What are they?
The Sunday Scaries are pretty universal to the human experience. Occurring exclusively on the last day of the weekend or the day before you have to return to work after some time off, the Sunday Scaries consist of that pit-in-your-stomach, dread-filled, anxiety-inducing knowledge that the weekend is over and another work week is about to begin again.
The term basically refers to that sense of trepidation you feel at having to face another week from the beginning all over again. Not only do the Sunday Scaries give you anxiety, but they give you anxiety so strong that you can’t even enjoy what little weekend you have left. Typically, you end up unable to relax at all after the Sunday Scaries hit and just sit staring at the clock, ruing every wasted, passing hour.
Why do they happen?
Let me paint a picture for you: Imagine it’s Sunday afternoon. You just had a great weekend filled with relaxation time, lazy mornings, and just a hint of productivity (in my opinion, this is the recipe for a perfect weekend). You’re relaxing on your couch watching the Great British Baking Show for the billionth time and reflecting on how refreshed you feel after such a lovely couple of days off. Suddenly you recall the reason why a couple of days off felt so needed.
You remember how last week you had been so stressed at work because several deadlines all seemed to align on your busiest day. You had realized a day late that you had missed one of those deadlines and had gotten chewed out by one of your coworkers via email with your direct supervisor CC’d. Not only all of that, but on Wednesday morning you woke up to find your car with a flat tire (you knew you should have checked it more thoroughly after accidentally driving over that pothole on the freeway on Monday while you were driving home). Overall, it had felt like such a long and tiring week, and you had felt so ready to just take some time to recharge.
But now, on Sunday afternoon, with only a few hours of weekend remaining and Monday morning looming on the horizon, you are faced with the tragic truth: The weekend is over and you’re about to face a new week, probably equally stressful to the last. What horrors may lie before you? Only Monday will tell, so you’d better waste your last seven hours of free time worrying about all the awful possibilities (at least, that’s what the Sunday Scaries tell you to do).
How can we cope?
Obviously, feeling gut-wrenching anxiety about once a week isn’t the most pleasant experience. There must be another way! The good news is, there definitely are other ways. The bad news is, most likely none of them will completely eradicate the Sunday Scaries to the point of extinction. But maybe, throwing one or two of these ideas into practice will allow you to reclaim some of those last moments of recuperation time before Monday morning actually arrives. Here are four ideas to beat the Sunday Scaries and take back your weekend!
1. Make Sundays for relaxation only.
I speak from experience when I say that it’s easy to leave all your chores and errands to do on Sunday. Sundays often become a sort of “catch-up” day for a lot of people. It’s the day you clean, pick up groceries, wash your bedsheets, put gas in the car, etc. And I totally get why we do it too! We’re so exhausted after the long work week that we just want to finally get to the relaxing part of the weekend. Unfortunately, this sets us up for greater anxiety by the end of it. When we leave all our chores for Sunday, we usually end up dealing with anxiety about that in addition to the standard Sunday Scaries anxiety. Here’s my first tip: Get all your errands and chores out of the way before Sunday arrives. Reserve Sundays for relaxation only. If you have any tasks to cross off before Monday morning, do them on Friday or Saturday. Don’t needlessly double your Sunday apprehension!
2. Plan something you’ll look forward to on Sunday night.
So now you’ve booked yourself a full day of relaxation every Sunday. But what more can you do? Make yourself even more excited for Sunday to arrive! Plan something you always look forward to doing, even if it’s seemingly small. Examples might include ordering takeout, watching a favorite movie or TV show, lighting a lovely-smelling candle, putting on your coziest pajamas, or taking a slow stroll around the neighborhood while listening to your favorite podcast or playlist. The options are endless. Whatever it is, make it something that you’ll truly feel eager to experience on Sunday evening and you might just replace your worry with excitement!
3. Practice anxiety-reduction techniques.
Let’s say you’ve done tips 1 and 2 and you’re still feeling the Scaries creeping up on you. You’re not alone! Making Sundays more enjoyable is not the end-all-be-all of eradicating your Monday apprehension. In fact, it’s usually not that easy. So what now? My next tip is to face that fear head-on with some anxiety-reduction techniques. The goal is to do something that will regulate your autonomic nervous system (which controls your “fight-or-flight” anxiety response) and activate your parasympathetic nervous system (which is responsible for rest and recovery from stress). Here are some ideas for you: Spending time outside, deep breathing, exercise, meditation or mindfulness, playing with your pet, taking a cool shower, or visualizing a calm space. If you aren’t sure what to try, a therapist is a great resource! We would love to brainstorm self-care and calming activities with you.
4. Prepare for Monday morning ahead of time.
If your worry just refuses to be kicked out, you can at least give yourself fewer things to feel anxious about on Sunday night. Ask yourself, “What can I do to feel more prepared for Monday morning?” and then try to accomplish at least 2 or 3 of the things you come up with before you go to sleep on Sunday. Some things I usually do are pack my lunch, lay out my clothes for the next day (including shoes!), fill out my planner or to-do list for the week, set my alarm, and get out a mug to use for my coffee in the morning. What helps you feel prepared for a new week might be completely different than me though, so focus on what really is going to set you up for success when you step out of bed the next day.
If all else fails, remind yourself that you can always do your best and be proud of how hard you are trying, even when things aren’t going your way. Let’s start this new week off strong!
If you’re interested in meeting with a therapist to get some insight on your personal Sunday Scaries, or if you just want to talk about life in general, the therapists at EVOLVEwithin would love to help! Give us a call at (262) 649-3297 or visit our website to learn more or to request an appointment. We can’t wait to get to know you!
Article contribution by Tabitha Schroeder, MS, MFT-IT