The Sunday scaries is a feeling of dread or anxiety that starts on Sunday in anticipation of the workweek ahead.
It’s hard to miss memes and articles poking fun at the impending doom folks collectively feel on Sundays. But this feeling can be a lot more than hating the end of a fun weekend.
One good thing about the comedic buzz around Sunday scaries is that it’s validating — you’re not the only one who loathes the “oh, f*ck, tomorrow’s Monday…” feeling.
We chatted with some mental health experts to set the record straight on the phenomenon known as Sunday scaries. Plus, tips on how to deal with those anxious feelings as Monday approaches.
Kelly McKenna, LCSW, a licensed therapist specializing in treating millennial women with anxiety, says Sunday scaries is actually another name for anticipatory anxiety.
McKenna says anticipatory anxiety is the anxiety you feel about something that hasn’t happened yet — like going to a party, seeing family, or traveling.
Anticipatory anxiety isn’t its *own* fancy mental health diagnosis though. Instead, it’s a symptom of something else: Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). GAD is an anxiety disorder known for excessive worrying relating to a slew of different things (like events or situations at school or work that’ll happen during the 9 to 5).
So if Sunday rolls around and you’re feeling dread, worry, or anxiety in anticipation of something like the workweek ahead of you, it’s probably Sunday scaries.
Psst: Anticipatory anxiety can also vary according to your work/school schedules. Maybe for you, Sunday is really Monday, and so on.
According to Terri Cole, a licensed psychotherapist in New York (and author of Boundary Boss), symptoms of Sunday scaries can include:
- a sense of dread or impending doom
- a racing heart
- upset or queasy stomach
- trouble sleeping
- shaking or trembling
- feeling depressed
McKenna also notes that Sunday scaries can start the minute you wake up or may not begin until bedtime.
McKenna explains that the laundry list of things ahead of you on Sunday night can cause anxiety. “You might dread waking up early, meeting with your boss, tasks on your to-do list, or just the general ending of the weekend.”
This is an incredibly common feeling for most people. A 2018 LinkedIn survey showed that about 80 percent of Americans worry about the week ahead on Sundays 🙃.
Guess what’s definitely not helping Sunday scaries? The freaking pandemic, baby.
Meagan Gallagher, a clinical psychologist in Ottawa, Ontario, says the pandemic has overall increased rates of anxiety, depression, and feelings of burnout.
“This can leave us feeling like we are less resilient and that our ability to cope is reduced. Whenever this happens, we perceive stressful situations as more threatening,” she says.
Another factor is isolation for those working from home. “This isolation means that we’re not getting the sense of community and connections with co-workers and might be missing some of the positive aspects of our regular work environments,” Gallagher notes.
“By contrast, those who cannot work from home may experience additional stress about contracting COVID in their workplace.”
Ready to make Sundays less sucky? Mental health experts shared these solid tips.
Plan mini-vacay moments each weekend
Cole suggests planning activities so that your weekend feels like a mini-vacation — or at least like sacred time to fill up your own reserves. This can help you feel rested and ready for the workweek.
Gallagher suggests planning a satisfying but easy meal for Sunday evening. Delish food and leftovers for lunch on Monday mean one less thing on the to-do list.
Cole says our minds love consistency and predictability, so choose activities that you find relaxing to institutionalize for your Sundays. So, do whatever activities inspire relaxation or feelings of safety.
Create a relaxing Sunday night routine to wind down
Gallagher notes that Sunday night should be a chill zone.
What might this look like for you? You could take a long bubble bath, kick back with some sleepy tea, or slap on a face mask and listen to a podcast. It’s all about soothing the senses and pampering yourself ahead of your workweek.
Cole tells us, the fear and anxiety of Sunday scaries is created by negatively or catastrophically projecting into the future.
“The antidote for this is present moment awareness,” she says. “The more you can ground yourself in the present with simple grounding exercises, meditations, or breathing techniques (there are many apps to explore) the less anxiety you will experience.”
Check-in with yourself every now and then
Cole says it may help to get curious about your anxiety. She suggests checking in with yourself by asking some questions like:
- Is there merit to how you’re feeling?
- How satisfied are you in your current position?
- Are there conflicts at work or difficult personalities that might be fueling your dread of Mondays?
A self-inquiry might provide valuable information or be a catalyst for making a change. But be careful not to overdo this tip (gotta stay chill!). But it may lead you to the answers you’re looking for.
Reflect on the highlights
Gallagher suggests directing your attention to the highlights of your weekend instead of getting catapulted into Monday.
