How to tell if it's normal back-to-work blues or you need to quit your job

The Sunday scaries – that building sense of unease that creeps its way into your weekend and reminds you that you’ll soon be back at work – are normal.

But when a tiny bit of trepidation becomes all-out dread, that needs to be taken seriously.

It can be tricky, though, to take a step back and objectively figure out if you’re experiencing the normal desire to keep having weekend fun, or if you actually, genuinely don’t like your job.

And it can be even trickier to take action depending on your conclusion.

Ahead, Ally Fekaiki, an employee wellbeing expert and the founder and CEO of Juno, breaks down what to do when you’re struggling to tell the difference between back-to-work blues and the time being right to quit your job.

See how you feel after a day or two back at your desk

Whether you’re returning from holiday or it’s just a Monday after your usual weekend, the first day back at work is going to feel a little daunting.

Give yourself some time and space to settle back in, acknowledging that it’s perfectly okay to cut yourself some slack and take your time adjusting back into the swing of things.

Then, check back in with how you’re feeling. Are you still feeling anxious and overwhelmed when you’re done for the day and your inbox is a tad more manageable? If so, that might be a sign that something bigger than some Sunday scaries is going on.

‘It’s normal to miss the freedom and frivolity of [time off],’ says Ally. ‘But if the anxiety you’re feeling around work doesn’t dissipate after a few days back at your desk, it may be time to reflect on why this is and what a solution might look like.’

Pay attention to how you feel at the beginning versus the end of the day

‘You might resent getting back to early starts and the unpredictable
British weather,’ Ally notes. ‘But how do you feel at the end of the day? Do you feel satisfied by what you’ve achieved and stimulated by your job, or are you just glad to be done for another day?

‘Paying attention to how you feel in the morning compared to after work can give you a clearer picture of how much your job is contributing to any negative feelings you’re experiencing throughout the day, or whether it’s actually a welcome tonic.’

Identify the specific issues at play

Grab a pen and paper and actively list off the things at work that aren’t working for you.

Have a look through it and see if there are any common themes or strands linking these things together, and have a ponder about whether these issues are fixable… or if they’re dealbreakers.

If skipping your lunch break or constantly having meetings scheduled for after your day is done is what’s causing your unhappiness, that’s sort of good news: these are things you can bring up with your workplace and try to change.

But if the issues are with the work itself, or with your office’s working culture, or there’s a toxic boss you just can’t talk to, it might be time to consider moving on.

It can also be helpful to see if you can write down things you like about your job. Do these outweigh the bad stuff? Or are you struggling to even think of a couple?

Do your research to see if the grass looks greener

‘There are no end of opportunities out there,’ Ally says. ‘Sometimes the infinitesimal career possibilities can feel overwhelming.

‘But doing some research into other roles and vacancies can be a useful exercise, to help you work out whether you’re really ready for a change, or whether you can scratch that itch where you are.

‘You might come across the opportunity of your dreams – or you might realize that where you’re at is pretty great, but that you’d like to speak to your manager about doing something differently, or taking on more responsibility.

‘There’s no harm in looking around for inspiration.’

Track your emotions

It’s worth keeping a journal to really get to grips with how you’re feeling over a longer period of time – and to see what helps and harms your mental wellbeing.

You might notice, for example, that your mood is worsening every Sunday, regardless of what you do. This will at least enable you to notice that pattern and consider what needs to change about your work to shift it.

Or, on a more positive note, you might find that while you feel a little anxious before you head back to work, these feelings are lessened when you engage in self-care, such as having a bath or cooking yourself a tasty dinner. In that case, you can make a commitment to continuing this.

Speak to your boss

‘A good employer should care about how you’re feeling and be prepared to work with you to ensure you’re happy in your role,’ Ally says.

‘So if your anxious feelings around work persist, speak to your employer about the issues you’ve identified and any potential solutions that might make your job more manageable.

‘Whether that’s greater flexibility, better benefits, a pay rise or for part of your role to change, communicating your needs to your employer gives them the opportunity to help and support you, before you look elsewhere.’

Seek professional support

If you’re struggling to sort out what issues are being caused by your job and what are separate, it’s well worth talking to a therapist.

They’ll be able to help you have some clarity – and take the steps you need to start feeling better.

‘If you feel overwhelmed, stuck and unable to manage any feelings of anxiety at work, you should seek professional help,’ says Ally.

‘A professional will be able to help you work through these feelings and equip you with the tools to deal with them if they come up again.’

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