Sunday Scaries

Do you get the ‘Sunday Scaries’?

Quite a turn of phrase for something so common that 8 out 10 employees experience it.

We used to call it ‘the Sunday blues’, the dawning realisation that tomorrow was a work day and the fun would have to stop soon. The deflating thought of another week of boring work, wearing a suit, getting up early, doing the commute and ‘behaving’.

Lots of people felt that, whether work was in an office, a factory, a shop or a restaurant. Back in harness for another 5 days, a whole week before you could have some proper fun again. An understandable downer after 2 days of ‘freedom’.

But I don’t think that’s what the ‘Sunday Scaries’ are about.

We’re talking about the growing the sense of dread that starts to fall on you around lunchtime on the Sunday. The small knot of tension you feel in your stomach that slowly grows and makes you feel slight nauseous. The rising sense of panic about what you have to achieve in the coming week and the worry about what you didn’t manage to get done last week.

That’s overwork right there. You start to check your emails and messages, you look at your calendar, you start mentally preparing yourself for the rigours ahead. It used to be that you pressed your suit and polished your shoes, now you freshen up your brain and stiffen your defences.

It can also be about something darker. The malevolent threat of an abusive boss or a deviant coworker. Anxiety about your position and your future in case your project funding gets cut, or there’s a bad set of figures or a strategic whim, things that you can’t see or control. The fear at the thought of going back into a dangerous and toxic environment.

As well as the nausea I’ve mentioned, the Sunday Scaries can cause headaches, fatigue, sweating, tense muscles, disturbed sleep and even depression.

There’s a host of articles about what to do to combat them and I’m sure they will help to alleviate the symptoms but they are not going to address the core problem – your workplace and your work.

I used to experience some of these but I’d brush them aside by the saying ‘well, I have a stressful job, it comes with the territory’. But not all stress affected me badly like this. If it was something I wanted to do and had the support and resources to do it, I’d look forward to it. When things were going well, I didn’t get the ‘Sunday Scaries’.

The ‘Sunday Scaries’ came when the week ahead held danger – from my abusive management, from unreasonable expectations and unachievable targets, from punishment for unknown transgressions. When you are in a fear-driven environment, you respond to it with fear.

Too many workplaces are dangerous for the employees. Because the dangers today are psychological, not physical, the threat is, perhaps, greater. These perils are hidden, wrapped up in ‘reasonable demands’, ‘business logic’ and the banality of the everyday.

Just how safe is your workplace for your mental health?

How bad are your ‘Sunday Scaries’?

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