“Try journaling, talking about the good stuff, or looking back at pictures or videos from the weekend,” she says.
If you must organize for next week, do it on Friday instead
We get it, sometimes there’s no escape from prep work for next week. But doing this at the end of the day on Friday instead of Sunday, as Gallagher points out, can ease up the Sunday dread.
“When the pressure tries to creep in on Sunday, you can remind yourself that you’re already organized,” she says.
Take a tech break
Cole says this tip will give your brain and eyes a rest.
“For many, the pandemic and working from home has blurred the separation between work life and home life which translates to being ‘on-call.’ This can be exhausting and anxiety-provoking,” she says.
Schedule some time where you don’t even scroll your feeds, friends.
Schedule “ease in” blocks into your Monday morning
WTF is an ease-in block? Glad you asked. Gallagher says these are 10- to 15-minute paddings to help you “ease” into Monday morning.
For example, arriving a bit early to get settled so you can avoid that “behind before I started” feeling. If you WFH, this can be giving yourself more time than you think you need to settle into your morning rituals before busting open your laptop.
Do a brain dump before bed
“Write down everything that comes to mind on your to-do list (don’t whip out your laptop for this one) so you know you’re not forgetting anything,” McKenna says.
This one can really help out if most of your anxiety is from worrying you’ll completely screw up or forget something important on Monday.
Get chores out of the way
If we wait until Sunday night to clean the toilet, how the hell are we going to chill on Sunday?
Gallagher says it’s best to try getting these annoying tasks out of the way so you don’t have them on your mind during your “wind-down” or sacred self-care time before bed.
Plan something enjoyable for Monday
Yes, this means plans for something nice on Sunday and Monday. You deserve it and these don’t have to be too extra.
For example, McKenna says whether it’s grabbing your favorite cup of coffee, going to a gym class, or watching your favorite show after work. Give yourself something to look forward to.
Journal it out, baby
Cole says this is where you freely write about anything worrying you about going back to work.
“The simple act of acknowledging how you’re feeling and why can produce more clarity and lessen anxiety,” she says.
Be kind to yourself
Just like thinking back on the weekend’s highlight is a good idea, so is taking a minute to congratulate yourself on all you accomplished the week before.
Give yourself credit for the extra miles you ran or the hoops you jumped through. It may also be a good idea to see if there’s any task you can reasonably take off your plate moving into the next week.
Is absolutely every single task or event necessary? Can you skip your neighbor’s boss’s cousin’s baby shower if it means you’ll breathe a little easier? (Bébé will probs understand).
Gallagher says you can absolutely love your job and still experience the Sunday scaries. Most people experience anxiety leading up to the workweek and then function well at work, she explains.
“When it comes to [anticipatory anxiety], we typically experience a decrease in worry once we’re in the situation — by definition the anticipatory window has closed once we show up at work,” Gallagher says.
McKenna adds that it’s normal to enjoy our weekends more than the workweek. “Even people who are truly satisfied in their job experience more joy in their free time, most of the time,” she says.
But if you’re having the Sunday scaries every Sunday or they feel debilitating, that’s definitely a sign that you might not be happy at work.
But before you say deuces to your boss ✌️, it’s important to understand that being unhappy at work doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go out and get a new job. You might be feeling burnt out. In that case, McKenna suggests reprioritizing, taking some vacation time, and setting boundaries as steps to help with burnout.
If you’ve tried all this and are still feeling dissatisfied, she says you may want to consider looking for a new job and/or talking with a therapist.
Cole tells us that although some of the physical and emotional symptoms can be the same, depression and anxiety disorders are different than Sunday scaries.
This is because Sunday scaries are predictable (they happen on Sunday). And the trigger is a specific, identifiable one (anxiety about the workweek ahead) rather than a more generalized feeling of anxiety and depression that is more pervasive and present at other times”
If your anxiety or sense of dread bleeds into other days of the week, becomes debilitating, or negatively impacts your ability to sleep, eat, or experience joy, Cole says seeking professional help is a good idea.
According to McKenna, some other signs it’s time to get help include:
- crying (a lot)
- canceling plans
- calling off work
- not wanting to eat
- feeling more irritable
- thinking of Sunday as a “waste” because you’re anxious the whole time
If we’re being real here, therapists are not available for everyone. Check out our resource guide here if you don’t have access to therapy.
“Easy like Sunday morning” sounding a lot like fiction? Anticipating the week ahead can cause major dread and ruin a lot more than brunch. This is common.
Sundays don’t have to suck so bad though. Test out the tips from our pros, talk with a therapist if you can, and take things one Sunday at a time.