1) To list or not to list.
Going through all the things that might be stressing you out that are coming up this week can either be very helpful or not at all. We can go the route of writing a list of everything that needs to get accomplished this week, and then feel a bit lighter, as though writing it down on paper took it out of our body in some way. Also, just seeing it written out can make things seem less intense.
Oftentimes, this can be soothing. However, when we are in a very anxious and also depressed state, sometimes this can add to our stress. The list might not be helpful if you are so overwhelmed that you are feeling almost panicky.
The first priority is to get grounded and do some serious breathing. Obnoxious breathing. Big inhales and loud exhales. Here’s a simple breathing technique that is used in the military (and they are under some real stress):
1) Close your eyes, get grounded, feel the weight of your body on the chair/floor/bed.
2) Breathe in through your nose for four counts (count in your head 1, 2, 3, 4…)
3) Hold the breath for four counts
4) Exhale through your mouth for four counts
5) Hold the empty breath for four counts
Counting in your head is important, at least for me, while I’m doing this exercise because it’s harder for my thoughts to run wild. I’m focusing on only the numbers and the breath (1, 2, 3, 4)
2) Acknowledge that you’re having the Sunday Scaries.
This does not make them go away, but ignoring them seems to fuel them even more. If I’m able to say to my mom/dad/friend/boyfriend “I’m having Sunday night anxiety” and even just talk about it for a minute, I’ve noticed the anxiety dial down several notches. Sitting silently and stewing by ourselves in the anxiety only provides a more comfortable home for the anxiety to live in.
3) After acknowledging, do some self-care.
So now you’ve acknowledged “I feel ugh”…what next? Since there isn’t a magic wand to make you feel better, knowing some “treats” that feel good for you might be helpful. Some people worry about over-indulging. Think: I feel sad about the weekend being over so I’ll order myself a pizza. And eat the whole thing. I deserve it. Cut to: I can’t believe I ate that entire pizza, now not only is it Sunday night and I’m sad but I’m also fat and alone.
This is an example of not helpful. Something that is helpful would be, say, going out for your favorite yogurt that you don’t usually get, calling or seeing a friend, taking a bubble bath, doing a face mask, ordering or cooking your favorite food for dinner (and not over-doing it).
The way you can tell the difference between when you’re indulging in the name of self-care in a productive way, and when you’re over-indulging and numbing, is how you feel afterward. After eating the entire pizza, I feel ashamed, bad about myself, sad, etc. After taking a bubble bath, eating a nice dinner, watching my favorite show or a funny movie, odds are I may feel more rejuvenated and slightly better.
4) Do little things to make Monday easier.
Sometimes a little preparation can make waking up on Monday morning just a little easier. I always lay out my clothes the night before work, checking the weather in preparation, and have made it into a ritual. It’s somewhat calming, and there’s even sometimes fun involved in picking out an outfit (especially if your weekend involved any new sort of clothing/accessory/make-up purchase).
Also, it makes getting ready in the morning so much easier. Trying to decide on an outfit at 7AM is out of the question for me—I can barely figure out how to put my hair in a ponytail, let alone decide what colors match and what outfit I’d worn most recently so as not to repeat.
Preparing breakfast ahead of time is another way to help yourself. I love making smoothies, but the process of getting the fruit out, measuring, blending, and cleaning is not going to happen for me when I’m rushing to get out the door. I’ve recently learned that you can make your smoothies the day before and freeze them.
Then, the night before work you take the smoothie out of the freezer and put it into the fridge. In the morning, you will have a defrosted, slushy, delicious smoothie ready to go. Doesn’t get more convenient than that. Also, preparing these smoothies on a Sunday morning or afternoon can be a super relaxing/calming ritual to do, knowing you’re getting yourself organized and prepared.
5) Try your best to get to bed early.
I would also precede this with a hot bath or warm shower to help you feel more relaxed. Once in bed, after the TV is off and the phone is put away (ideally a couple hours before bedtime, but I realize this can be unrealistic), do some deep breathing.
Eyes closed, feel the bed, get curious about what the sheets, comforter, and pillows feel like. When you notice your mind start to wander to something you have to do this week, should’ve done, could do, whatever…notice that you’re doing it, and go back to thinking about what the bed feels like. The more times this happen, the more tiring it will become, and the more likely you will be to fall asleep.