Ah, the “Sunday scaries.”
You’ve been enjoying a great weekend, and then all of a sudden there’s a feeling of dread as Sunday approaches its end. Even though you’re still technically in break mode, you start feeling overwhelmed and anxious about everything that’s waiting for you on Monday morning and the week ahead.
The good news is that it’s a totally common and normal feeling to have that feeling. In fact, a recent LinkedIn survey found that 75% of working Americans say they experience the Sunday scaries. But even so, it can make you sad and stressed out — not a great way to set the tone for the week.
What causes Sunday scaries?
Jessica Stern, Ph.D., clinical psychologist at the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Center at NYU Langone Health, describes the Sunday scaries as a series of experiences people have that include things like anxiety, sadness and a feeling of being overwhelmed. “It tends to creep up on a Sunday, often in the afternoon or evening, but really it can be any time,” she explains to TODAY.com.
The feeling is usually caused by having to say goodbye to the fun relaxing weekend and/or the realization that you need to face all of your upcoming responsibilities in the week ahead.
What do Sunday scaries mean?
If you experience Sunday scaries, that may be a sign there's a stressor at work that you haven't addressed, Dr. Sue Varma, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the NYU Langone, told NBC News in a May 21 segment. She added that Sunday scaries can sometimes feel like your heart racing, your palms sweating, waking up with a jolt of anxiety or struggling to fall asleep.
"To me, the Sunday scaries are an opportunity to have a conversation with yourself or someone that cares about you, to be like, 'Why is this that every Sunday I'm feeling a sense of panic and dread?'"
While you can’t change everything you’re dreading (like that meeting with your boss), there are ways to make your Sunday feel less blue.
Below, Stern shares some tips for making small changes that can add some joy to your routine and help you prepare for a week of going to an office, working from home or taking care of your kids.
How to get rid of Sunday scaries
1. Set aside some time on Sunday to unwind
“If someone can create some sort of routine for themselves on Sunday, that can be really helpful to prepare for the upcoming week and also wind down from the weekend,” Stern said. “Maybe that means planning to do tasks for the upcoming week, meal planning, getting a workout or exercise in or looking ahead at your calendar.”
Make it a routine and set aside some time every Sunday (whether that’s 10 minutes or an hour) to do it.
You can also try to integrate something physical and fun into your Sunday routine; exercise and movement can combat anxiety.
2. Keep track of your Sunday feelings
“Track what you’re feeling over the course of your Sunday,” Stern suggests. “Any worries or concerns you have, write it down. That way you can keep track of it and look for patterns. And if there’s a particular sense or worry or sadness that comes up, then you can keep track of that and find how best to tackle that.
For example, if you keep feeling overwhelmed about how much work you have to get done over the week, you can think of ways to tackle that like delegating tasks or asking for an extension.
3. Plan your Monday morning
“A lot of times people feel overwhelmed on Monday morning, which is what leads to the Sunday blues,” she said. “If you can strategize about what your Monday morning is going to look like as much as possible, that might make you feel more comfortable about your upcoming week and could increase your quality of sleep on Sunday night.”
Pick out your outfit, plan your breakfast, check your schedule and. try to avoid scheduling anything important or stressful for first thing Monday. And if it makes you feel better to check your email so you know what you’re coming into for the week, do it. But Stern warns that you should also have boundaries.
“If you’re going to check an email, have a sense as to what you’re going to do with that email on a Sunday night,” she said. “Know which emails you’re not going to respond to until Monday morning. Make sure you’re not getting into anything you don’t need to do. Create some rules for yourself to protect your well-being.”
4. Treat yourself
Have something fun to look forward to on Monday morning. “Plan a light little treat as motivation to get started, so maybe that means having your favorite coffee variation, creating a fun playlist that you play on your commute to the office or downloading new podcasts,” Stern suggested. Doing something for yourself will give you a sense of excitement.
This trick is also especially helpful if you stay at home with kids, she said. “Something that is designated for you can be really helpful, otherwise you could get unintentionally lost in your kids’ routines.”
5. Transition from home life to work life
If you work from home, Stern suggests doing something that helps establish that you’ve shifted gears into your professional life. “Maybe that means picking out an outfit that is slightly elevated sweats or sitting in a designated spot that reminds you that you’re in work mode,” she said.
And since you don’t have a commute, she suggests creating some sort of benchmark to help you get into the work zone. “What can be really helpful is to almost create a fake commute or replace your commute with 20 minutes or half an hour or an hour where it’s a transitionary time to do personal stuff: going for a walk, workout, meditating or reading your favorite book.”