What Are the Sunday Scaries?

Awake at night.

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Have you ever had a great weekend, only to find that around midday on Sunday (or Sunday night) you’re hit with a sense of worry or dread about the upcoming work week? You're not alone.

The popular term coined for these feelings are the "Sunday Scaries." Here's what to know about them and how to ease your anxieties.

Weekend to Workweek Transition

The transition from weekend to workweek is something that triggers anxiety. So, when Sunday rolls around, it's common to experience some unpleasant feelings.

Work Burnout

Psychologically, the dread you feel before the workweek begins is a response to the perception of some sort of threat.

In the United States, our society encourages us to work hard, resulting in many people working at all hours of the day and night to feel secure in their job or be able to make ends meet.

For some of us, our job is our identity and therefore we become addicted to working, a term often known as “workaholic.”

We often struggle to manage a balance between our work and personal lives and as a result, the sharp transition from a leisurely weekend to an intensive workweek is especially difficult and contributes to the feeling we associate with the Sunday Scaries.

When the weekend finally arrives, many people spend their Saturday catching up on house chores, errands, and loose ends, leaving Sunday the only day for relaxation and fun.

One day a week to unwind is not enough, especially when we are living in a society that encourages long workdays and having hobbies, vacations, interests, and activities outside of your job.

Underlying Issues

In pop culture, the Sunday Scaries has become the prelude to the "case of the Mondays." 

It's normal to have some anxiety about the upcoming workweek, after all, juggling a career, a personal life and other responsibilities can be overwhelming. For some people, however, the Sunday Scaries could be a sign of a deeper underlying problem.

Perhaps you don’t enjoy your current career path. Maybe you aren’t taking good enough care of yourself and your stress and personal life are seeping into your work life.

Maybe you hate your job or you are in a toxic work environment and it’s been slowly eating away at you for some time.

Taking time to reflect on your feelings to figure out if something is going on underneath the surface that is triggering this anxiety and fear, can help differentiate between a simple case of the Sunday Scaries and something more serious that requires meaningful attention. 

How To Deal With the Sunday Scaries

If you're dealing with the Sunday Scaries, here are some ways you can manage the anxiety you feel at the start of the workweek.

Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is a beautiful thing and can do wonders for our mental and physical health. Many of us will skip out on sleep during the work week and try to catch up on the weekends, a term known as “sleep debt”.

Studies have shown that catching up on sleep during the weekends has the same effects as those who remained sleep-deprived across a weekend without catch up sleep.

The study found that individuals who are sleep deprived showed measurable differences in:

  • Excess calorie intake after dinner
  • Reduced energy expenditure
  • Increased weight gain
  • Detrimental changes in how the body uses insulin.

Lack of sleep has also been shown to cause an increase in depression, anxiety, and mood changes. Although we can’t undo the impact of short sleep by trying to oversleep on the weekends, we can try to carve out a bit more time for sleep at night during the week and improve behaviors that lead to better sleep:

  • Stick to the same sleep/wake cycle: Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time throughout the week—even on weekends. A regular wake time helps to set your body’s natural clock (circadian rhythm) by making sure you do not oversleep.
  • Create a comfortable sleep environment: Invest in your bed and bedding and make sure your bedroom is relaxing, dark, and cool. The National Sleep Foundation recommends putting away and turning off all electronics away at least one hour before bedtime. Make sure to only use your bedroom for sleep. 
  • Avoid/limit caffeine and alcohol throughout the day: Avoid drinking caffeine in the afternoon and avoid alcohol a couple of hours before bed. Caffeine can prevent you from falling asleep and alcohol is known to decrease sleep latency, meaning more nighttime awakenings. 
  • Try a "brain dump," or worry log: If you struggle with racing thoughts and anxiety on Sunday nights, doing a "brain dump" as part of your bedtime routine can help prepare your mind for sleep, says Rachel Goldman, PhD, FTOS, a licensed psychologist specializing in health and wellness.

Create a Healthy Work-Life Balance

Our careers are important but so are our personal lives. It is important to be able to make clear boundaries between our personal and professional lives meaning we shouldn’t take our work home with us and we should not allow our emotions and home life to interfere with our work. If you work from home, this can be a bit more challenging. If possible, designate a work space in your home so you're not working in your living room. Sticking to a schedule and setting boundaries can also help.

To avoid having work anxiety on Sunday night, we can take steps to live a fulfilling personal life so our weekends are fun and refreshing instead of filled with tasks and anxiety.

What To Do When the Workweek Ends

When you come home from work during the week, take some time to unwind from the workday stress then concentrate on your home life, whether that is spending time with family, running errands, finishing house chores, enjoying time outside, or making a nutritious dinner.

When you leave work, whether that means leaving the office or turning off your home computer, it is important to mentally leave work and fully embrace your personal time.

Leave Your Personal Life at Home

When you are at work, try your best to check your personal stressors and issues at the door and only concentrate on the work task at hand.

Creating clear-cut work/personal life boundaries can enable you to enjoy and appreciate your time away from the office that much more. 

If you are working from home, setting boundaries of when to start working (and stop!) can help keep your work and personal life separate.

Find Your Office Tribe

Often, the “Sunday Scaries” hit us because our work environment is not ideal. Many of us cannot just walk away from our jobs because we have bills to pay so even if our jobs are stressful or we are unhappy, we must find a way to make it work.

