As the sun sets on another blissful weekend, a familiar feeling starts to creep in. It's that subtle shift from relaxation to restlessness, from joy to anticipation tinged with anxiety. Yes, I’m talking about the infamous "Sunday Scaries." According to a recent LinkedIn survey, 75% of professionals experience Sunday Scaries in which 37% of individuals say they feel more overwhelmed at work than ever before.
No matter how fulfilling our Friday nights and Saturdays may have been, Sunday evenings have a way of casting a shadow over our peace of mind. It's as if our worries about the week ahead decide to crash the party, stealing our attention away from the present moment. Suddenly, thoughts of looming deadlines, demanding projects, and challenging meetings take center stage, overshadowing the laughter and enjoyment we were just experiencing.
We all know the power of anticipation. It's why we arrive at the airport early, armed with contingency plans for every possible scenario. Having a sense of control and preparedness can provide comfort, even in uncertain situations. But what happens when this mental worry and preparation become a recurring ritual, happening not just on special occasions, but every single week?
According to Dr. Ketan Parmar, an MD, Psychiatrist and mental health expert, “‘Sunday Scaries’ refer to the anxiety and unease that many of us experience on Sunday evenings as we anticipate the upcoming workweek.”
It is quite common to notice a pattern of feelings that happen at certain times during the week. In fact, the Sunday Scaries are exactly that: a pattern of feelings. You might come across many recommendations to calm yourself or distract from the feelings, but that doesn't get to the root of why they are there in the first place.
And that is our job: to get to the root. Our feelings are there for a reason. That reason tends to be a thought, whether it is a conscious one or one that has been practiced so much that we don't even notice it anymore.
Let’s understand the 'why' behind it.
Why do we feel anxious on Sunday evenings?
Ask yourself, what is the story you are telling yourself about Sunday? Why are you feeling anxious, dreadful, overwhelmed, whatever the scary feeling is may be?
The founder of a women-owned business said, “Sundays are particularly stressful because I know that the week ahead will be filled with tasks and challenges that need to be addressed quickly. The anxiety is intensified by the feeling that I may have overlooked something or missed a crucial detail. This is especially true for me as a small business owner who does everything by myself, from planning to execution.”
Dr. Ketan shared his insights. “When our nervous systems are activated into fight or flight mode, we are biologically predisposed to look for threats in our environment.” Since we live in a modern world, there usually aren’t lions, hiding in bushes, ready to eat us, but instead, there are deadlines to meet or difficult customers to deal with."
He further added, “We may get the Sunday Scaries because we are anticipating difficult experiences, we are projecting ourselves into the future and scanning for threats, in order to protect ourselves from it.”
A life coach, drawing from her own personal history and assisting families in confronting their fears, shared the experience. “Just a few years ago, I would dread Mondays. I was working as a general pediatrician and would be completely slammed on Mondays with appointments, meetings, and calls. I felt as though I was being pulled in every direction. And so I would start feeling dread in the pit of my stomach on Sundays. And that made me not enjoy my Sundays too!”
Here are some of the potential reasons for feeling scared on Sunday evenings:
- A busy workweek, pending deadlines, or challenging projects
- If weekends are not utilized effectively for relaxation, self-care, and spending time with loved ones.
- Procrastination or leaving important tasks unresolved over the weekend.
- Feeling unsure about career prospects, job security, or future goals.
- If you are unhappy in your job or feel unfulfilled, then the thought of returning to work.
- Seeing others enjoying their weekends or engaging in social activities can trigger a FOMO.
How to deal with Sunday scaries?
Getting to the root of the problem is the first step toward working on your concern. But what next? The real progress can only be seen when you start working on these problems. Therefore, here's what Dr. Ketan suggested, along with some tips that have personally helped others. Let's dive in and understand it!
1. Plan the week ahead
Before the weekend comes to a close, take some time to plan and organise your week ahead. Create a to-do list, prioritize tasks, and set realistic goals. By having a clear plan in place, you can alleviate some of the uncertainty and feel more prepared to tackle the upcoming week.
The CEO of a telehealth company who is always occupied with tasks found the solution in planning a week ahead. What he did is, “I like to prepare for the following week on Friday to prevent anticipation anxiety. I take care of smaller tasks I would have had to do on Monday – like answering emails, preparing a spreadsheet with new dates, and writing out my to-do list. On Sunday night, I know what to expect because of my previous preparation, and it keeps anticipation anxiety at bay.”
2. Enjoy your weekends
Fill your weekends with activities you look forward to. Whether it's meeting up with friends, trying out a new restaurant, going to a concert, or engaging in a hobby, having enjoyable experiences can shift your focus away from the upcoming week and make your weekends more fulfilling.
A new employee sees the weekend as the most relaxing day of the week. He said, “I enjoy my weekends to spend quality time with loved ones. Whether it's a picnic in the park, a game night at home, or a day trip to a nearby town, being surrounded by family and friends fills my heart with happiness and strengthens our bonds.”
3. Prioritise boundaries
Set boundaries and create a clear separation between work and personal life. Avoid checking work emails or thinking about work-related matters during your time off. Allow yourself to fully disconnect and recharge, knowing that you have dedicated time for relaxation and personal pursuits.
Once the life coach mentioned above found the root cause, she started working on her boundaries. “When I realized that the dread was because I felt pulled in every direction and out of control on Mondays, I focused there. I focused on where I could take control back. I had to start rewriting the story of my Mondays, not just what appointments I kept, but the story I told myself about those appointments.”
4. Take care of yourself
It's also important to make sure you are taking care of yourself during these times - eating healthy meals, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, etc. Doing some form of relaxation such as yoga or meditation can also be helpful in calming your mind and body before returning to work for the week.
A medical professional we spoke to, pays more attention to his bedtime routine as a self-care practice, “To ensure I'm getting enough sleep, I built a bedtime routine that helps me wind down. Before bed, I disconnect from screens, dim the lights, and indulge in a relaxing activity like reading or taking a warm bath.”
5. Have a positive mindset
Having a positive mindset about the upcoming work week can also help alleviate some of the anxiousness associated with Sunday Scaries. Reminding yourself that you are capable and qualified to take on whatever tasks or challenges come your way can help put your mind at ease.
The women-owned business owner mentioned earlier found this strategy super effective. She shares, “I have tried to alleviate the anxiety through cultivating a growth mindset. Changing business strategy and hiring support has also been beneficial.”