The Boulder of Dread

August 2020 | by jamie beeson

It's Sunday afternoon. You've gotten in some fun, sun, and housework over the weekend. It's time to start thinking about the week ahead (insert pit in stomach).

What's on the week’s calendar? What food do you need? What does your work to do list entail? As the day progresses, the chillax Sunday vibe turns into the dreaded Monday mood; the pit that started in the afternoon molds into a massive boulder, sinking deeper and causing anxiousness and stress. This boulder of dread is causing Sunday night to be the week's most restless night of sleep.

Sunday Night Dread doesn't just happen to you. New research from The Sleep Judge (an organization that helps people get a good night's sleep) showed that a whopping 81% of workers answered yes to the following question: "Do you experience elevated anxiety on Sunday in anticipation of Monday?" Whether people were satisfied or dissatisfied in their jobs, both experienced this Sunday Dread reality. The causes were narrowed down to work-related stress, but the stressors varied from high expectations to deadlines, to not getting along with a boss or co-workers, and other variables.

To cope with weekly anxiousness, people reported using both positive and negative strategies to deal with high levels of stress. While these strategies (including exercising, spending time with family, and getting outside) all cause the feelings to subside, they only subside temporarily if the source of the stress isn’t dealt with.

If something on the outside is causing chaos on the inside, it's time for reflection. Just the thought makes some people want to puke up their big boulder of dread. Reflection isn't sitting in the frustrated feelings; it's sorting through the muck to determine their cause. Sometimes, a solution can surface with a small amount of reflection. The answer may be within our grasp, and within our control to implement. I think the 81% would say they'd like their Sundays back, so a solution is worth it.

There are times when a solution is not within reach or does not easily surface. In those instances (where quitting seems to be the only answer but creates greater problems) another form of reflection is helpful. This strategy of directed thought planning makes us feel like we are not victims of our schedule and puts us back in the driver's seat with what we can control and influence. Feeling empowered takes away some of the weight we feel when anticipating upcoming stressors.

Here’s how it works. On Sunday, you’re probably already letting your mind go to your Monday list. This is a good time to designate a weekly priority. Identify one thing you want to focus on, bring attention to, prioritize, and protect during your week. Maybe it will be to leave work at work. The next thing you will ask yourself is what you want to do less during the week. It may be less time answering work communication at home. Naturally, asking ourselves what we want to do more of helps us keep our priority intact. With our example above, maybe we want to walk more at night with the family. The next three questions specifically address action steps that intentionally create positive feelings. 

First, we ask what we want to experience this week. This helps our mind choose a target and look for what creates that feeling. Maybe we want to experience freedom. The next question revolves around the action(s) that will help us experience it. The answer to freedom might be to turn off the phone and get outside with the family to create a space between work and home.

The last question is crucial because we have to remember that things won't change overnight, but they will change if we focus on what we want to find more of week by week. What will I do if I feel stuck? And stuck is part of the reason we feel the dread and anxiety in the first place. What can you repeat as a mantra or truth when you start to head down Dread Dreary Lane? What can we shift our attention to? We might say that we will remind ourselves of why we chose our priority and what feeling it will give us. It reminds us of what we value and why it's worth it. Keeping our eyes on what we prize helps us make choices and decisions that align.

Closing the gap between our actions and what we value can often decrease discouragement and anxiety, giving us hope for change and less dread for tomorrow. If you are part of the 81% that deal with Sunday dread, try this exercise and see if it lowers the week's dread. 

Originally printed in the August 2020 issue of Simply Local Magazine

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