Empathy & Sunday Scaries

Posted by Mindy Tulsi-Ingram on 30th Apr 2024

Empathy & Sunday Scaries

What is empathy?

Empathy involves putting yourself in another person’s shoes to better relate and understand how they are feeling. It is important in all relationships – our friends and other key people in our life, our work associates and our community.

Some of us are more empathetic than others. Cambridge University research has shown that empathy is partly due to genetics, and women are slightly more empathetic than men (thought to be part of women’s socialization).

Children demonstrate empathy, and it becomes more evident after their first year, when they respond to and even offer comfort when they detect another person’s pain or hear a cry.

However, empathy can be learned, and the more we practice it, the more natural it becomes. Empathy builds trust, fosters intimacy and helps us resolve conflicts as it allows us to connect and better relate to others. 

Our communication is improved by paying attention to others’ thoughts and feelings without judgement, while showing that we understand and value their perspective.

Leaders who practice empathy are better able to understand the needs and challenges of their team members, resulting in improved morale and increased productivity, and contributing to their business success.

To practice empathy:

  • Use focused listening.
    • Pay attention to the person’s body language, tone of voice, and the context of their words.
  • Show gratitude.
    • Appreciate their time and effort, making their interaction with you as smooth as possible.
  • Be proactive by anticipating challenges and address them before they become problems.
    • Provide constructive feedback, offer clear solutions and instructions.

Empathy is critical in conflict resolution as you are more able to understand the causes of the problem, see both party’s point of view, and promotes reconciliation.

What about you?

Following airline safety procedures, we must ‘put our own mask on first’ before we are able to take care of others.

To be truly empathetic we must understand our own emotions and experiences, acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses and prioritize our own well-being.  In the workplace this translates to effective time management, managing stress, preventing burnout, and maintaining work-life balance.

Once we are in control of ourselves, we can be open to and relate to the challenges and hardships of others, improving all of our social interactions.

Sunday Scaries

Last Sunday evening when I was at the gym, a woman beside me told me that she was dreading going to work the next day and it was causing her a great deal of stress.Just thinking of Monday makes her restless and anxious. She loves her job, however every Sunday she is overcome with this feeling of dread.

I said that she was experiencing Sunday Scaries, and that she was not alone.

A recent LinkedIn survey found that 75% of workers experience the Sunday Scaries - dread and anxiety ahead of the work week ahead - and it appears that the extent to which workers feel this way is on the rise.

It is the worry and feeling overwhelmed and depressed about returning to a new week of work.

Why does it happen?

  • Global unrest and negative news stories impacting our mood
  • Economic and job fears and fear of recession
  • Fear of a potential calamity
  • Overwhelmed at work and feeling burned out
  • Fear of losing their job

Determine the cause of your anxiety

  • Time for reflection - pause and take a break.
  • Are you dealing with any regrets or stressors from the past week?
  • Worries about deadlines, workload, meetings or upcoming presentations?
  • Toxic work environment or poor leadership?
  • Are you unchallenged or bored with your work?

Ways to beat it

  • Organize your Monday schedule in advance so you have a clear direction for your day / week. You can jumpstart your day with clear thinking and by working your plan.
  • Keep a to-do list so your thoughts are organized and you can mark off your achievements as they occur – keeping your mind organized instead of worrying about what needs to be done.
  • Include pleasant activities in your day – lunch or coffee with a co-worker or friend, go for a walk to enjoy a change of scenery
  • Plan an exercise class or social time with family or friends after work.
  • Bake or bring something for your team. Doing something good for others, and sharing can give you a sense of purpose and connection.

When you are not at work

  • Enjoy your Sundays – include gratitude, relaxation or deep breathing as well as social activities.
  • Exercise – build up those “feel good” endorphins
  • Food – have a healthy meal with friends or family to experience connection and focus on others
  • Disconnect from work – stay off your computer, work emails
  • You are more productive after a break than by working throughout the weekend

Focus on the positives

  • What do you enjoy about your work?
  • Review your achievements and how they made you feel.
  • Think about your colleagues and your good experiences.
  • What are the benefits of your job – good income? Work environment / arrangement? Flexibility or time with family?

If not all the “boxes are checked” it may be time for a change.

  • Maybe take a longer-term approach – it may not be Monday; it may be your job.
  • Now you have a better idea of what the problem is, it may be that it is time to find another job.

Defeat those Sunday Scaries, and enjoy every day of your week!