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How to beat the 'Sunday scaries': 5 ways to feel less anxious

The Sunday scaries are no joke. Here's how to combat the weekly anxiety and stress so you can start your week on the right foot.
Here are some tips to add some joy to your routine and help you prepare for the week, whether you're going to an office, working from home or taking care of your kids.
Here are some tips to add some joy to your routine and help you prepare for the week, whether you're going to an office, working from home or taking care of your kids.TODAY Illustration / Getty Images
/ Source: TMRW

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. But even so, it can make you sad and stressed out — not a great way to set the tone for the week.

Jessica Stern, PhD, 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 explained to TMRW.

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.

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.

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.

2. Keep track of your Sunday feelings

Woman writing, mid section, close-up
Write down what makes you sad on Sundays so you can figure out a way to change it.Sami Sarkis / Getty Images

“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

Good style starts in the morning
Pick out your outfit on Sunday night to feel more prepared (and less stressed) on Monday morning.Getty Images

“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 and check your schedule. 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

Stylish man drinking hot drink from reusable cup while traveling by train
Plan to treat yourself to a cup of your favorite coffee on Monday morning — that way you have something to look forward to on Sunday night. Westend61 / Getty Images

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

Woman putting on shirt in bedroom
Going into work mode on Monday morning can help you better transition into the work week. Rafa Elias / Getty Images

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.”