Sundays have traditionally been set aside for relaxing and recharging after slogging through the demanding workweek. However, in the modern era of hustle culture and girl-bossing, this day of leisure has been flipped on its head, becoming a day for worrying about the future and the overwhelming burden that will come, a phenomena known as “the Sunday Scaries.”
In fact, in 2021, 14% of American adults said they had the Sunday Scaries every single week. According to a YouGov survey of more than 30,400 persons, that percentage increased to 27% among those who said they “hated” their jobs. It should come as no surprise that all this stress can negatively impact both your emotional and physical health.
Fortunately, there are actions you may take today and in the future to put an end to your Sunday Scaries. Here’s your strategy for doing that.
WHY ARE SUNDAY SCARS SCARY? According to Michelle Dean, L.P.C. , a therapist with Connections Wellness Group in Denton, Texas, the Sunday Scaries are exactly what their name implies: emotions of worry, dread, or impending doom about the next week that often appear on Sunday afternoon and evening. According to Leah Katz, Ph.D. , a clinical psychologist in Portland, Oregon, “I suppose I would describe it as simply this simmering feeling of discomfort and dread that comes with knowing we have to step into a fresh new week on Monday and we have to let go of the freedom of the weekend.”
According to Dean, the motivation behind the Sunday Scaries could be as straightforward as the thought of a challenging work week or needing to complete a big assignment. And if you really detest your job, you can experience this feeling of dread every single week. “If you’ve had a couple of the Sunday Scaries, it can become this conditioned response that you have because your brain is interpreting the approaching week as a threat,” she says.
Even if there isn’t a “danger,” some people may still experience the Sunday Scaries on a regular basis. According to Katz, if you have a tendency to ruminate more, overthink things, and analyze things excessively, you might be more drawn to the Sunday Scaries because of your propensity for doing so. The same is true for people who tend to focus on a situation’s drawbacks rather than its positive and exciting features, she continues.
SUNDAY TERROR SYMPTOMS AND SIGNIFICANCE Your brain’s fight-or-flight reaction may be triggered when you start feeling nervous about your Monday to-do list or fretting about an approaching deadline, according to Dean. She notes that if these symptoms occur at night, you can have problems falling asleep because your breath might quicken, your pulse might beat, your muscles might tense up, and your blood pressure might increase.
Sometimes you may simply freeze. Dean adds that it “may be paralyzing too.” “Sometimes, staying in bed on a Sunday keeps you from doing anything and prevents you from having fun. All you are doing is lying there worried about what will happen on Monday, thinking, “I don’t think I’ll have enough time to do this,” or simply feeling overburdened with your personal and professional lives.”
According to Katz, this worrying about the future can make you less present, which in turn can make your Sunday Scaries worse. The Sunday Scaries, she continues, “take away from what we do have, which is a horrible thing.” You still have the weekend and this period of time to enjoy yourself, but because we are preoccupied with the future, it is harder for us to appreciate the present.
THE SUNDAY SCARIES’ IMPACT When you encounter the Sunday Scaries on a regular basis, you may be experiencing burnout, which the World Health Organization describes as a syndrome “coming from prolonged occupational stress that hasn’t been adequately controlled.” According to Dean, burnout is typically identified by three distinct traits. She says that if you spend all of your time worrying about your to-do list, your coworkers’ opinions of you, and all the aspects of your job you detest, you’ll feel emotionally fatigued all the time.
Depersonalization, or the emergence of detached or disinterested attitudes toward work, is the second element. Dean claims that by suppressing your worries on an emotional level, you are really preventing yourself from experiencing those feelings fully. “And then you start to feel like you’re just watching yourself do things, like it’s an out-of-body experience.” According to the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine , this burnout symptom might also appear as rude actions or remarks directed at the people who are receiving your work.
According to Dean, if you’re burnt out, you’ll feel less accomplished and won’t enjoy your work and accomplishments as much as you once did. And the damage to your mental health may have an impact on your physical health. Your immune system may be weakened and your body may not heal as quickly due to the stress cycle of feeling burned out and being unable to break it, the expert says. According to research in the journal PLoS One , burnout may also increase your risk of headaches, gastrointestinal difficulties, type 2 diabetes, respiratory troubles, and musculoskeletal pain. It can also make you more susceptible to illnesses like the common cold and the flu.
MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES FOR SUNDAY SCARIES There are certain actions you can take to calm down when you’re having the Sunday Scaries in real time.
ADVANCED JOURNALING According to Katz, by putting your ideas and concerns on paper, you may determine whether they are legitimate, specific issues that are worth worrying about and, if so, come up with a plan of action. Let’s say you’re nervous about the coming week because you’re working on a project that just doesn’t feel right for you and your career aspirations. Writing down the precise elements of the project that are making you anxious gives you the chance to think about what steps you can take to change them, such as asking a coworker to switch jobs with you, advises Katz. Not to mention, she continues, that writing in your journal about all the events you’re looking forward to throughout the week may lessen some of the fear.
GET TRAVELING When you’re anxious and stressed out about work on a Sunday night, Dean advises using all of your adrenaline—the hormone responsible for raising your heart and respiration rates in response to stress—for exercise. Exercise, she says, “is really simply a terrific approach to bring greater clarity and stop your stress cycle.” Plus, “When you have that much adrenaline in your system, you’ll probably be able to run, exercise, and perform all of those tasks much more effectively. I advise folks to perform sit-ups or push-ups in their bedrooms. You can stay home if you want to.”
VALUE YOUR CREATIVITY When you have the Sunday Scaries, Dean suggests that making art, coloring, or using an adult craft kit can all help you relax and get rid of stress. In fact, a small 2016 study discovered that after 45 minutes of creating art, participants’ levels of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, were noticeably lower and they felt more at ease and content.
SET A MONDAY DATE According to Dean, planning out your week and mentally preparing for your impending tasks will help you relax. Do this on Sunday afternoon or evening. She claims that Mondays frequently have a zero to one hundred percent success rate and that this causes worry in everyone. Making plans for your upcoming week on Sunday night helps you avoid feeling overburdened. For instance, if you’re anxious about a project that is due on Friday, take a time to plan out how you’ll work on it during the week. According to Dean, by doing this, you’ll reduce any present-moment tension and have fewer Sunday Scaries that convert into Thursday Scaries.
WAYS TO AVOID SUNDAY SCARIES Thank goodness, the Sunday Scaries don’t have to happen every week. Utilize these strategies to help you remain composed and genuinely enjoy your weekends.
USE YOUR WEEKSENDS WITH MORE INTENT You should plan how you will spend your free time throughout the weekend if you want to completely avoid the Sunday Scaries. According to Katz, “I suppose what happens is that by Sunday, we don’t know what we did and the weekend just flew by.” Therefore, if we use that time with greater intention, “the weekend” may feel more refreshing or may support us more. Make a detailed strategy for how you’re going to recharge and utilize those 48 hours of free time on Friday, she advises. You’ll feel happier about your weekend and be less prone to encounter the Sunday Scaries if you follow through with those goals.
THINKING BACK TO YOUR DAILY ACTIVITIES Write down all the activities you engage in throughout a typical workday, from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed, advises Katz. Then, she advises, put a “N” for “nurturing” or a “D” for “draining” next to each action. You may clearly identify the factors influencing your Sunday Scaries by examining which jobs make you feel nourished and fulfilled and which leave you feeling mentally and physically drained. Then, says Katz, you’ll have time to consider how to modify them so that they are nurturing. It’s about finding a better balance for yourself, she says, because, in reality, there are some things we might be able to change about how we spend our time at work and other times there aren’t. But what else can we adjust and what else can we change?
SPEAK TO A PROFESSIONAL IN MENTAL HEALTH Consider speaking with a mental health professional, advises Dean, if you tried all of these methods to squelch the Sunday Scaries without any improvement in your symptoms or it’s harming your capacity to perform. “I absolutely would think it would be helpful to talk to someone,” she says. “If you’re having a lot of avoidance and then it’s harming your ability to experience that sense of success over the week.”
According to Katz, speaking with a therapist or other specialist will provide you deeper understanding of the root cause of your Sunday Scaries. In addition, Dean stresses that working one-on-one with a professional will enable you to face your Sunday Scaries in the manner that will be most effective for you. “It’s vital to find someone to help you get the necessary resources that are going to help you,” she advises. “If someone is suffering other pressures, there is an inability to exercise, or there are no resources to accomplish some of the things I said.” “Everyone is unique.”