Jump to section
You’ve probably felt it before.
After enjoying a Saturday free from work responsibilities, you’re looking forward to one more day on the weekend. Maybe you’ve made plans to go to a farmer’s market or pick out a new book. Or maybe you have plans to get brunch with new friends or get some physical exercise.
But instead, you wake up Sunday morning and pour your cup of coffee. As you’re running through your plan for the day, this feeling starts to creep in. You start to think about the work week ahead — on your weekend.
When I’ve had the Sunday scaries in the past, it feels like a mix of dread, depression, and anxiety. It’s a lingering tension that absorbs your attention and awareness.
Instead of enjoying your Sunday, your attention is devoured by work. You’re thinking about your to-do list and the meetings you’ll need to attend. You’re thinking about your inbox or Slack messages waiting for you on Monday morning.
It’s called the Sunday scaries. According to LinkedIn, 80% of Americans experience it. Looking at the generational differences, 90% of Gen Z and millennials report feeling it. You know the feeling. But why do the Sunday scaries happen? What makes you experience them? And can we really define what the Sunday scaries are?
What do the Sunday scaries feel like?
The Sunday scaries can bring on a slew of feelings. But according to researchers and psychologists, the symptoms are very much real. Here are six things you may feel if you’re experiencing a case of the Sunday scaries:
- Feeling stressed or overwhelmed
- Anxious or depressive feelings
- Upset stomach, headache
- Inability to focus or be in the present
- Difficulty sleeping
- Obsessive thoughts
- In a state of existential crisis
5 common causes of the Sunday scaries
The anticipatory anxiety of Sunday scaries can feel overwhelming. And while we wish there was a simple answer as to why it happens, the causes are varied.
Truthfully, you’ll have to nail down the root cause yourself. Each person’s situation is different. With BetterUp, you can work one-on-one with a coach to help pinpoint your feelings. Your coach can help guide you to figure out where the Sunday scary symptoms might be coming from.
Here are five common causes of the Sunday scaries.
Maybe you’ve taken on more responsibility at work. Or perhaps you’re on a big project with a deadline fast approaching.
If you’re finding yourself unable to disconnect from work, you might be on the path to burnout. Burnout can present itself in many ways: too much work, too many hours in the workweek (and weekends), and sacrificing work for personal life.
A toxic work environment
If your workplace lacks psychological safety or belonging, it would make sense that you might be feeling the Sunday scaries.
In toxic work environments, employees aren’t set up to thrive. In fact, quite the opposite. Your case of the Sunday scaries could be your beacon light alerting for help.
Uncertainty and change
We’re living in a time of perpetual change. And we know that human beings are creatures of habit.
With increased uncertainty and change, it can be difficult to imagine your week, especially with the pandemic.
Sunday scaries and anxiety
Anxiety is a natural emotion characterized by temporary worry or fear. It usually occurs as a result of stress (i.e. a demanding career, a toxic work environment, or competing priorities).
Under stress, your automatic nervous system kicks in. It speeds up your heart rate and makes sure you have enough glucose to take action.
But anticipatory anxiety isn’t its own disorder. Instead, it’s a symptom of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). GAD is an anxiety disorder that’s defined by excessive worrying. According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, it’s common. In fact, 6.8 million Americans suffer from GAD.
Seek the help of a mental health professional if you find yourself struggling. We’ll talk more about how you can manage the Sunday scaries — and when to seek help.
8 ways to manage the Sunday scaries
That Sunday Scaries feeling can feel all-consuming. But don’t worry. There are things you can do to help manage your case of the Sunday scaries.
1. Check in with yourself
The first step to managing the Sunday scaries is acknowledging that you have them. This takes some self-awareness and introspection.
Take some time to examine how you’re feeling. Sometimes, this starts with your physical body. Are you tensing your muscles? Is your body hunched or feeling condensed? Is your jaw tight?
Then, examine your mind and feelings. This could be a great time for some journaling. What are you stressed about? What’s occupying your mind? Are you in a negative automatic thought loop? How would you describe your emotions?
2. Plan something on Sunday night
When Sunday evening rolls around, that’s usually when the Sunday scaries strike hardest. So, let’s try to counter that. To avoid those Sunday blues, plan something for Sunday night.
It can be something little, like an arts and craft project. Or perhaps you make dinner plans with a friend or loved one. But the goal is to keep your mind off of the work week ahead.
3. Try to finish any house chores on Fridays
I’ve found myself scouring my entire house all weekend. Then, by the time Sunday rolls around, I’ve completed chores. But I haven’t done nearly enough rest or the time needed to truly recharge for another work week.
Try to finish all your house chores and errands during the workweek. I’ve recently started splitting up my household chores into different days (along with my partner).
For example, bathrooms and floors get cleaned on Wednesdays. Laundry is done almost every weekday, but not on weekends (unless necessary). Try to break it up into small chunks to help free up your weekend for things that you can truly enjoy.
4. Completely unplug
5. Practice visualization
Mondays can feel daunting. If you’re spiraling into what your Monday could look like, try visualizing your perfect Sunday. With a mindset shift, you can be surprised at how much of a difference you can see.
6. Maintain good sleep hygiene
Disrupted sleep can have a ripple effect on all aspects of your physical and mental health. The weekend might lend itself to irregular sleep schedules.
While it might sound like a good idea to stay up later than usual, try to maintain a regular sleep schedule. Your sleep is paramount to your mental fitness. Maintain consistency as much as possible to manage the Sunday scaries.
7. Practice Inner Work®
For example, my teammate practices Inner Work® through painting and drawing classes. I like to spend time outside for a good workout and self-care. And another teammate enjoys spending time on walks and with family.
How can you implement an Inner Work® practice to help alleviate your Sunday scary symptoms?
8. Talk to a mental health professional
Your mental health comes first. There’s no reason your mental health should suffer because of your work environment.
If you’re struggling to manage your Sunday scaries, seek help. Those living with depression or anxiety disorders should keep their doctors informed. With professional medical help, you can find additional mental health support.
Get rid of your Sunday scaries
The upcoming week can bring all sorts of feelings of dread. It can impact your overall well-being. It can feel like your work-life balance is, well, off-balanced. It can throw off your coming week, no matter how well-prepared and equipped you are to handle it.
The Sunday scaries inherently come with that deep sense of dread. But it’s possible to keep your Sunday scary symptoms at bay. It’s possible to live in the present moment.
With BetterUp, you can become better equipped to handle all that life throws at you. From managing stress to alleviating burnout, your coach can help. And, a nutrition coach can even help with things like creating a meal prep.
With individualized support, you can unlock your full potential. Try BetterUp — and start managing your Sunday scaries.
Madeline is a writer, communicator, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change. She holds a bachelor's in English Creative Writing and Communication Studies and lives in Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, she's usually somewhere outside (preferably in the mountains) — and enjoys poetry and fiction.