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6 Min Read

Back to work anxiety: Acknowledging the Sunday Scaries

29 Dec 2022

For many, the festive season is a chance to rest, spend time with family or friends, and to take a break from work. We often lose track of time over the festive period, but reality can soon set in soon after we see ‘back to work’ pop-up in our calendars.

After an extended time off, some people will be looking forward to getting back into the swing of things at work. For others,it can be challenging to get the motivation back. You may not have heard of the ‘Sunday Scaries’ or ‘Sunday Blues’ before, but likely to have felt this way at some point.

According to a survey by LinkedIn, 80% of workplace professionals experience the ‘Sunday Scaries’, a coined term to describe the feelings of stress and anxiety that often appears late on a Sunday evening. That nervous butterfly feeling often brings back familiar memories of Sunday nights before the return to school on Monday.

It is normal to experience heightened anxiety as you await your return to work after the festive break. Lack of sleep, looming deadlines, holiday blues and general work or personal stress can all be contributors. Many of your colleagues, family and friends will feel similar, so be kind to yourself and those around you. If any of this sounds familiar, here are a few ways you get can into the right mindset to make that transition back to work easier:

Get a routine going. If you’ve been sleeping in later than you normally would on a workday, it can be hard to return to your normal sleeping pattern. Start getting into the habit of setting an alarm for the time you need to be up whilst at work.

If you’re feeling anxious about the commute, for instance, try doing that a couple of days before you return to work. If that is not as easy to do, cast your mind back to before the break. Was there a routine that was helping you bring structure to the day? By practicing to bring the habit back, this can help manage your workload.

Acknowledge things can be different. Remember it’s okay to not feel okay. There are bound to be some changes and adjustments to make once you’re back, however well-prepared you may be. Allow yourself time to get into the swing of things. Set aside some quiet time to catch up on paperwork and work through emails, so your inbox feels less overwhelming. This can help alleviate the stress of the back-to-work rush.

Ease into work when you return. It can be easy to throw yourself back into work mode and become occupied with to-do lists, but do not forget to make yourself available for those around you and to simply catch up. Book some time in for an in-person or virtual coffee, tea or hot chocolate with colleagues. Try to avoid working through lunch and use that time to keep your energy levels up by eating properly.

This year has affected many people financially, some may be working extra jobs and have not been able to take a break over the festive period. When returning to work in January, it is important to find a balance between work and personal life. Read more about ways to avoid burnout in one of our previous blogs.

Take care of your well-being. The first week back at work can feel exhausting. Allow yourself time to rest and make sure you take plenty of breaks between tasks. It may also be helpful to switch off work apps on your devices, so they do not distract you with incoming emails or notifications when you finish for the day.

Keep a diary of when your anxiety spikes, noting days and times to see if there is a pattern, and plan steps to manage it. If you feel a lot of nervous energy, head out for a walk either on the Sunday afternoon or during lunch breaks – the fresh air may help clear your mind.

Talk about how you’re feeling. You may find other colleagues, family and friends can relate to your experiences and feelings. Discussing how you’re finding the return to work, and the challenges you face, will probably help them as well as yourself. If you’re feeling especially anxious, speak to your line manager or a trusted colleague.

If the feelings of anxiety, worry or stress about returning to work are affecting your day-to-day life - for example, stopping you from sleeping, making it hard to concentrate when you’re working, or causing physical symptoms – it may be useful to seek support from a professional service. Depending on where you live in the UK, you may be able to access text-based CBT with ieso through your GP. Find out if you are eligible here.

If you live in the US, you can access further support by contacting your Primary Care Physician or learn about alternate options here.

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For many, the festive season is a chance to rest, spend time with family or friends, and to take a break from work. Here are some ways to manage the back to work anxiety, or 'Sunday Scaries'.