Thank god it’s Friday! A sigh of relief descends over the island of Manhattan. For the next 48 hours, we are free! We can forget about the micro-managing boss, the nagging client, the deadlines, and reports. We are free to sleep late, go to the gym after the sun has risen, and stay up past 10:30. Weekends, I love you so. If only every weekend could be three days long!
For me, Friday night is crash night. Drained from the week, I look forward to nothing more than good food, a good movie, and my bed. Saturday is spent running errands, the gym, the obligatory New York brunch, and some social entertainment in the evening.
By getting my chores out of the way on Saturday, Sunday morning is mine to do with as I please. With chores out of the way, the morning feels like a gift, bonus time to spend however I like. Until 5:00 pm that is, when warm, fuzzy, happy feelings rapidly evaporate, leaving in their place an eerie feeling of the calm before the storm.
That dreaded Sunday Blues feeling. Knowing that in a few short hours I will be hurtled back into life at warp speed, where the days all blend into one and sleeping is a chore I need to find time for, in order to maintain productivity. Thoughts of what I must accomplish during the week flood to mind. Worries of how I will get through a seemingly-endless To-Do list wash over me. Welcome to ANXIETY central. My mind is tricked into thinking that if I mentally prepare for the coming week, I will be better able to deal with it.
Ever had sleepless Sunday nights worrying about the week ahead?
Way back when, in cave man times, anxiety was a very useful emotion to have – it warned us of perceived threats and dangers, and gave us the energy (via adrenaline shots) to cope with such threats. If we didn’t have anxiety, we might have ended up as someone’s dinner. Thankfully, most of us don’t face these same threats today; yet anxiety is one of the most common issues reported by clients. We predict threats and dangers, how is my boss going to react? What if I mess up the meeting? What if I lose the deal? This releases adrenaline: We feel anxious, jittery, out of control, stressed, nervous – am I ringing any bells yet? Our precious Sunday night is ruined with a restless, anxiety-fueled night of sleep that leaves us starting the new week without feeling rested or relaxed.
We are fortunetelling! Predicting the future, and more often than not focusing on the negative. This is a very common cognitive distortion and an automatic thought. We convince ourselves that things will get worse, that there is danger ahead: I’ll fail the exam or I won’t get the job. Ask yourself this: Has it ever been as bad as you thought? Even if it was (which I doubt is the case, in most instances) you are here right now, reading this blog. So congratulations, you survived! Our intentions are noble; we think that running this through our mind counts as preparation for the week, which should make us a better employer, employee, or student. But is our fortune telling helping or harming us? Is there any other way we can mentally prepare for the week, without feeling anxious, so that we can continue to enjoy what’s left of the weekend? The key to this is recognizing the connection between your thoughts, your feelings, and your behavior.
Identifying that we are fortunetelling is the first and most crucial step. If we insist on fortunetelling, we must ask ourselves, “Is this awful scenario I have in my head the only possible outcome? Is there any chance I’m dramatizing, catastrophizing, or awfulizing? Has it actually ever been as bad as I thought it would be? I.e., is there any evidence to support how I am thinking?”
If we successfully identify the connection between our awfulizing thoughts, our anxious feelings, and our tendency for fortune telling, we are already in a significantly better position. This should help unshackle us from these fretful thoughts, strip away the over-dramatic, anxiety-laden worries, and focus instead on calm and collected planning for the week. Why let the anxiety get in the way? It dominates your thoughts, takes up more time than is necessary, and is a waste of energy and brainpower that could otherwise be spent on actual real preparation for the week. Without anxiety in the way, our thoughts are more productive and so is our planning, and therefore perhaps also is our performance, ultimately leaving us with less to be anxious about!
Challenging our thoughts and asking ourselves these questions will hopefully reduce the negative predictions and lower our level of anxiety.