8 Science-Backed Ways to Eliminate Sunday Scaries
The weekend comes in stages: Friday night rolls around and you're elated; then Saturday ushers in and you're equally excited—you've got the whole day ahead of you to either seize or veg out on the couch (your call!). But—dun dun dunnnn—then comes Sunday. The weekend is nearing its end, and before you know it, you're faced with Monday morning again. No more time off, no more rest and relaxation, just five more days of work ahead of you.
The feeling of dread on a Sunday afternoon/evening is so universally felt that it's got a name: the Sunday scaries. Whether you like your job or not, it's easy to feel resentment at the end of a break, like your freedom is slowly being stripped away.
"A lot of people not only feel anxious about the workweek ahead but can even feel depressed about the weekend ending," explains Heather Silvestri, an NYC-based psychologist. "Anxiety is typically due to persistent thoughts about things we cannot control, and a pessimistic perception or expectation about events that have yet to happen. A person's outlook about what's ahead determines their feelings about it. When we look at the coming workweek optimistically, even with excitement, then Sundays aren't scary."
So how do we reach that level of Sunday night optimism? We spoke with Silvestri and Sanam Hafeez, another New York psychologist, for their best tips to calm your nerves and head into the week feeling confident and relaxed. Keep scrolling to rid those Sunday blues!
Get a Gratitude Journal
"Write out a weekly to-do list. When you manage all that needs to be done, you feel like you have more control over it," explains Hafeez.
Make a List
On that note, write down positive affirmations, too. "Spending just a few minutes of your Sunday reflecting on what's good and present in your life helps ease the artificial divide between the workweek and weekend," says Silvestri. "Gratitude stabilizes us and encourages balance."
"Ask your partner to take on some tasks, and ask co-workers to take on new projects with your supervision," says Hafeez. "Write down what needs to get done and who you think would be a great person to delegate to. Asking for help is something we struggle with, and you'll be shocked at how many people are willing to lend a hand but presume you have it all under control."
Plan Some "Me Time"
"People tend to pack a lot into their weekends. Then when it all ends, it occurs to them that the weekend is over," explains Hafeez. "Make the time between 7 and 10 p.m. on a Sunday to wind down off the weekend and recharge for the week ahead. Write in a journal, take a shower, listen to music, or whatever puts you in a calm, feel-good place."
"Starting and ending the day with just 10 minutes of meditation, lying or sitting still and breathing, can be a game changer," says Hafeez. "Paying attention to your breathing is a great way to manage anxiety and pivot concerning thoughts to thinking of the best possible outcome."
Next up, make a point of exercising. "But not with a stringent goal," cautions Silvestri. "The point of the activity should be to enjoy your time and feel energized and active, not to produce yet another success. The success is giving yourself time to engage your body and mind in vigorous, healthy activity." She suggests movement such as walking and hiking, saying that outdoor activity can connect us to forces greater than ourselves and promote perspective.
Make a Phone Call
"Call—actually call—a friend or relative whom you haven't seen in some time," Silvestri advises. "Connection helps to energize and reassure us. And connecting with someone with whom you've been out of touch can disrupt habituated stress reactions, like Monday morning apprehension. What a better way it is to start your workweek thinking about all you just learned about someone important to you and feeling closer to them."
Hafeez suggests planning a weekend treat (like a spa trip) for the following weekend so you have something to look forward to during the workweek, making things a bit less painful.
But what if the Sunday scaries are more than just feelings of stress and dread? "When you notice a physical manifestation, illnesses, chronic headaches, frequent colds, and just a lethargic run-down feeling, your anxiety needs to be taken more seriously," warns Hafeez. "Also, when you seem to be using the weekends as a release from the weekdays with excessive partying, this could be a sign of a larger problem." If your apprehension is rising to a level of panic and physical ailments, consult with a therapist to understand what's driving your anxiety and to help better manage it.
Comment below with your tips for warding off Sunday scaries!