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Listen to Your Body: 8 Techniques to Reduce Work Stress

Updated: Mar 26, 2023

My friends and I have discussed this phenomenon many times. It's Sunday evening, the sun has begun to hang low in the sky. Then suddenly you feel this sadness or other times anxious dread. The weekend is over. Tomorrow starts another work week. As many times as I have discussed this with my friends and some colleagues over the years, I was today years old when I learned there is actually a term for it. The Sunday Scaries.

Anticipatory anxiety is excessive worry about a future event. It is a normal human process and a reaction to stress. People with anticipatory anxiety may feel anxious for hours, days, weeks, or months before an event. For some people this is a mere nuance. For some others, it can be downright debilitating when it involves excessive fear or worries that impact a person's wellbeing and functioning. Symptoms can range from feelings of apprehension or dread, feeling tense or jumpy, restlessness or irritability, anticipating the worst, being watchful for signs of danger, pounding or racing heart and shortness of breath, headaches, fatigue, insomnia, sweating, tremors, twitches, upset stomach, frequent urination, and/or diarrhea.

The Sunday Scaries are a form of anticipatory anxiety that involves nervousness and dread about the week ahead. The article, Your Guide to Winning @Work: Decoding the Sunday Scaries, had this to say about the Sunday Scaries:

"According to new LinkedIn research, 80% of professionals experience the Sunday Scaries, with over 90% of Millennials and Generation Z reporting they feel it. Professionals say worrying about your workload (60%), balancing your professional and personal to-do’s (44%), and thinking about the tasks you didn't finish last week (39%) as the top causes. More than 1 in 3 professionals feel the Sunday Scaries each week."

So no. It is not just in your head. It is not just you; you are not alone. According to The American Institute of Stress, "Americans are one of the most stressed out in the world. The current stress level experienced by Americans is 20 percentage points higher than the global average." The institute goes on to report that 63% of US workers are ready to quit their job to avoid work-related stress.

Identify Anxiety Triggers

Identifying the cause of your work-related anxiety can help you find ways to manage your feelings. Notice which scenarios typically trigger anxious feelings. Is it working with difficult coworkers or customers? Is it your workload or fast approaching deadlines? Do you feel that you are constantly receiving unclear instructions, expectations, or communication? Once you have identified the things triggering your anxiety, you can then allow yourself space to brainstorm strategies to manage the anxiety producing scenarios in your work life.

Listen to Your Body

All emotions are felt in our bodies. By the time we become aware of our anxious thoughts, our bodies have most likely already been experiencing it. Being armed with this knowledge can assist us with taking cues to better understand and manage the onset of our anxiety symptoms. When we take the time to slow down and identify our bodily signals, it makes it more possible for us to address our anxiety earlier. Because we each are different, our subjective experiences of anxiety will vary both from person to person and from situation to situation. However, here are some common things to be on the lookout for: tapping of our hands or feet, clenched jaw, tense shoulders, increased heart rate, and difficulty breathing. As mentioned earlier in our article, other symptoms include: headaches, fatigue, insomnia, sweating, tremors, twitches, upset stomach, frequent urination, and/or diarrhea.

Techniques to Reduce Anxiety

Now that we are aware of how our body responds to stress or anxious feelings, we can craft a plan to re-stabilize our system. We can utilize distraction techniques or grounding techniques. Whereas distraction techniques help shift us from our anxious thoughts, grounding helps calm our body and focus our mind so effective decisions can be made on how to handle difficult situations at work. Here are 8 techniques to try to get you out of your head and into a more enjoyable Sunday evening:

  1. Grab those headphones and listen to music (distraction)

  2. Run your wrist under cold water (grounding)

  3. Call or chat with someone (distraction)

  4. Splash face with cold water (grounding)

  5. Listen to a podcast (distraction)

  6. Walk up and down the stairs (grounding)

  7. Watch a short video (distraction)

  8. Engage in paired muscle relaxation to reduce muscle tension (grounding)

There absolutely is no way to avoid all the different stressors at work. Some work stressors are inevitable and there are no easy fixes. Even if we absolutely love our job, thinking about Monday and jumping back into the hectic weekly routine can be stressful. Instead of letting these feelings take over our Sunday night, acknowledge it, accept that we might not be able to completely get rid of it, and return our thoughts to our favorite hobbies and the company of our loved ones.

Please note. If you notice that the Sunday Scaries are getting worse and are impacting your ability to sleep, causing eating or digestive problems, or triggering panic attacks, please do not try to bear it alone. Contact your medical care provider for evaluation and/or referral to a qualified mental health professional.

As always, we appreciate your readership and your support and would love to hear from you. Let us know in the comments below, do you have a case of the Sunday Scaries? If so, what techniques have you used to help manage your feelings? And please remember, wherever you are on this wellness journey, do not worry about getting it perfect; just get it going. Until next time. Happy reading!

"You cannot find peace by avoiding life." ~Virginia Woolf

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