Except for my immediate family, particularly my mom, not many people know that I get a serious bout of the “Sunday Scaries.” I’m sincerely not making light of this either. This is a real phenomenon that can have serious consequences.
For those unfamiliar, this is a type of anticipatory anxiety regarding the upcoming week. It pulls you from the moment and puts people in a flight or fight mode. And it can leave you feeling a sense of dread and nervousness.
“The adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys, and they release adrenaline and cortisol,” explains Dr. Susanne Cooperman, neuropsychologist and a psychoanalyst at NYU Langone Health. “They flood the system, and you have a real stress reaction, and it feels like real anxiety.”
If not addressed, it can lead to irritability, restlessness, and even physical symptoms like stomach issues. It can also prevent you from enjoying your much-deserved weekend.
When I was a kid, the anxiety of going back to school on a Monday lead to insomnia; I also remember the Sunday night before starting a summer job in college. I grabbed ice cream with some friends and was completely distant because I was panicking on the inside.
Even as an adult who works from home, I still get the occasional Sunday blues. Thankfully, I’m not alone.
A 2015 survey conducted by Monster found that 76% of respondents in the US reported having “really bad” Sunday night blues. An informal 2018 survey from Linkedin stated that 80% of those surveyed said they experienced anxiety on Sunday nights.
So, what can we do to overcome the “Sunday Scaries”? Give these 8 proven tactics a try.
1. Identify your triggers.
The first step is getting to the root cause of your anxiety. Obviously, this is going to be different for everyone. But, some common culprits could be:
- Working in a toxic work environment.
- You’re not excited, engaged, or motivated with your work.
- You’re burned out or have taken on too many responsibilities.
- You feel underappreciated.
- Your work is either too easy or too challenging.
- You’re concerned about meeting a deadline.
- You have to give a presentation and have stage fright.
To get to the bottom of this, spend some time alone asking yourself why you feel this way. You can then figure out ways to reframe your thoughts. For example, you can remind yourself that you’ve never missed a deadline or reconnecting with your “why.”
2. Prep your week on Friday.
“Use the weekend to recharge — fully — and then be ready to face the music on Monday,” says Sarah Knight, author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck.” In other words, spend your valuable time during the weekend however you want.
Does that mean pushing your responsibilities and obligations off till Monday morning? Of course not. That’s just a recipe for disaster.
Instead, do next week’s planning and organizing at the end of the workday on Friday — or whenever your workweek wraps up. Time management expert Laura Vanderkam writes that spending 10 minutes doing this on Friday will make your Mondays 10 times easier.
3. Make Sundays special or sacred.
Unless you are fortunate enough to have a flexible schedule or a 4-day workweek, most people only have two days off each week. So, you need to make the most of the time you have off.
At the same time, you don’t want to overextend yourself. I mean, going whitewater rafting would be a blast. But, if you did that on Sunday, you’re probably going to be exhausted when the alarm goes off on Monday morning.
The key is to spend your Sundays on relaxing and restorative activities. These differ from person to person. However, some suggestions would be catching up on the latest episode of your favorite TV series, reading, journaling, spending time outside, and Sunday dinner with family or friends.
Having something to look forward to on Sunday can be a healthy distraction. More importantly, it can leave you feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the new week.
What about errands or household chores? Personally, I attend to these on Saturday mornings. I actually don’t mind cleaning or prepping my meaks for the week, so sometimes I wait until Sunday if it’s been a long week. And, if I’m just lounging around watching football, I might review my calendar for the week or clean out my inbox.
In most cases, though, knocking them out earlier in the weekend will get them done and over with. It’s like what Wayne Campbell said to Jim Morrison; Right, it’s like coming home on Friday night and doing your homework right away so that your Saturday night is free to just party.”
4. Schedule a Monday mood lifter.
“The flip side of anticipatory anxiety is looking forward to an upcoming event,” writes Aytekin Tank, CEO, and founder of JotForm, for Fast Company. “Whenever possible, schedule something uplifting on Monday.” Examples include a coffee date with a friend, going to an exercise class or a music lesson, or attending a workshop.
“For added benefits, spend time with friends and family,” adds Tank. “When researchers from Rochester University studied the ‘weekend effect,’ they learned that autonomy and connectedness influenced the higher levels of well-being than people report on Saturday and Sunday.” So go ahead and make social plans so that “those good weekend vibes” will extend into the workweek.
5. Make a “problem solving” list.
“One simple yet effective system for problem-solving is making problem-solving lists,” recommends Talkspace therapist Jor-El Caraballo, LMHC. “These will help you get started with whatever task or project on your plate. We find complex tasks to be daunting for most of us since “we are not sure how to get started. Identifying actionable sub-items for such large tasks can help you make the first step.”
To get started, Caraballo suggests “drawing a vertical column down a sheet of paper.” Next, jot down “all the problems that you think you’ll face on Monday” in the left-hand column. “Write down the meetings that you’re worried about, the tasks that need your attention, or projects that need a bit more finesse from you.”
After that, list “one single task that you can do in the next 24 hours to reduce the magnitude of that problem.” You’ll want to write these out in the right-hand column.”
Engaging in this activity can help you prioritize your problems, fears, and concerns. You may notice that some of them aren’t worth getting worked up over. As for the ones that need to be addressed, seeing them written down can guide you in finding solutions.
6. Implement a Sunday evening routine.
Personally, Sunday nights have always been dreadful. You could have had a relaxing or “Sunday Funday.” But then the good times are over, and you know that very shortly, you’ll have to get down to brass tacks.
To counter this, you should have a Sunday evening routine. Ideally, your Sunday nights should contain calming activities, allow you to decompress, and provide a little distraction. Some ideas would be taking a bath/shower, watching some original HBO programming, going over your to-do-list, and reading in bed.
How you spend your Sunday nights is up to you. The key is to be consistent and not to engage in things that you’ll regret. For example, it’s watching your team play on Sunday Night Football is fine. But, going to the bar for the game with your friends isn’t the smartest move.
7. Rearrange your schedule.
Not everyone can do this. But, if you can, you might want to shift your work schedule around. As opposed to diving directly into your work Monday morning, you could spend that time on creative tasks, like planning your content calendar.
That doesn’t mean you should goof-off on Monday. Rather, it’s all about shuffling your schedule that best suits you. You can do this by when you’re biological prime time or when you feel more at ease.
8. Make a (drastic) change.
If this is a recurring problem, then you might want to go to the last resort. By that, I mean finding a new job. Or, finally starting your own business.
Yes, this is easier said than done. But, life is too short to spend your Sundays in terror — which can do some serious harm to health and wellbeing. Instead, you should do something that will make you actually look forward to Mondays.