Everybody’s working for the weekend and it makes sense. Two whole days to do what we want and that freedom feels so good — until Sunday night shows up.
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As the last few hours of the weekend tick away, do you feel a little cheated because that short stretch of “me time” is over? Or are you overwhelmed by feelings of dread as the responsibilities of a new week close in?
If you said, “Yes, that’s me” to either scenario, you might have a case of the “Sunday scaries.”
Psychologist Susan Albers, PsyD, explains why some of us struggle with our day of rest and offers a few helpful tips for making it more bearable.
The meaning of “Sunday scaries”
“The Sunday scaries are feelings of intense anxiety and dread that routinely occur every Sunday. They often start in the late afternoon and continue into the evening. However, depending on a person’s level of anxiety, these feelings can start as soon as they get out of bed,” says Dr. Albers.
Her clients often describe it as a pit in the bottom of their stomachs that grows as Sunday progresses or anxiety that haunts them throughout the day.
The Sunday scaries can snowball into physical manifestations such as:
- A racing heartbeat.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Upset stomach.
- Trouble sleeping.
- And in extreme cases, depression or a heart attack.
Why scary Sundays are so common
According to Dr. Albers, the Sunday scaries are triggered by the end of the weekend approaching and us anticipating our return to work. She says when people start to make their to-do lists or contemplate upcoming responsibilities, the transition from relaxation to work mode can be a tough 180.
“The Sunday scaries are fairly common. Most people have experienced them at one point or another. It’s a normal reaction to adjusting to different roles and change. However, it’s not a clinical diagnosis.”
Dr. Albers adds that during the weekend, your cognitive load is significantly lowered so it’s easy to let your guard down. It takes a lot of mental energy to prep for upcoming tasks. Some of our Sunday scaries might stem from our brains gearing up to access the parts that we don’t use during the weekend.
10 ways to combat the Sunday scaries
Ready to start enjoying your Sundays to the fullest? These 10 tips from Dr. Albers might help do the trick.
Change your mindset
Be mindful of the thoughts that run through your head on Sunday nights. Replace negative thoughts like “I don’t want to go to work tomorrow” with positive, encouraging statements, like “I can do this” or “This is nothing new. I will be OK.”
Create a Sunday night routine
A routine will give you something to look forward to and ease the transition. Watch your favorite TV show or make a special Sunday evening meal. Our bodies and minds love consistency and a routine.
Treat yourself to Monday morning perks
Enjoy a cup of coffee from your favorite coffee shop or listen to a podcast on the way to work. These things can help make Mondays even more enjoyable.
Get some sleep
Have a cup of herbal tea or tart cherry juice to help you sleep. Go to bed at the same time every Sunday night. Getting enough sleep can help you feel at your best the next day so you can start your week on the right foot.
Visualize a better Sunday
Imagine walking through your day calmly in your mind. Research indicates that positive imagery can trick your mind into calming down and increase your confidence.
Switch on the “off” sign
If possible, avoid doing work during the weekend to allow yourself to recharge your batteries. That might mean putting your phone away or saving emails for the workweek.
Work on some Sunday projects
Engaging your mind and gearing up for the workweek can help ease the transition from relaxation to work mode. Do your meal prep. Put a piece of furniture together or clean. Mindless tasks can help you get ready for the week ahead.
Movement is a natural antidepressant. Be sure to schedule some exercise every Sunday to help boost the feel-good chemicals in your brain.
Create a to-do list for Monday
Before you go to bed, jot down the most important things that you need to do on Monday morning. This can help you release your worries and organize your thoughts so you can fall asleep much easier.
Listen to the message
Think about what your dread is really about. Is it trying to tell you something? Drill down to what is really bothering you and see if there are some mini fixes to it. When you truly understand what is triggering the anxiety or bothering you deep down, you may get some relief by just being able to honestly name it.
Do the Sunday scaries signify depression or anxiety?
Dr. Albers says that feeling overwhelmed about the upcoming week doesn’t mean that you are living with depression or anxiety.
“It isn’t clinical depression or anxiety when it predictably starts like clockwork on Sunday. This is a huge red flag that these feelings are linked to an external clock versus anything happening internally.”
If you are experiencing any kind of job burnout or you don’t like your position, you are more likely to experience this feeling routinely. This anxiety might start with negative thoughts such as, “I don’t want to go back” or “I can’t take this.”
When should you get help for your scary Sundays?
If the Sunday scaries are impacting your ability to sleep or are even causing problems with your eating habits, Dr. Albers says these may be red flags that your anxiety level is too high. If you call off from work every Monday, a mental health professional may be able to help to unravel what is behind your anxiety. Treatment options may include cognitive behavioral therapy, antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication.