If you’re suffering from the Sunday Scaries, are constantly bored at work, or regularly find yourself exhausted at the end of the day only to end up on the couch with Netflix and a bottle of wine, read on.

Life doesn’t have to be this way.

By settling for the status quo, you’re limiting your potential – and your happiness.

In his book Lost Connections, Johann Hari discusses the primary factors fueling anxiety and depression in today’s society.

Cause number one? Disconnection from meaningful work.

Here’s why our experience at work has such a strong impact on our lives and what you can do about it.

You likely spend between 50-75% of your waking hours at work

If you’re working a standard 40-hour week, you’re spending roughly 50% of your waking hours at work (assuming eight hours for sleep).

If you’re working a 60-hour week, that’s 75% of your available time.

With the added pressure to respond to messages outside of work, it can be hard to turn off at all.

A 2018 Gallup poll showed that 66% of U.S. workers are disengaged: 13% of workers reported being “actively disengaged” and 53% said they were “not engaged” in their roles.

If you fall into this bucket, you probably already recognize how spending this much time doing something you are not passionate about can be draining.

“When work is enriching, life is fuller, and that spills over into the things you do outside work.” But “when it’s deadening,” you wind up feeling “shattered at the end of the day, just shattered.”

Michael Marmot in Lost Connections

Unfortunately, these feelings can linger long after you’re out of the office.

Your work life spills over into the rest of your life

In Lost Connections, Johann Hari cites Michael Marmot, a UCL professor who discovered that when people worked in jobs that afford “a higher degree of control over your work, you were a lot less likely to become depressed or develop severe emotional distress than people working at the same pay level, with the same status, in the same office.”

Marmot explains, “When work is enriching, life is fuller, and that spills over into the things you do outside work.” But “when it’s deadening,” you wind up feeling “shattered at the end of the day, just shattered.”

Don’t allow yourself to go through the workweek on autopilot only to self-medicate on the weekends.

Will deFries describes the Sunday Scaries as “the voices in your head that ask why you do the things you do every weekend – and perhaps more importantly – why you don’t do the things you want to do every weekend.”

You’re worth more than that.

If you find yourself disengaged, exhausted, and living for the weekend, it’s likely a sign that you need a change.

As Hari puts it, “We need to stop trying to muffle or silence or pathologize that pain. Instead, we need to listen to it, and honor it.

“It is only when we listen to our pain…. [that] we begin to overcome it.”

Your work needs to have purpose

A recent client contacted me as he was finishing up a year-long trip around the world. He quit his job and booked his plane ticket when he reached his mid-30s and started questioning whether “this was all there is to life.”

He climbed the corporate ladder and was the definition of successful by society’s standards. But he felt no purpose in his role.

“Work [that] is monotonous, boring, soul-destroying” is what kills us physically, mentally, and emotionally, Marmot explained. “They die a little when they come to work each day, because their work touches no part of them that is them.”

“Disempowerment is at the heart of poor health,” he said.

Jobs that are stimulating, exciting, and don’t come along with a side of Sunday Scaries are out there.

You have the power to re-gain control

Don’t fear change or added responsibility.

“The worst stress for people isn’t having to bear a lot of responsibility,” Hari wrote. It’s the monotony and boredom that drains our energy.

Taking on a more challenging role – even at the same pay grade – can reap significant benefits for your mental health.

If you’ve been itching to make a change, think deeply about what’s holding you back.

  • Is it the comfort and stability of your current role?
  • Do you feel like the law or finance degree you invested so much in will simply become a sunk cost?
  • Are you afraid of failing?

When you finally find yourself in a position that suits your calling, you might be surprised at how your relationships, energy, and overall happiness improve as well: I know they did for me.

Johann Hari’s Lost Connections is a great place to start your period of reflection and journey towards finding meaningful work.