How to stop feeling like “I don’t want to go to work tomorrow”

Emily Starbuck Gerson

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Man thinking "I don't want to go to work"

“Do what you love.” That advice sounds simple, right? It’s well-meaning, but many of us grow up to learn the hard truth that it’s not so easy to find work that both pays the bills and fulfills us. Sometimes you just think to yourself “I don’t want to go to work tomorrow.”

It’s all too common to take a job we don’t enjoy because we need the paycheck, or perhaps we think we’ve found our dream job — but it turns out it comes with long hours, terrible pay, and/or a nightmare boss. In other cases, we find our ideal job that checks all the boxes and we start off feeling motivated and hard-working. We get recognized for our efforts, and experience an increase in pay and responsibility, but one day we wake up and decide we can’t do it anymore.

Regardless of your specific work frustration, Sunday afternoons may arrive with the thought, “I don’t want to go to work tomorrow.” But it doesn’t have to.

The Sunday Scaries or worse?

You may have heard of this feeling of not wanting to return to work jokingly referred to as the Sunday Scaries. Perhaps for some, they don’t want the fun of the weekend to end, but this feeling is usually more about dreading going back to work.

You’re not alone if you usually begin to feel anxiety as you realize your weekend is winding down and you have to return to work soon. A 2018 LinkedIn survey found that 80% of American professionals report feeling the Sunday Scaries.

Clearly it’s a common experience that happens to most employees from time to time. It’s no big deal to face that anxiety occasionally. But for some stressed workers, it happens every Sunday like clockwork and may even linger during the week. If this dread becomes a regular occurrence, it’s not healthy and could be a sign of burnout.

When self-care isn’t enough

You will often hear people recommend self-care as a strategy to combat the Sunday Scaries. We’ve all heard suggestions such as taking a bath, doing a face mask, practicing yoga or meditation, watching some Netflix, or a litany of other potentially relaxing activities.

These can be great tools for stress management — we’re not knocking the potential benefits of self-care. The mere act of self-care shows yourself self-love and value, and for some, it’s enough to feel calmer and recharged, ready to face work the next day.

For seriously stressed individuals, especially those entering or experiencing burnout, self-care strategies may only provide short-term relief or not help at all. They may just be a Band-Aid to try to help us avoid dealing with what’s causing our overwhelm. If you find yourself thinking “I don’t want to go to work tomorrow” every Sunday — or every day — an at-home spa day isn’t the solution.

Workers who are experiencing burnout suffer from chronic emotional stress that typically isn’t relieved by basic self-care or vacations. It’s usually caused by something deeper, such as an unhealthy relationship with your work, a toxic work environment, or deeply unfulfilling work.

Burnout can manifest physically, emotionally, and mentally. You may gain or lose weight, sleep poorly, hit snooze repeatedly every morning, lack motivation and focus, pull away from loved ones, feel depressed and anxious, be exhausted, and so on. If any of this sounds familiar, some weekend self-care is nice, but it isn’t enough to overcome the Sunday Scaries or underlying burnout.

How to escape work anxiety

So what is the solution? At Flourish, we recommend digging deep to determine the root cause of why you don’t want to go to work. Yes, everyone would occasionally rather stay on the couch and binge Netflix some days, but there are likely underlying reasons for frequent bouts of Sunday scaries.

If you want to truly get rid of your work anxiety and dread, it’s helpful to closely examine why you feel this way, and depending on what you find, reset your relationship with work.

Grab a pen and notebook the next time you feel this way. Write down your honest answers to the following questions:

  • Did something specific trigger you to think about work? (For example, an email from your boss, a text from a colleague, a calendar reminder, etc.)
  • What feelings and sensations do you notice in your body when you think about going to work tomorrow?
  • What thoughts do you notice arising as you think about your job and going into work?
  • Ask yourself, “Why am I feeling this way?” five times. This ‘5 whys’ technique can feel silly at first, but it’s a useful root cause analysis tool. We’ve found that if you answer honestly five times, you can reach meaningful insights by the end.
  • What’s one thing you can commit to doing right now to change what you noticed when answering the previous questions?

Need a little extra help?

This exercise could be enough to help you make important realizations. Maybe it reveals that it’s time to add more boundaries between work and home life, or perhaps you need to address someone’s toxic behavior.

But if you’re not sure what the root cause of your Sunday dread is — or if you’re feeling overwhelmed and burned out by nearly every aspect of your job — Flourish is here to help.

For a limited time, we’re offering complimentary one-on-one calls to those who need support tackling chronic work stress. At Flourish, we specialize in diagnosing the unique causes of an individual’s burnout and help them get clear on what actionable steps can be taken to feel re-energized and motivated again. Contact us now to set up your free appointment.

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