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Back to work anxiety: Acknowledging the Sunday Scaries

December 19, 2022

For many the festive break is a chance to rest, spend time with family friends and to take a break from the computer screen. We often lose track of time during that fuzzy period that falls after Boxing Day right up to New Year’s Eve, but reality sets in soon after as 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, however for others it can be hard to get the motivation back. You may not have heard of the ‘Sunday Scaries’ before, but most probably have felt this way at some point.

It has been reported that more than two thirds of adults in the UK experience the ‘Sunday Scaries’, a term coined to describe the feeling of nervous butterflies in your stomach that often appear Sunday evening halfway through the Strictly results. That butterfly feeling often brings back familiar memories of Sunday nights before the return to school on Monday.

You and your butterflies are not alone, many adults experience heightened anticipatory anxiety as they await their return to work after a long weekend, summer holiday and for many the festive break. Lack of sleep, looming deadlines, festive blues and general work and personal stress can contribute to feeling anxious. It is very normal to feel anxious about returning to work after a break, and many of your peers will feel similar, so be kind to yourself. If any of this sounds familiar, here are some tips for getting into the right mindset and making that transition a little easier:

Get a good night’s sleep

Allow yourself time to rest and get back into your normal sleeping pattern that may have changed during the festive break. It may be helpful to put devices down, so they do not distract you as you get ready to sleep.

Get active

Walking can burn off nervous energy, so on a Sunday afternoon head out for some fresh air, or during a lunch break allow some time for a quick walk.

Get a routine going

Cast your mind back to before the break and if there was a routine that was working for you be sure to put that routine back. A routine to follow can help to structure the day and manage the workload.

Put time aside to get organised

Allow some quite time to catch up on paperwork and work through emails so that your inbox does not feel overwhelming, this will help alleviate the stress of the back-to-work rush.

Check-in with colleagues

Book some time in for a general catch-up and a cup of coffee over Teams or in the workplace kitchen.

Take a lunch break

It is so easy to work through your lunch but putting some time aside for your lunch will allow you to stay hydrated and eat properly to keep energy levels up.

Acknowledge things can be different

It’s okay to not feel okay. There are bound to be adjustments to make once you’re back, however well you prepare yourself. It may feel different during those first few weeks back at work so allow yourself time to get into the flow of things.

Work/ life balance

It is so easy to throw yourself back in to work mode and become occupied with to-do-lists, but it is helpful to make yourself available to the things you enjoy in your personal time and may have enjoyed during your festive break.

Avoid burnout

This year has affected many people financially, and for some they may be working an extra job and haven’t been able financially to take a break over the festive period. Read our blog here which discusses burnout and finding a balance.

Jot it down

Keep a diary of when your anxiety spikes, noting days and times to see if there is pattern and plan steps to manage it.

Talk about how you’re feeling

Communication will be important, particularly within teams who’ve come back together after a long break. Describing how you’re finding the return to work, and the challenges you face, will probably help others as well as yourself. If you are feeling anxious speak to your line manager or a trusted colleague.

If you’re feeling especially anxious or down about returning to work, and it’s 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 consider cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This practical approach teaches you tips and tools to manage stressful situations and difficult emotions – and there’s an online option which enables you to access treatment quickly and at any time.

ieso Online Therapy
This blog has been written by a member of the clinical team at ieso.

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