We often meet some of our lifelong and best friends through work and therefore it is important to try to bond with co-workers who we can rely on for support.

When you have friends in the office, it makes work that much more bearable and sometimes even enjoyable. Work friends can also give you advice if you are having trouble in the office, as it is always nice to rely on individuals who understand what you are going through. 

Step Away From Electronics

Your weekends are your time to relax and unwind but often we are glued to our phones, checking our work emails, which can create a lot of unnecessary “noise” and stress.

Although it is tempting to want to glance at your emails over the weekend to stay on top of any major issues and gear you up for the following week, it is a soul-sucking task that will leave you feeling drained, resentful, and not very fun to be around.

Unless your job requires you to be on call, many people find it helpful to deactivate all work notifications over the weekend to avoid having their phone become a source of anxiety.

That said, for some people, "a Sunday well spent brings a week of content," explains Dr. Goldman, "and spending on hour checking emails or reviewing your upcoming work schedule can help alleviate the 'Sunday Scaries' because you know what you're walking into on Monday."

Carve out the rest of the day to spend time in the outdoors or around friends and family to make it much easier to unplug from electronics. 

Adopt Relaxation Techniques

If you start feeling anxious on Sunday afternoon or evening, try doing things that calm your nerves:

  • Exercise
  • Take a hot bath
  • Read a book
  • Stretch
  • Listen to music
  • Play with your dog
  • Meditate
  • Go for a nature walk

"No matter what you pick, make sure it is relaxing and distracting," says Dr. Goldman. "You don't want to be in the bathtub and have your mind still at work. Find things that truly relax you and take you out of your work head."

It is important to maximize your time away from the office—find whatever methods make you feel better about your anxiety and the week to come and use it whenever you feel the Sunday Scaries.

Plan Something Fun For Sunday Evening

Planning something fun on Sundays can help take your mind off returning to work on Monday.

  • Try cooking a new recipe every Sunday night (and make plenty of leftovers for the rest of the week)
  • Join a fitness studio and attend a Sunday evening workout class
  • Make dinner plans or game night plans with friends to help you take your mind off the upcoming workweek

Try these tips so you can embrace and relish in your last few moments of the weekend.

Embrace Saturdays Too

You have two days off to enjoy yourself and not be bogged down with work tasks. Spend your weekend enjoying yourself and relaxing.

Use your weekends to have fun, enjoy your hobbies, get outside and even go on “mini weekend trips.”

Maybe some weekends you want to be lazy and watch movies on the couch. Whatever you choose to do on your weekends, make sure you feel relaxed and re-charged.

Write Down Lists and Schedules

Organization is key to time management. Keep a “to do” calendar at work and a separate “to do” calendar at home.

Writing your daily and weekly tasks, not only can help hold you accountable but it can also make break these tasks into smaller chunks which can be much more achievable compared to big daunting projects.

Once completed, check off that task and pat yourself on the back. Organization and sticking to a plan is so important to beat off the “Sunday Scaries.”

Don’t Let Errands and Chores Pile Up

We are all guilty of using our weekends to clean the house, meal prep, grocery shop, and finish our endless “to do” list, however, this only creates more anxiety about returning to work on Monday since we never were able to fully enjoy our weekend.

Instead of piling up all these chores for the weekends, spend time each day chipping away at the chore list.

Maybe that means spending 20 minutes each evening after work cleaning the house or dedicating one night of the week to grocery shopping or meal prepping.

Completing your weekly chore list throughout the week means that you will have more free time on the weekend to fully unwind and recharge, which can do wonders for your mental health. 

Treat Yourself on Mondays

Don’t allow going back into the office Monday morning to doom the rest of your workweek, instead schedule something fun every Monday.

Maybe Mondays are the day you get delivery for dinner and binge watch Netflix, or take yourself out for lunch at your favorite deli.

Pick something you look forward to, no matter how small, and make it your Monday thing.

Don’t Overbook Yourself

Sometimes we dread the upcoming week because our schedules are too packed. Maybe you are in a softball league that meets one night a week and attend workout classes and book club that take up the other three nights of your week.

Having plans every night after work, although can be fun in the short term, can leave you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed during the long haul.

Try dedicating only one to two nights each week to set plans, which include social events and workout classes, while leaving the rest of your evenings free to spend time by yourself, with family or catching up on chores and errands, so they don’t get piled up for the weekend.

When every week involves running nonstop from one commitment to the next, even if these commitments do not seem stressful, you will most likely be too drained to use your weekends productively, much less enjoy it.  

Talk to a Therapist

As previously mentioned, sometimes the Sunday Scaries can be a sign of something deeper that needs to be addressed.

A therapist can help you identify underlying triggers that are contributing to your stress and anxiety and can provide with you healthy coping skills to help you work through your problems.

Maybe you are in a toxic home or work environment and do not recognize it or maybe you have underlying past trauma or other negative experiences that have not yet been addressed.

Maybe you have anxiety or depression and you are chalking up these feelings to the Sunday Scaries when they are in fact, treatable mental health disorders.

Pay attention to the anxiety that begins earlier and earlier each week or never seems to go away, especially if it occurs alongside other symptoms such as:

  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Emotional numbness
  • Fatigue

If you notice these or find that you struggle to enjoy your usual activities, it may be time to consider seeking some professional help.

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