Sunday Scaries a.k.a. Survival Mode. Whether you are fighting, fleeing, or freezing, separate yourself from the voice of your inner survivor, speak from a place of thriving and give yourself what you need.
The key to changing your perspective of Work Week Eve is knowing and believing that YOU are not your thoughts. You are not the survivor mode voice in your head that says “ALERT, ALERT MONDAY IS COMING; PREPARE YOURSELF.” Once you know that you are not that voice, you are no longer at the will of that voice. You are in control. Yes, those feelings of inner doom are REAL. But they are not more powerful than your core self. And they do eventually pass even without the coping mechanisms you usually use to make that voice smaller.
When Sunday rolls around, you might feel anxious, overwhelmed, rigid, or have chaotic or even aggressive emotional outbursts. That’s your fight/flight response. This can also take the form of obsessive-compulsive thinking or behaviors including over-eating, restricting yourself from eating, any addictive behaviors and any impulsive behaviors as well. You are hyper-aroused. Your threshold for stress is already overwhelmed by the anxiety you are feeling about Monday, so any other stimulus – bad, good, neutral – is going to set you off with any of the above behaviors. Remember, even though these behaviors have self-destructive results, your survival mode has learned that these behaviors are successful in coping with your inner stress. Those behaviors are all your survivor mode knows.
On the other hand, if you find yourself sleeping all day on Sundays, feeling fuzzy and disconnected or not present, having little to no emotional response, and just feeling numb, blasé or even on auto-pilot, then you are experiencing freeze response. You’re hypo-aroused. Different behaviors, same mode of survival.
Now, think of a time when you were not in those states. Think of a situation or a time when you felt present, calm, cool, collected. Maybe it was Saturday morning – you were sitting down with your favorite coffee, Monday seemed eons away, life was great. This state of mind is your Window of Tolerance, or your comfort zone: the state of being that is not controlled by your survival instincts. When you’re in this window of tolerance, you perceive no threats, you feel safe and you have the ability to self-soothe without entering into hyper or hypo aroused states of mind.
If you want to remain within your Window of Tolerance on Sunday, you need to widen that window to include Sundays. This is possible to do! It’s not easy at first, because remember, the brain is not a fan of change. But, you are not your thoughts so the brain will have to accept your decision to be a little uncomfortable for a while until it’s used to the not-so-scary Sundays.
The first way to widen your window of tolerance is to practice the following while you are already in your window of tolerance: First, practice being present by noticing that you are calm, cool, collected and connected the next time that you are in fact feeling those things. Being present while in the window of tolerance is a form of practicing mindfulness which will help you strengthen your window and you will have a better time remembering what it feels like being there when you are in a fight, flight, or freeze state of mind. Once you notice you’re in your comfort zone, take mindfulness to the next level by doing some grounding exercises: tap your left shoulder with your right hand and your right shoulder with your left hand to bilaterally stimulate your brain, activating it to take in this newfound awareness. Next, practice some self-soothing techniques that you like the most. If you don’t have a favorite, try deep breathing exercises (inhale via nose for a count of 4, hold breath for a count of 7, exhale via mouth for a count of 8 = 1 breath, repeat 3 more times). Over time, when you feel safe enough to do so and while you are in your window of tolerance, sit down with a journal. Reflect on the times you have let your survival mode take over. Ask yourself: what did my survivor mode tell me that I believed enough to let it take over my actions? Write down that belief. Pause and do a 4-7-8 breathing exercise. Then, counter that belief you just wrote down with a positive statement about yourself.
Here’s an example: “I believed that I was in danger.” My truth: “I am safe and I trust myself to keep me safe, even when my anxious voice may question my abilities.” Next, write down a new choice you will make the next time, instead of letting your survival mode take over. Example: “I will thank my anxious voice for telling me it needs me and I will show it that I am safe by moving slow, taking a shower, brushing my teeth, and spending time with someone that makes me feel safe. To make sure I follow through with this, I will lay out my outfit the night before so it’s one less thing I have to do on Sunday.”
Good job. Keep doing that through the ups and downs, the wins and the losses, keep doing that journaling exercise and over time you will have an archive of your growth. The act of doing that is 80% of your growth. There are no expectations. It’s a practice of transformation.
The other way to widen your window of tolerance so as to include the not-so-scary Sundays in your comfort zone, is to recognize and minimize the experiences that cause you to exit your window of tolerance and enter a state of survival. This is harder because it means you need to practice some mindfulness while you are in the process of entering survival mode and that can be tricky. Here’s a tip: it’s okay to notice you are engaging with a self-destructive behavior and still continue with that behavior. If you set the expectation that once you notice it you have to stop, you’re never going to change. So instead, be patient, just expect yourself to notice when you slip into Sunday Scary activities and make note of that. Try your best to go to the journal you are using to write those beliefs in, and write the date and belief and action you are partaking in. Notice how you feel.
The first few times, you will probably still engage in those survival mode behaviors anyway, but eventually the goal is to break engagement then-and-there. And even though it’s hard at first, doing so is a very concrete way of widening your window of tolerance by overcoming your belief in real time. So empowering.
There are some things beyond our control that can cause us to fly into survival mode, such as an unexpected trigger to past trauma. You are not a failure if you find yourself repeating trauma/anxiety-related responses. The goal is to notice what those responses are for you, what situations set those behaviors into action, what thoughts you believe that put your survival mode voice in the driver’s seat. It’s a learning process and it does take trial and error, so be kind to and patient with yourself.
A good starting point is educating yourself on what generally causes you to enter survival mode. Most of the time, it’s fear. Fear of abandonment, fear of the unknown, fear of losing control, fear of rejection, and unconscious thoughts and feelings. Once you know what your fear of Work Week Eve is, you can start to unravel the limiting belief tied to that, write it down, counter with a positive truth. Soon your core self will be back in charge, making new choices for your greatest good from Monday to Monday.
Happy Sunday y’all.