Taking the dread out of the week ahead

We’ve all been there – as Sunday night draws to a close, that creeping feeling of dismay takes over. But what if things didn’t have to be this way?

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Happiful

Whether you live to work, or work to live, we’ve all had one of those weeks. Meetings stacking up, a big deadline (or five) coming up, or you just can’t face the thought of making small talk. We all feel dread for different reasons but, when it feels like a constant, underlying presence, it could be a sign that it’s time to take action.

Set yourself up for success

It could be something specific that has you worried, or a general feeling of being overwhelmed. Getting your thoughts in order, and creating a plan for the days ahead, should be your first step. By taking time to organise your workload you’re creating a starting point to focus on, and getting your thoughts in order.

Creating a priority list can help you to get an overview of what you need to fit in, allowing you to take control of that overall feeling of worry, breaking things down into more manageable tasks.

Think long-term

If you find yourself dreading the week ahead each time Sunday night rolls around it could be a sign that you’re focusing on short-term problems, rather than facing the bigger issues causing you distress. Map out the parts of your week that have you worried, and take a closer look.

Why are you dreading a Monday morning meeting? Is there a colleague you don’t get on with? Do you feel unprepared? Does it take a big chunk of your day that could be better used elsewhere? Exploring the ‘Why’ can help you decide next steps – and any underlying issues you may not have realised were adding stress.

Take care of yourself

Looking after your physical health can have a big impact on your overall wellbeing. Small changes to your diet can improve your mood, sleep quality, energy levels – and even how well your brain functions. By reducing caffeine and alcohol, ensuring you’re staying hydrated, and reducing foods high in fat and sugar, you avoid temporary ‘feel-good’ highs followed by crashes that may leave you feeling worse.

If you struggle to cook during the week, or rely on unhealthy (and overpriced) café food, try meal-prepping. Batch cooking at the weekend can set you up for a less stressful week, while giving you a sense of achievement and control.

If you find yourself skipping the gym after a long day, try switching your routine and go before work, or use part of your lunch break to go for a walk. Exercise can give your mood a natural boost. Moving your workout to earlier in the day means there’s less chance for the day to take a turn for the worse before you’ve taken time to look after yourself.

Discover your best self-care routine

How do you relax? When feeling stressed or overwhelmed, it can be easy to passively do things to ‘relax’ that might not be that rejuvenating. Do you really enjoy vegging out on the sofa with back-to-back episodes of the latest reality TV show? Or are you just so exhausted that it’s become routine?

Creating a self-care routine that helps you to feel refreshed, and able to face the day ahead, is an important step in getting the most out of our downtime; those hours between the stress of commuting, work and day-to-day life admin, should be precious.

Try experimenting with different ways that help you feel relaxed. Some people find listening to podcasts can be a soothing and enriching way to switch-off. Others find trying meditation, practising mindfulness, or even relaxing in the bath with a good book, helps them to unwind. There’s no right or wrong way to practise self-care; it’s all about finding what works for you.

Practise self-compassion

Be kind to yourself. It’s okay if you haven’t got everything figured out. Having a bad day (or week) doesn’t mean you are a failure; we can’t all get everything 100% right – nor can we be prepared for every eventuality.

If you find yourself experiencing automatic negative thoughts, doubting yourself, or practising negative self-talk, take a moment to reflect and ask, ‘Would I talk to a friend or colleague this way? If someone I cared about was feeling down, how would I talk to them?’ Many of us are harsher on ourselves than we ever would be on loved ones. It’s time to challenge this. It’s okay to feel the way you’re feeling.

Acknowledging that you’re struggling is the first step towards making positive changes. Over time, you can start to take back control and overcome that feeling of dread for the week ahead.

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