the meter was all over the place between noon and midnight. The following Sunday, I kept it contained between 6 pm and midnight. By the way, Samsung has a breathing exercise built into the watch so if that meter goes too high, it will trigger the breathing exercise to take you through a few cycles of deep, counted breaths to bring awareness and lower the level of stress in the moment.
So what do we do?
While spending some time in research mode, I noticed that some articles written on this topic include ways to “avoid” the Sunday Scaries. Some give you a list of things to do when the Sunday Scaries occur. Those are all fine. But I find that long-term solutions take a little more than avoidance tactics or quick tips.
Many of us do avoidance well. We’ve been doing it for a long time in various mind-numbing ways. Scrolling mindlessly through social media, shoving food in, and binge-watching TV are some ways to steer clear of having to address what is really going on. I love articles with tips and hacks. Mind Body Align includes tips and hacks all the time in our content. Who doesn’t love a quick read with a quick fix?
Except long-lasting change sometimes requires work. Real and lasting change always requires one or more of the following things to happen:
- to dig deep and not shy away from what may be hard
- have the courage to be vulnerable and to take risks
- to recognize where my blind spots might exist
- To notice when I have put up my defenses and reverted to old survival mechanisms
- to be wholeheartedly willing to work on myself
- to have an awareness of what is happening for me- mentally, emotionally and physically
- to be with it, whatever it is, without judgment
- Showing compassion to myself
- commit to the practice of mindfulness.
Reframing the experience
In my current position as Director of Operations, I have the great privilege of working with amazing people as we provide opportunities and experiences that transform lives through mindfulness. That hasn’t always been the case as, like many of you, I have experienced some stressful work environments. Even in this incredible company, I still have the Sunday Scaries sometimes.
So how does living mindfully show up in this scenario? Let’s go back to the definition of mindfulness as defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn the thought leader behind modern mindfulness. In this article in Mindful magazine, he defines mindfulness as awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally in the service of self-understanding and wisdom.
As a reminder, there are no Olympic gold medals in mindfulness. It is a mindfulness practice. One might notice the physical symptoms and then the thoughts come. For others, it might be the reverse. For me, the thoughts are more subconscious- like an app running in the background. I notice the knot in my stomach and the thoughts then move to the forefront and become conscious thoughts.
This is when my commitment to mindfulness comes in. I notice, I pause and make a choice. I can either lean into my discomfort or anxious thoughts or I can stuff them down with food and Netflix. I know from past experience it is a temporary relief to be followed by my old friends, guilt and shame. In the scene I just described, I was already “successful” at mindfulness when I noticed what was happening. In time and through practice, the brain can be trained and rewired to make the wiser choice of doing the work. At that moment the work might look like breath work or it might be sitting in formal mindfulness meditation practice. It might even look like spending a little time in front of my computer with my calendar for a short period of time with the intention of organizing the upcoming week so I am able to close the file that has been running in my brain.
By the way, we have this great mental health resource page on our website that has a meditation that was written for teens but it works for all of us at any age. Julie Braumberger, our Director of Education, leads this amazing Ipad meditation to reboot and recharge. I invite you to check it out. Leaning in also might be an acceptance that Monday morning is going to arrive no matter what I might think or feel about it and then I make the choice to let it go so I can be fully present for what remains of my weekend.
Use the tips and tricks that are out in the world to make Sundays a little easier. I also invite you to consider mindfulness practice as the foundation to lifelong changes and showing up differently in your life.
Mindfulness is simple and it’s not always easy. Even those who have practiced for many years are still practicing. It is a lifelong practice. Through practice we train our brains to bring ourselves back to the present moment without projecting future events or reliving what happened in the past. When the Sunday Scaries show up, we are able to make the choice to tune in rather than tuning out. In time, our anxious minds will naturally begin to make more mindful choices over unhealthy behaviors. Cue up one of our great reads or audio meditations when the scaries arise by following the link here.
Mind Body Align is here to neutralize Sunday Scaries, and one of the ways we do that is with our FREE weekly mindfulness practice called, “Connect In.” It is a 15-minute virtual practice that is open to everyone, everywhere whether you are experienced in the practice or not. Connect In happens every Wednesday morning at 8:15 am EST and is led by our team of amazing mindfulness facilitators. You can grab the Zoom link on the banner found here.