You know that uneasy feeling when the weekend is soon ending? If you answered “yes,” you’re not alone. Here’s what it could mean.
Most people have at some point felt anxious or apprehensive on a Sunday night. Maybe it’s about what awaits the following day or the emotional inertia of feeling relaxed and rested.
Feeling this way has a name: Sunday Scaries, although some may prefer to call it “Monday Scaries.”
It’s natural and not uncommon. And there’s a way around it.
Sunday Scaries are also known as Sunday Blues, Sunday Syndrome, or Sunday Night Syndrome.
No matter what you call it, “Sunday Scaries is known as the anticipatory anxiety, fear, or worry that you feel before starting a new week,” explains Divya Robin, MHC, a psychotherapist in New York City who specializes in anxiety. “It’s not a clinical anxiety diagnosis but defines the experience many face when anxious about something that hasn’t happened yet.”
The uneasy feeling usually pops up as the upcoming work or school week approaches. It can be occasional or persistent.
Does it happen to everyone?
According to a 2015 global poll run by job website Monster, 76% of respondents living in the United States noted that they experience “really bad” Sunday Blues.
Robin says that this is something her clients frequently experience, too.
If you already live with symptoms of anxiety, Sunday Scaries may be particularly challenging.
There are so many reasons why someone might dread the start of a new week. Some of these you may not even be aware of. The Scaries might be trying actually to signal you to pay attention.
Some possible causes of Sunday Scaries include:
- looming deadlines
- upcoming events that you may feel unprepared for
- dread about interacting with specific people
- the first day of your workweek may be the next day
- you don’t feel well rested after the weekend
- you had a great weekend and don’t want it to end
- you may be uncomfortable or unhappy in your current job or school (whether you’re fully aware of it or not)
- mental health conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder
How do you know it’s the Sunday Scaries and not something else?
According to Robin, there are some key signs that indicate it, including:
- racing thoughts about the upcoming week
- irritability as Sunday night approaches
- an overall feeling of uneasiness
- stomach issues
- changes in appetite
- a sense of dread
- loss of motivation
- poor sleep on Sunday night (or the night before your week starts)
- difficulty staying present in the moment (e.g., zoning out during brunch or time with friends)
- catastrophizing future situations (e.g., “I’m not going to make the deadline this week and I’ll be fired”)
How is this different from regular anxiety?
Sunday Scaries may feel similar to some symptoms of anxiety disorders, but they’re not the same thing.
“Sunday Scaries is a form of anticipatory anxiety, but it will subside after a day or two into the week,” explains Robin. “Anxiety disorders are defined as frequent worrying and anxiety.”
Robin notes that common symptoms of generalized anxiety or social anxiety may include:
- difficulty controlling worries
- racing thoughts
- mind going blank
- difficulty making decisions
- sweaty hands
- upset stomach
- frequent headaches
“Sunday Scaries only come about in the lead up to a new week, whereas generalized anxiety can occur at any time and isn’t specific to work,” explains Saba Harouni Lurie, a licensed psychotherapist in Los Angeles.
Mondays aren’t going anywhere, but how you deal with them can help reduce any anxiety you’re feeling on Sunday night.
Consider these ideas to help you relieve your Sunday Scaries, no matter which day of the week you experience them.
What to do in the moment
Reflect on the potential cause
“When you feel them coming on, take a moment to calm your growing anxiety by sitting and confronting why exactly the idea of your workweek makes you feel so uncomfortable,” says Harouni Lurie.
After reflecting on your current situation, she recommends brainstorming how to navigate the potential stressor. Some suggestions include:
- meal prepping if you worry you won’t have time to cook during the week
- treating yourself with something rewarding after each workday
- engaging in restful activities on Sunday night to start the week feeling refreshed
Use anxiety coping strategies
Robin suggests using anxiety coping strategies to relieve your Sunday Scaries, including:
- deep breathing exercises
- practicing mindfulness skills
- going on a walk or run
- reciting affirmations
Somatic techniques, like body awareness, grounding, or sequencing, may also help reduce Sunday night anxiety.
Try to let go of what isn’t within your control
“Remind yourself what is and is not in your control,” says Robin.
If the cause is in your control, she recommends allowing yourself to think about it and potentially figure out a solution. But if it’s not, she suggests telling yourself, “this is out of my control, and I will let this thought go.”
Letting go of control may be easier said than done, of course. But in this case, if you can, it could help to put the power back in your hands and help Sunday Scaries.
What to do on a regular basis to prevent them
Develop a healthy work-life balance
“If Sunday Scaries are consistent, this may be your mind and body’s way of telling you that you aren’t in the right place,” Robin adds. “Perhaps you aren’t happy, fulfilled, or content with your current job.”
Quitting your job on the spot without a backup plan might not be the answer either. But establishing a healthy work-life balance may help you feel better come Sunday night (at least until you can make bigger changes that align with your long-term goals).
If possible, try to set yourself up on Fridays for a lighter workload on Monday. Knowing you have the next day to catch up at your leisure may reduce your Sunday night stress level.
Also, try to avoid working on weekends to give yourself enough downtime to relax and rest up for the week ahead.
Create a routine on Sundays
Creating a weekly routine every Sunday can help you establish a sense of certainty when you feel otherwise uncertain about the week ahead, says Robin.
You might consider:
- having a candlelit bath or shower
- cooking your favorite dinner
- watching your favorite show
- connecting with loved ones
- writing a to-do list for the upcoming week
Whatever you choose to do, aim to create a self-care routine catered to your needs and interests that feels best to you.
Plan down time during the week
“In order to try to manage the Sunday Scaries in the long term, it may be helpful to schedule regular moments of downtime and time for pleasure during your workweek,” says Harouni Lurie.
She says this might include:
- stepping away from your office to go for a walk
- scheduling brief breaks at regular intervals during the workday
- getting up and moving your body after each meeting
- scheduling time to see a friend or family member mid-week
- scheduling unscheduled time to do whatever you please
See a therapist
“If you notice that your Sunday Scaries are impacting your ability to function at work, in your relationships, or in school, then it may be useful to see a therapist,” says Robin.
A mental health professional may be able to help you pinpoint the root of your anxiety or Sunday Scaries and offer further coping strategies.
Sunday Scaries, Sunday Blues, and Sunday Syndrome refer to the anticipatory anxiety many folks experience before their work or school week starts.
It can stem from many sources, including not feeling well-rested after the weekend, not wanting the weekend to end, disliking your job, or dreading upcoming responsibilities.
Rest assured that you can find relief for your Sunday Scaries, though.
When the feeling pops up, consider digging into the whys, trying anxiety coping strategies, and remembering what is and isn’t within your control.
If you feel Sunday Scaries are impacting how you function in the world, consider seeking the support of a mental health professional.
No matter what causes your Sunday Scaries or which day of the week it falls on for you, know that you’re not alone, and you can manage this.