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How to Overcome the ‘Sunday Scaries’

How to Overcome the 'Sunday Scaries'

February 26, 2022

By Michelle Udayamurthy, MD

If Sunday thoughts about the upcoming week trigger an intense feeling of anxiety or dread, you may be experiencing a case of the “Sunday Scaries,” a form of anticipatory anxiety about something that hasn’t happened yet.

The transition from weekend relaxation to work mode can be rough. Despite the fun-sounding name, the physical symptoms of Sunday Scaries are anything but:

  • Stomach issues
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Depression

The Sunday Scaries is a bit of a misnomer because it doesn’t just occur on Sundays. It can happen any day the week, depending on your schedule and at least 80% of us worry about what the coming work week will bring, according to a study by LinkedIn.

Sunday Anxiety

Is it Real?

By itself, anticipatory anxiety like Sunday Scaries isn’t a mental health diagnosis, but it can be a symptom of generalized anxiety disorder. This condition is characterized by excessive, uncontrollable worry about common occurrences and situations and can interfere with relationships and daily activities. So, yes, Sunday Scaries is real.

Sunday Scaries Triggers

Sunday Scaries can creep up on us for various reasons. For example, maybe we’re too overwhelmed during the workweek and stretch ourselves too thin. Or perhaps we know of an unpleasant meeting or demanding task that awaits us Monday morning.

The first step to managing Sunday Scaries is to identify the reasons behind them. Knowing exactly what triggers your anxiety will help you figure out how to shake off those feelings of dread. Maybe the thought of an endless to-do list causes you angst. In this case, take a few minutes on Friday evening to prioritize and organize for the week ahead instead of waiting until Sunday.

Combating the Sunday Scaries

In addition to identifying what causes your individual Sunday Scaries, here are some other helpful ways to fight them off:

  • Take it easy on yourself – Maybe you had plans to be super productive over the weekend, but instead, you slept in, binge-watched your favorite show, or caught up with friends. Those activities are perfectly acceptable ways for you to unwind and relax. Beating yourself up for recharging your batteries over the weekend will only make your Sunday Scaries worse.
  • Make Sunday a fun day – Make Sunday a day to engage in a relaxing activity like taking a yoga class, going on a hike, reading a good book, or visiting with family. Prepare a special meal on Sunday evening or set aside time to watch your favorite show. Doing so will make it a day to look forward to instead of allowing the Sunday Scaries to ruin your weekend.
  • Put away your phone – Despite the temptation to check and respond to work emails or other work-related messages on Sundays, set some boundaries for yourself. In a world where we are connected 24/7, allow yourself some time to unplug. Those notifications can wait until Monday morning.
  • Fight off a “case of the Mondays” – Create a ritual on Monday mornings that you look forward to, like stopping at your favorite coffee shop or catching up on an uplifting podcast during your Monday commute. If you make even a small adjustment on Monday mornings, it may brighten your outlook for the remainder of the week.
  • Exercise – You should aim to get 30 minutes of physical activity at least five days a week but doing so on Sunday is particularly important. Exercise can clear your mind and relieve stress to prepare you for the week ahead.

Sunday Funday

When Sunday Scaries Signify Something More

Everyone feels the occasional case of Sunday Scaries. It’s only natural to feel apprehension as you prepare to face another week of school or work. Preparing for upcoming deadlines, stressful assignments, and tension-filled meetings requires a lot of mental energy. But if you’ve tried some of the methods outlined above, and you’re still experiencing anxiety to the point it’s affecting your quality of life, perhaps there’s something else at play. Schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor for evaluation, treatment options, and support.

Headshot of Michelle Udayamurthy, MD

About the Author

Dr. Michelle Udayamurthy is a board-certified Internal Medicine physician at Kelsey-Seybold. Her clinical interest is preventive medicine.

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