The Science Behind Sunday Scaries

Jake Newby

| 4 min read

There’s a name for that very particular brand of dread we feel on Sunday nights.
More than 1 in 3 professionals feel the “Sunday scaries,” each week. The Sunday scaries are nagging feelings of nervousness and anxiety that creep up on us as the weekend winds down and the new work week approaches.
The Sunday scaries refer to anxiety or dread about returning to work on Monday. In some cases, it can overlap with conditions such as an anxiety disorder or major depression. If your Sunday scaries are severe or getting worse, consider seeing a mental health provider. Meanwhile, prioritizing self-care through activities like mindfulness and taking breaks may help you cope with job-related stress.
The term is more than a cute alliteration; it can be a type of anticipatory anxiety, which is defined by the American Psychological Association as apprehension about an upcoming event or situation because of the possibility of a negative outcome, such as danger, misfortune, or adverse judgment by others.

What causes Sunday scaries?

Coming down with a bout of the Sunday scaries doesn’t necessarily mean we dislike our jobs. The prospect of transitioning from our personal lives to our professional lives can feel sudden and be understandably stressful, even if you work remotely or have a hybrid position.
LinkedIn surveyed 3,000 American workers and found that 80% of Americans experience the Sunday scaries. For 60% of participating professionals, “worrying about workload” was the main reason. Another 44% of those polled listed “balancing professional and personal to-do’s” as their top concern. Millennials and Generation Z participants represented most Sunday scary sufferers.
Physical manifestations of the Sunday scaries can even occur, and they may include:
  • A racing heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Headaches
  • Stomach aches
  • Trouble sleeping

Five ways to beat the Sunday scaries

The Sunday scaries are common. You may not be able to completely eradicate these pesky feelings, but there are ways to possible mitigate them. Here are five ways to combat the Sunday scaries:

Make a Friday checklist

You are more likely to breathe easy on Sunday night if you are prepared for Monday morning. Consider closing out your work week on Fridays by jotting down a Monday agenda. List your tasks, remind yourself of meetings and just generally plot out what your Monday will look like.

Unplug and unwind over the weekend

Getting the most out of your weekend could help you feel fulfilled on Sunday evening. For employees who do not have on-call responsibilities, unplugging from work is vital. Avoid checking your email or doing any work-related tasks. Instead, try to mindfully engage in your weekend activities. If you are out enjoying a cup of coffee or glass of wine with friends, keep your phone in your pocket. Devoting your full attention to one thing and avoiding distractions can help you immerse yourself in what you are doing and lead to more enjoyable downtime.
Speaking of wine, be careful not to drain yourself by binge drinking on weekends. Having a drink or two can be fun and relaxing but drinking too much can zap your energy and leave you feeling hungover and sluggish. That sluggishness could even seep into Monday if you go overboard on Saturday night.

Do the opposite of your job

If you do a lot of the same things required of you at work over the weekend, you may feel like you never disconnected at all. For example, if you have a desk job that is spreadsheet and data heavy, try not to spend so much time on your computer at home doing similar research. You sit a lot at work as is, so do less of that on weekends. Get some good exercise sessions in, go for a long walk, and engage in the hands-on hobbies of your choice, like cooking, woodworking or DIY projects around the house.
If you have a physically demanding job, rest more. Stimulate your mind and nourish your creative side by reading and writing.

Maintain your regular sleep schedule

A lot of us stay up much later on Friday and Saturday nights than we do during the week. Maintaining a healthy sleep schedule can not only leave us feeling refreshed for leisurely weekend activities, but it could also help us enter the workweek feeling recharged and well-rested.

Treat yourself on Monday morning

Gifting yourself a Monday treat is a great way to quell some of the negative feelings notoriously associated with that first day of the work week. Stop at your favorite coffee shop before work, plan to pick up lunch from one of your favorite restaurants or save your favorite podcast for the Monday commute.
Photo credit: Getty Images
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