Have you ever experienced low-level feelings of dread on Sundays? In school, instead of enjoying time with family and friends, my mind would leap to the paper I needed to revise. When I started working, I’d think about the unanswered emails lingering in my inbox. I’d be on a walk enjoying the fresh air and suddenly start replaying my to-do list, going over and over it in my head. By Sunday evening, I felt restless, worried and haunted by a vague sense of unease: the unknown of the week to come. I had a full-on case of the “Sunday Scaries,” also known as the “Sunday Blues.”
Psychologists categorize the Sunday Scaries as an example of anticipatory anxiety, a dread or nervous feeling caused by an event that has yet to happen. It’s a confusing feeling, especially for someone like me who genuinely loves their job and coworkers. I’m not alone in experiencing this: a 2018 LinkedIn survey found that 80% of professionals report feeling nervous, anxious, restless and irritable on Sundays.
What’s unique about the Sunday Scaries is that most of us have a long track record of “Mundane Mondays.” They’re our normal day-to-day routine of coworker meetings, client calls, and project briefs– nothing out of the ordinary. Despite knowing that the anxiety I felt on Sunday didn’t match my Monday reality, I still found myself falling into the Sunday Scaries trap each weekend.
The Balance of Preparation and Relaxation
I couldn’t “out-think” my anxious mind– I needed to take action. So, I put together a plan that combines preparation with relaxation. How do I “cure” this? Here’s what works for me:
Make a to-do list on Friday. One of the last things I do before ending my work week is to make a to-do list. This is my catch-all for unfinished odds and ends, plus my top priorities for the week ahead. With this list, I know nothing will be forgotten and that once Monday starts, I’ll know exactly where to direct my focus so I can embrace the day head on. This brain dump creates a mental divide between the work week and the weekend.
“Monday doesn’t have to start until Monday.” It’s a simple mantra that helps me separate my work worries from my weekend. I remind myself that if I am anxious about the upcoming week, I focus on identifying why I’m feeling this way. Is there a specific reason, like an upcoming project deadline or an unanswered email? Previously, I’d feel like I had to start working on that task right away to ease my worries. Now, I go back to my Friday to-do list and check to be sure the item is on it. Once that’s confirmed, I know my future self has it all under control.
Start a Sunday tradition. Every Sunday, my boyfriend and I make soup together. We love making homemade broth and Pozole, trying out new “not textbook recipe” variations each week. I throw in habaneros, seasoning and whatever we need to clean out from the fridge– it’s a fun experiment! Not only does cooking relax us, but it also ensures we have healthy lunches ready to go for the week. Other great Sunday traditions could be going for a hike or a walk on a local nature trail, practicing yoga or meditation, playing board games, or meeting friends for brunch. Choose something that feels restorative and nurtures your spirit.
Make a Monday date. Take a look at your calendar: most of the “fun” events get planned for later in the week or the weekend. That’s why I started planning something special for every Monday, like a coffee or lunch date with a coworker or a favorite show to watch Monday evening. When I commuted to work, I’d save favorite podcast episodes for Monday morning and call my mom on my drive home. Rather than dreading Monday, I started looking forward to it, thanks to my Monday date plans.
Prioritize rest. I’m my best self when I have a good night’s sleep, but when the Sunday Scaries would keep me awake at night, I’d start the work week feeling exhausted and drained. My preparation and relaxation strategies have helped calm my mind. Still, I’d experience nights where I’d wake up thinking about work and find myself scrolling emails at 3 am. Now, I practice a “digital detox” every Sunday evening, taking a break from phones and computers. When I sleep, I keep my phone across the room, so I don’t instinctively reach for it if I wake up. This also ensures when my alarm goes off, I don’t hit snooze. Physically getting out of bed to turn off the alarm kickstarts the momentum for my day– coffee or tea are calling my name!
Do you ever experience the Sunday Scaries? I invite you to share your strategies for success in the comments below. (Soup recipes welcome!)