Sunday Scaries Are Real—Here Are 9 Ways to Cope
Tell me if this sounds familiar: it’s Sunday afternoon, just as the sun is getting ready to set. For the most part, you’ve enjoyed the weekend or at least enjoyed time away from the job. Then it hits you: Monday is mere hours away. And you begin to feel unsettled or even anxious. Why are you feeling these “Sunday scaries”? More importantly, what can you do to make the Sunday scaries go away so you can enjoy every moment of your weekend?
Sunday Scaries: What are They?
Just as you transition from the work week to the weekend (TGIF), you typically have to transition back into work mode on Sundays. That transition isn’t always easy and often comes with some anxiety as you anticipate the week ahead. After all, there’s so much going on, deadlines to deal with, and perhaps some workplace drama.
If those anxious thoughts build up, they can get the best of us and increase stress levels. If you feel this way, rest assured, you aren’t alone. The Sunday Scaries are both real and really common. They can include:
- Pressing thoughts about the week ahead
- Looming worries
- Increased stress levels
- Sadness that the weekend is coming to a close too soon
- Regret about what you missed out on or didn’t accomplish over the weekend
- A sense of dread or a pit in the bottom of your stomach.
Sunday scaries can even have physical sensations, such as:
- Racing heart rate
- Fatigue or lethargy
- Upset stomach
- Sweating, trembling, or difficulty breathing
- Sleeplessness as you worry about the coming week
How to Cope with the Sunday Scaries
The Sunday scaries aren’t fun. In fact, they’re a real drag on your weekend. So how can you better cope, reduce the scaries, or better yet, avoid them altogether?
1. Start a Weekend Routine
During the week, many of us have routines to make the days easier. We get up at a certain time, have a pretty well-established morning routine (even if that’s just waking up and brushing our teeth), and get to work on time.
Weekends, on the other hand, tend to be less structured or have no structure at all. However, keeping a general routine, even on the weekends, can help you make the most out of the weekend and potentially avoid the Sunday scaries.
2. Stick to Your Regular Sleep-Wake Cycle
Having a consistent sleep-wake cycle is important for maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm and ensuring you get good quality sleep. It also makes for a better Monday morning, which makes for a better Sunday afternoon.
To better get to bed on time and enjoy the cycle, make bedtime a pleasurable endeavor. Turn on some soothing music, lower the lights, warm up with a bath, shower, or just cozy robe and bedding, and perhaps curl up with a good book to help ease into the night.
3. Create a To-Do List
Many of us start each Monday morning with a to-do list of projects we need to accomplish throughout the week. Why not provide the same direction for the weekend to help you prioritize what you want to get done? This can not only help you get the most out of the weekend, but it can also help alleviate stress.
Start with a brain dump and write everything down on Friday afternoon or evening. This list can include random thoughts of things you’d like to get done (e.g., tidying the house, laundry, food prep), people you’d like to see (e.g., friends and family or social events), and even downtime you need (say, Saturday night movie, with popcorn, of course).
Much of the Sunday scaries arrive when you realize you didn’t get everything you wanted to get done over the weekend, and you may regret staying up too long, sleeping in too late, skipping necessary chores or meal prep, or the weekend just got away from you as you binge-watched your favorite show.
4. Start Slowly
If you find that all you do is run, give yourself time for a slow start on Sundays. Wake up at your usual time, but allow yourself to spend some extra time in your jammies, enjoy a leisurely breakfast with time to chat with loved ones, and give yourself time and space to just breathe. Life isn’t a race, and we can all benefit from some downtime every now and again. Indulge in me time to recharge for your week ahead, and make that part of your routine.
That may include cooking a favorite meal while listening to music or an audiobook, meeting up with friends for lunch or a workout, or a stroll through the park as you really take in your natural surroundings.
5. Adjust Your Mindset
Learning to reframe events more positively has a beneficial effect on nearly everything we do. If you find yourself thinking, “I just can’t tomorrow…” reframe it to tell yourself that tomorrow is a new opportunity to learn and grow, to face a new challenge. It takes practice, and you might still catch yourself, but being mindful of your thoughts can allow you to change them.
Remember, though, this is a skill, so be honest yet compassionate with yourself. The glass is neither half full nor half empty—it’s refillable. And you need to refill it throughout the week. Take time Monday through Friday to include things you enjoy, moments of mindfulness, lots of laughter, and gratitude practices to lower stress levels and refill your tank.
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6. Pay Attention to Patterns
Knowing when the Sunday scaries hit can help you adjust your routine to manage the onset. For example, do they occur as you prepare Sunday morning breakfast or brunch, in the afternoon after watching the game, or in the evening while you clean up after dinner? If it happens every week at the same time, paying attention to the patterns can help you find ways to cope. For example, you may want to:
- Pull yourself back to the present moment by focusing on what’s right in front of you (rather than worrying about the week ahead).
- Get moving—choosing a physical activity you enjoy can help you get out of your head and into your body. It can also help you release pent-up energy and adrenaline. Turn up some tunes for a dance party, hit the gym to lift some weights, play with the kids or pets at the park, or tackle a fun household project.
- Start your Monday morning to-do list on Friday before you leave work, so you can get it on paper or computer and out of your head.
- Speaking of which, allow yourself to turn it off over the weekend. The weekend is the time to recharge your batteries rather than get caught up. Whenever possible, put away your phone and computer, and set aside emails or requests from the boss until Monday.
- Limit screentime, especially if you find Sundays are the day you read through the Sunday papers online, and it turns into a seemingly endless doom scroll that leaves your mind racing and your heart (and head) pounding. The same is true of time spent on social media. If it’s leaving you feeling unsettled, give yourself something else to do to make the most of your day.
- Schedule some fun time or downtime during the week. Having something to look forward to during the week can go a long way toward reducing the Sunday scaries. After all, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy…”
7. Create a Weekend-Winddown Routine
Once you know when the Sunday scaries typically hit, you can find ways to soothe the sensation and relax before they build up. Creating a feel-good routine for Sunday afternoons and evenings can help ease you into the new week. Again, maybe it’s some self-care pampering, a relaxing yoga session, a hot bath or sauna, or a gentle walk while listening to a favorite podcast.
8. Celebrate Mondays
Once Monday comes around, reward yourself for all you accomplished this weekend and all you will achieve in the week ahead. Sip on a favorite coffee or special tea, make a nourishing breakfast, or do something else you enjoy and look forward to. If possible, push out any meetings or heavy work for Tuesday to allow yourself to ease into the week. Be gentle and realistic with yourself and your co-workers about what can actually get done in a single day (or week). After all, they, too, may be suffering from the Sunday scaries.
9. Listen to the Message
Take a moment to see what you’re dreading and why. Is there a significant issue at work that’s bothering you? Are you feeling burnt out or under-utilized? What small steps can you take to fix it and bring more joy back into your job? Sometimes getting rid of the Sunday scaries comes down to naming the problem honestly, so you can address it head-on.
Sunday Scaries Are Normal
You are not alone if you feel unsettled or uncomfortable when Sunday rolls around. A lot of folks experience this feeling of dread. Above are some simple changes that have been found to be useful for many. But if you still feel overwhelmed, that’s normal too. We are living in chaotic times. So don’t be afraid to reach out to a therapist or other mental health support if you need to. That’s why they’re there—to help. And they can offer more support and tools to help you soothe the Sunday scaries, so you can get back to just enjoying your Sunday Funday.