Whether you’re familiar with the term “Sunday Scaries” or not, you’re likely familiar with the feeling: that deep, debilitating anxiety that blesses us as the weekend comes to a close, causing our mind to flood with fear of the days to come; at the same time, it also leaves us feeling overwhelmed and in a state of overanalyzing anything and everything we experienced over the weekend. See? Scary.
No matter how much we like our jobs or enjoy going to school, we all tend to feel it to some degree. We’ll find that we “live for the weekends,” and then feel the existential dread of Monday morning, long before Sunday’s sun even sets.
It’s a vicious cycle, and we wanted it to stop. With that in mind, we chatted with expert psychologists and life coaches to find out how we can nip the Sunday Scaries in the bud for good, and get back to enjoying our weekends to their full extent. The good news? There’s hope.
What are Sunday Scaries?
We’ve likely all experienced the Sunday Scaries to some degree, some more intensely than others. But what are they, and why do they come every week to ruin the end of our weekend which should be a nice, relaxing time? Cachet Prescott, a psychology-influenced coach, trainer, and speaker, describes the Sunday Scaries as “the unhealthy overanalysis of the week ahead that leads to feelings of doom and gloom, doubt, insecurity, fear, frustration, regret, and more on Sunday.”
Sounds pretty awful, right? She goes on to explain that the weekend can mark the end of a tough work or school week, which sometimes means there’s an increase in partying, drinking, and other behavior that may end up causing regret come Sunday. “Once the high of your weekend exhilaration wears off and reality sets in, feelings of regret, embarrassment, or despair may rear their ugly heads,” she says. They have the potential to be extremely overwhelming, and quite a day-ruiner. “You wake up feeling disoriented by excessive negative activities you participated in, but then there are also plain fears of going to work or school on Monday morning,” says Dr. Steven Rosenberg, psychotherapist and hypnosis specialist. “Sunday night is the worst insomnia night of the week.”
So, to sum them up, Sunday Scaries are the awful gut feelings we experience over the upcoming week or the previous night of partying—but likely a combination of both.
First, stop living for the weekend
Beginning to live a life of Scary-free Sundays starts with improving how you look at your weekdays, not just how you look at your weekend. Too often, we spend our weeks in a slump, dreaming of Friday and fantasizing about the weekend to come—but this is what makes going back to work the following week so difficult. “The statement ‘living for the weekend’ underlies the behavior behind the Sunday Scaries and highlights the unfortunate acceptance that your week must be dull,” says Kevin J. Stuckey, life and career strategist. “The first thing one needs to do is reclaim their personal power, and remember that, while work is necessary, they can take action to make it less dreadful or ideally more fulfilling.”
Stuckey goes on to explain that this doesn’t necessarily mean having a talk with your boss. It should start with asking yourself what your ideal week would look like, and what a Monday you don’t hate waking up to would look like. Maybe it's one that involves a breakfast or lunch treat, or your favorite workout class or activity post-work. “Once this is clear, it’ll help you understand what action needs to happen during the week to make Monday less painful.”
Please, get out of bed
Sure, Sundays may be a day of rest for many—but by rest, that doesn’t mean staying in bed all damn day.
Sleeping in a bit can be refreshing, and after a long work week (or a long Saturday night spent drinking), it could be necessary. However, did you know your lazy afternoon binge-watching Netflix while simultaneously hiding under your covers is actually contributing to your Sunday Scaries in a major way? “Our physiology deeply affects our emotions, so when we’re lying in bed on our backs and stewing, we’ll always feel defeated,” says Stuckey.
So, simply put, GET UP. Make your bed, hop in the shower, and go seize the day—you’ll feel much better, we promise. “I mean, no one ever won a fight lying on their back,” Stuckey adds.
Keep your mind and body positive
Now that you’ve gotten yourself out of bed, it’s time to whip your mental and physical health into shape to help beat the Scaries.
For starters, having a healthy Sunday starts by not waking up feeling like complete shit; drinking yourself into oblivion on a Saturday night to forget about your woes from the previous week is not only unhealthy but one of the main culprits of your anxiety. “Be aware of the destructive habits, behaviors, and vices that contribute to your specific Sunday Scaries in order to take a proactive approach to avoiding them,” says Prescott. “If you typically engage in binge-drinking to drown your sorrows, find a healthy alternative to distract you.”
So, what are some healthy ways to kick off a successful and meaningful Sunday? Get active. “We drastically underestimate how much motion shapes our emotions,” says Stuckey. Go for a walk, a run, or to your favorite workout class. The more you move, the less anxious you’ll feel once you've done it.
Of course, you should always leave some room for a little “you” time to help fight the Scaries. This can be anything from putting on a face mask and doing your nails (at-home spa days are exponentially more relaxing than a real spa, to be honest) to meditation, which Rosenberg recommends for relaxing and getting yourself back in the moment.
Writing your feelings out also helps sort a panicked mind. Prescott suggests keeping a private gratitude journal, where you can keep a record of all the positive things in your life. Stuckey also suggests using this quiet time to come up with three things you want to accomplish for the week.
Focus on the present
When you think about what Sunday Scaries really are, they’re time spent wasting potentially beautiful and fun Sundays worrying about the future, i.e. the “impending doom” of the week to come (which, in reality, probably isn’t that dreadful). It’s time we start living in the now.
For those of us known to come down with a case of the Sunday Scaries often, Rosenberg urges that we keep our thoughts in the present tense. “Instead of dreading Sunday morning, get up and do something you enjoy doing—get absorbed in it, and you’ll stay in the moment,” he says. “That’s what’s important. When you have Sunday Scaries, you’re not in the present tense—you anticipate negativity of the rest of the day and Monday.”
Think about it—we could easily be at the beach or park enjoying the weather and our friends instead of moping around the house feeling anxious and panicked.
Take a break from social media
There’s a lot we can say about social media today and its contributions to depression and anxiety—and when it comes to Sunday Scaries, social media is right there egging them on. “On the weekend, there may be an uptick in social media posting about the various activities and happenings within your online social circles,” says Prescott. “Seeing what everyone else seemingly has going on in their lives may punctuate or highlight what’s missing in your own.”
With that being said, it really pays to be proactive by taking breaks from our devices from time to time. What better day to test the waters of an iPhone- and Instagram-free day than on your now not-so-scary Sunday? Again—be in the present and live in the moment, and go hang out with your friends IRL. Go out to brunch, go to a museum, or watch a new movie on a rainy day—the real-life social stimulation is what you need to get you in a better mindset.
When all else fails, yell a lot
Okay, you might want to do this from the comfort of your own room (and when your roommates aren’t around), but if you just can’t seem to shake the Sunday Scaries gloom, spiritual life coach Je Tuan Jones has the answer for you. She swears by releasing the fear—and by releasing, she means yelling at yourself.
While this might sound counterproductive, it’s actually quite therapeutic. “Yell at the top of your lungs, ‘Nothing is wrong! Tomorrow is going to be an amazing day. I can handle anything that comes my way.’ It’s cleansing, affirming, and helps reprogram the mind,” she says. Looking for an extra boost to your yelling fit? “Add in a few F-bombs if you’re inclined.”