Updated on 11/3/2020
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? If so, then you have probably experienced the “Sunday Scaries,” also known as the “Sunday blues.”
This anticipatory anxiety about the coming week seems to be especially common these days. As a culture, we’re often overworked and underappreciated, and often we struggle to manage a balance between our work and personal lives. For these reasons, the sharp transition from a leisurely weekend to an intensive work week is especially difficult and contributes to the feeling we associate with the Sunday Scaries. Sometimes, the Sunday scaries might make you feel like you’re dreading heading back to work the following day, or maybe it’s just a general sense of overwhelm about all of the tasks waiting for you the next following week. If you have ever felt the Monday morning blues, just think of the Sunday Scaries as the appetizer to a Monday blues’ entrée.
This anxiety that many of us feel on Sundays not only marks the upcoming workweek (and the responsibilities that lie ahead), but may also be a period of mourning after some much-needed down time of relaxation with friends or loved ones. Simply put, Sunday reminds us that the weekend is almost over. The Sunday Scaries make us realize that the fun is over and now we have to get back to our busy work routine — we have to hit the ground running all over again!
What Are the Sunday Scaries All About?
While it may be easy to think that the Sunday Scaries are caused by some clinical condition, that’s not necessarily the case. Many folks, with and without a condition like generalized anxiety disorder, might experience the Sunday Scaries — even therapists and psychiatrists.
It’s normal to have some anxiety, or even dread, about the upcoming workweek. For some it is simply the anticipation of those competing responsibilities coming to a head. We consider how we’re going to get everything done and still be a good friend, partner, parent, etc. It’s daunting to consider.
For others, the Sunday Scaries could be a sign of something deeper. Perhaps you don’t enjoy your current path. Maybe you aren’t taking good enough care of yourself and prioritizing your health regularly. Perhaps you hate your job or the environment you find yourself in, and it’s been slowly eating away at you for some time.
Pausing to reflect on your feelings, and what may be going on underneath the surface, is helpful in differentiating between a simple case of the Sunday Scaries and something else that requires more pointed attention.
Working Through the Sunday Scaries
There are a lot of different ways to address the Sunday blues, as the experience is highly individualized. What might work for you, may not work for someone else. Therefore, you may have to experiment a little though trial and error to figure out what works best for you.
For those who find themselves worried about certain projects or tasks, focusing on the process of problem solving may offer some relief from your Sunday Scaries.
Start with relaxation techniques for a less anxious mind
In most cases, we feel anxious or stressed about something because we don’t have sufficient problem solving skills to manage it well. In fact, research indicates that anxiety prevents us from problem solving like we would normally. Relaxation techniques can help you reduce your anxiety yourself, whenever you need to. This is why, among many therapists, relaxation techniques are highly favorable anxiety-reducing strategies.
Some grounding techniques you can practice on your own include physical activities like breathing exercises, stretches, working out, and meditation. Other cognitive methods include distraction — listening to music, talking to someone, and interacting with a pet. Find whichever makes you feel better about your anxiety and the week to come, and use it whenever you feel the Sunday Scaries.
Make a “problem solving” list
One simple, yet effective system for problem solving is making problem solving lists. These will help you get started with whatever task or project on your plate. Often, a complex task can be daunting because we are not sure how to get started. Identifying actionable sub-items for such large tasks can help you make the first step.
Start off by drawing a vertical column down a sheet of paper.
In the left hand column, write down a list of all the problems that you think you’ll face on Monday of the week ahead. 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. Then, in a right hand column, inline with each problem, write out one single task that you can do in the next 24 hours to reduce the magnitude of that problem.
Keep tasks small and achievable
The key to effective problem solving is to make those tasks small and tangible. Try simplifying your to-do items into simple, individual tasks. Too often we get wrapped up in the broader strategies, which only contribute to our anxiety. Simple problem solving helps us focus on actions we can take to improve our issues immediately, one step at a time. And once we have actionable steps to execute, we feel a lot more in control. It also gives us a better perspective on a large task, which can be daunting to conceive as a whole but straightforward when you break it down to simpler, more digestible, tasks. This method helps lessen anxiety and the overwhelming fear that often comes with the Sunday Scaries.
Rely on What Works Best for You
More effective problem solving might alleviate the Sunday Scaries for some, and may not work for others. That’s OK. Take time to figure out what works best for you in soothing your anxiety about the upcoming week. The Sunday Scaries can feel overwhelming, but remember, since the beginning of the workweek is inevitable, it is better to take proactive steps to minimize the scaries’ impact on your anxiety and help you cherish the down-time you get over weekends.
And if you have a hard time doing so, you can always consult with a licensed therapist who can set up an effective, individualized plan to get your Sunday Scaries under control once and for all.