A while back, I wrote about my relationship with the “Sunday Scaries” when I was in Biglaw. 7 Inspiring Quotes for Battling the “Sunday Scaries”: AKA Work Anxiety. My anxiety over work-related things got to the point where I felt a perpetual sense of dread that was no longer limited to just Sunday evenings; it stretched out across my entire weekend and then almost anytime I was not at work.
While most Biglaw lawyers have been working from home for almost a year now, that doesn’t mean the Sunday Scaries can’t and don’t still hit. In fact, I’m guessing some people have developed an even greater sense of dread when imagining logging back onto their computers after some time away from the screen over the weekend.
7 Ways to Combat the Sunday Scaries
The Sunday Scaries are awful, and I want to help you combat them. So I put together a list of some tactics that helped me both when I was in Biglaw and even now. Even though I get to work on my own schedule, sometimes I still feel that familiar sense of dread when thinking about upcoming deadlines or tasks on my to-do list, and these things always help me get back on track. I hope they help you, too!
1. Plan out your Sunday.
First of all, if you feel like you spend your whole Sunday, from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to bed, procrastinating on the few things you had to do for work and/or worrying about your workweek ahead, you can fix this by planning out your Sunday.
This might sound counter-intuitive (isn’t Sunday supposed to be for relaxing, not for putting yourself on a strict schedule?), but it’s helpful if you consistently find yourself regretting your Sundays because all you did was obsess about not wanting to go to work. Instead of giving yourself all that free time to obsess, make yourself a schedule.
It can (and hopefully will be) a schedule full of just fun stuff. Netflix. Brunch. Making dinner. Enjoying dinner with a glass of wine. Running. Hanging out with your kids. Zooming with your parents. Taking a long shower and winding down without your phone. Errands. Shopping. Etc. You get the gist. Whatever you do, don’t spend your precious free time thinking about and obsessing about work.
Reminder: when you aren’t billing, work shouldn’t be crossing your mind. (Easier said than done, I know, but it’s really something to strive for, or you’ll go crazy in Biglaw because there is almost always something to think about.)
2. Email prep.
Working on the weekend is no fun, but sometimes it helps alleviate the Sunday Scaries. If you are feeling super overwhelmed by all of the work you have to do and all of the people you have to get back to on Monday, take some of that burden off your plate on Sunday evening by spending an hour or so sorting through your work.
Draft a couple of emails and answer a few questions. But, and this is the key – don’t send any of those emails! (Unless you’re working on something urgent and then, well, you know, send them.) Instead, have the emails drafted and ready to go and fire them off on Monday morning.
Why hold off sending these emails? While drafting them over the weekend can help alleviate some weekday stress, if you send them on Sunday, you’re just perpetuating the problem! You’re either contributing to someone else’s Sunday Scaries or, even worse – you’re risking that they are working, too, and will respond and therefore create even more work and things for you to worry about on Sunday night!.
3. Meal prep.
Ok, we’ve all heard this tip a million times, but it really does make such a huge difference! If you can, take some time on Sunday evening to make your lunches and snacks for the next couple of days. This will be one less task on your list to worry about during the week and one less thing to stress you out on Sunday night.
While you’re at it, make a new cocktail or mocktail every Sunday night while you cook. Serve it in a fancy glass, listen to your favorite music, and enjoy your Sunday evening, blocking out whatever it is that is worrying you about the week ahead. That stuff can wait until Monday.
4. Outfit prep.
The last thing to prep that will take some stress about the upcoming week off of your plate? Your outfits! At this point in 2021, this might just be your shirt and maybe a pair of earrings (we all know nobody is wearing pants with zippers in 2021), but putting in a little effort to think about what you’ll wear the next week can certainly give you a little boost and alleviate some stress.
Why does this help? Well, if you hate everything fashion-related or are simply disinterested in it, doing this will allow you to focus on other stuff during the week and not worry about getting dressed every morning. On the other hand, if you love clothes, you get to have some fun on Sunday with the planning! Try on new tops, new jewelry, or something you haven’t worn in a while to give yourself a little pep in your step on Monday morning.
5. Get some fresh air and exercise.
Here’s another tip that’s not ground-breaking in the slightest, but it’s just so helpful for the Sunday Scaries that I couldn’t leave it out. Go for a walk or a run early in the evening to help clear your head and calm you down. It will make it easier to fall asleep that night and you’ll feel proud of yourself for ending your week on such a high note. There’s really nothing like fresh air and exercise to make you forget about your Biglaw worries, even if it’s just for an hour.
6. Make a work worry list.
There’s no way a walk or a run will clear your head entirely and make you forget about all the things you’re worried about (even though it does help). So what else can you do? Make a work worry list. This is a list of everything you’re worried about at work for the upcoming week.
Take 15-30 minutes or so and write down everything on your mind that is stressing you out. Then, write out action items to accompany each of those worries. What can and will you do about what is worrying you? Maybe you have to schedule a meeting with a partner to discuss a particularly difficult client or email the staffing department to get extra help on your deal.
Once you get these things off your chest and onto the paper, you’ll feel relieved that they are no longer swirling around inside your head. Even better, if you come up with the action items to solve your worries, you’ll know that there’s a plan in place to deal with all of your anxieties.
7. Plan for an early start on Monday morning.
Lastly, an early Monday morning can help tremendously. Let’s say you’re expected to log online at 9:00 a.m. every morning. Instead of rushing to log-on at 8:59 so your boss sees that you’re up and working, try to give yourself a calmer start to Monday morning by logging on early (say, 30 mins ahead of schedule).
Sure, this means you’re technically working when you aren’t expected to, but having a calm start and easing into your day sets you up for a much more relaxing day.
Going from zero (the weekend) to a hundred in a split second can mess with anyone’s mind. If you know in advance that your Monday is going to start off calmly and within your control, not someone else’s, you’re more likely to feel a little bit more relaxed on Sunday night when you’re thinking about the day ahead.
Make Sunday Scaries a Thing of the Past
I hope some of these tips resonated with you and that you’re ready to kick the Sunday Scaries to the curb. But, if you’ve tried everything, and you still find yourself dreading work, that’s a clear sign that Biglaw may no longer right for you.
(In fact, it’s one of the 10 signs I write about in my book, “How to Know When It’s Time to Leave Biglaw” (affiliate link).)
There are so many other jobs and things to do with your life that do not give you a mini panic attack every seven days. You owe it to yourself to look into those.