When it comes to my career, I consider myself lucky. I like my job, and I like the work I’m doing and the people I do it with.
I’m not saying this to brag, but rather because almost every Sunday at around 5 PM I get a pit in my stomach. Not necessarily a “I need to get out” or “Maybe I’m delusional and actually hate my job” kind of pit (here’s how to tell if your pit is that kind), but one that’s too real to ignore.
For the longest time, I wondered what was wrong with me. Even more so, I felt guilty—I truly enjoy my job, so why did I feel this way every week?
When I talked to someone about it, he replied with: “Of course it’s normal to get the Sunday Scaries.”
“But I like my job,” I tried to explain.
“Yes, but that doesn’t mean it’s not daunting to face the next day. It’s unknown—you have no idea what to expect, so that’s going to be scary,” he said.
That really stuck with me. And it made sense: No matter how great work can be, you’re never sure how great it will be. You may get bad feedback. You may make a mistake. You may spill coffee on your pants, have a horrible commute, and show up late to an important meeting.
Of course, there’s a flip side to this. You could have a great day in which nothing goes wrong and everything you wanted to go right does. But anything can happen and not knowing which way it’s going to go isn’t a nice feeling.
Science backs this up: An article in Shape Magazine states that most of us aren’t mentally prepared to get back to the grind after just two days. Sometimes we don’t spend enough time properly rejuvenating, and other times we’re prone to worrying—canceling out any positive effects our weekend may’ve had on our mood.
Another article by NBC News quotes Andrea Petersen, author of On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety and emphasizes that Sunday Scaries are about anticipation: “Work is one of our major stressors…Anxiety, to define it, is the anticipation of pain. If you’re talking about anxiety in the workplace, it could be the anticipation that you’re not going to be able to accomplish everything that week, or that you’re gonna mess up somehow.”
There’s also another side to the “of course it’s normal to get the Sunday Scaries” coin that’s worth mentioning.
Trying to compare spending time with loved ones or going on a relaxing getaway with getting promoted or being congratulated for a big accomplishment at work is like comparing apples and oranges.
Both can bring you satisfaction and joy, but they’re going to be different kinds of feelings. It’s presumptuous (and frankly unproductive) to assume that your job will and should feel exactly like your weekends do.
The first point is: You shouldn’t feel guilty when Sunday winds down. Feeling anxious about going to work on Sunday evening doesn’t make you a confused person who hasn’t found the “right” career. It just means you’re a human being.
And the second point is to make sure to make good use of your weekends—if you need rest and rejuvanation, do your best to actually get it!
On top of that, make sure you start a Friday afternoon routine at the office that sets you up for a little predicitabilty on Monday morning. Whether that means you write down your to-do list for the following week (or at least the first thing you need to do on Monday morning), or scheduling something that you know will go well, such as a coffee break with a work friend, do it!
You can’t plan every minute out, but you can put a few things into place that’ll make that transition back into the office a bit easier.