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Friday and Saturday have whizzed by, and before we know it, Sunday is upon us. Lots of people love Sundays, but for some of us, they’re tainted with an anxiety-filled sense of anticipation for the work week ahead.

Does this sound familiar? If so, you’re probably suffering from a case of the ‘Sunday Scaries’. Here’s your guide to beating them down and learning to enjoy your Sundays with more relaxation and less anxiety.

What are the Sunday Scaries?

Sunday Scaries refer to the common feeling of impending doom the evening or day before a new work week begins, which can often suck all of the joy out of our remaining free time and leave us feeling depressed and anxious – even though it’s still the weekend! Whether it’s the thought of a never-ending to-do list awaiting you, an inbox filled with emails after two days off, or the loss of personal time, the Sunday Scaries can turn a day of rest into a day of worry.

The Scaries are a form of anticipatory anxiety: feelings of nervousness or fear about something which has yet to occur. As Sunday afternoon passes into the evening, you may begin to notice some common symptoms of anxiety, such as restlessness, stomach issues, and irritability.

However, the Sunday Scaries aren’t just limited to Sunday. Depending on the structure of your working week, they can hit on any day and certainly aren’t limited by the standard structures of our calendars.

The Causes of The Scaries

It can be difficult to separate common anxiety symptoms from the usually work-related ‘Scaries’. An informal study conducted by LinkedIn in 2018 found that amongst the 1,017 adults surveyed, 80% experienced Sunday night anxiety. But what causes the Scaries?

  • Work-related stress.
  • Unfulfilled expectations of the weekend – maybe you don’t feel you made the most of it, or you didn’t manage to complete all the household tasks/life admin you were hoping to.
  • Fear of the week ahead and what might happen.
  • Societal pressures to be productive all the time.

Lots of us find Mondays hard, which can cause a sudden drop in mood and energy levels in anticipation of the first day of the week rolling around again. In fact, one 46-country study found that Monday is the day people are least likely to say is a “good day”! Just the thought of all the responsibilities associated with Mondays can cause significant anxiety.

How to Beat the Sunday Scaries and Look Forward to the week ahead

The first step to finding the antidote to your Sunday Scaries is to try and identify the cause of your worry. Perhaps you’ve got a meeting with an important client or someone senior to you first thing on Monday morning, or maybe you’re currently working on a big project which requires your immediate attention as soon as you get to work. Furthermore, with hybrid and remote work more common than ever, we can’t all leave our workplace worries at the office – when you work from home, it can feel like your work-related anxieties live in your house with you. However, identifying the cause of your trepidation can help you manage your feelings and take the steps you need to take to help you conquer your anxiety.

In some cases, the Sunday Scaries might have more complex causes: there may be several different factors behind your worries which are more difficult to pin down. For example, many of us feel that our weeks are becoming busier and busier, with an increasingly insurmountable pile of responsibilities to survey, which can make us feel anxious. These include:

  • Going to work and performing well.
  • Running errands and doing household jobs like laundry, paying bills, cleaning, etc.
  • Exercising.
  • Looking after children/dependents or elderly parents.
  • Taking care of pets.
  • Maintaining your social life and seeing family.
  • Making time for hobbies.
  • Getting good sleep.
  • Preparing and eating meals

The list goes on, with all of us experiencing different pressures in each area, depending on our living situations and what we struggle with most.

How to Address Looming Anxiety

When anxiety is centred around a task or issue, this can make it more challenging to handle. We shouldn’t be handling work issues over the weekend, but switching off from work mode can feel nigh-on impossible, especially when we have an important task to do.

However, there are lots of things you can do to make this easier! One of the best solutions for anxiety is to write things down. Take 15 minutes to put pen to paper: explore possible solutions or create an actionable to-do list to help you deal with your worries. It can help to separate your tasks into categories:

  • Things you have to do imminently.
  • Things that can wait.
  • Things you can delegate or enlist help to complete

When anxiety surfaces, look at this list and remind yourself that you have done everything you can for now before gently redirecting your attention to the present moment.

Seek Professional Advice

If anxiety or low mood is impacting your day-to-day life, it’s best to seek the help of a professional. Speak to your GP to find the right path for you, whether that be therapy, medication, or a combination of both. Speaking with trusted friends or family members can do wonders, too.

Mental health should not be a taboo in the workplace. Having someone to trust helps people open up about the issues they’re facing and take the steps needed to begin tackling them. Check out Thrive4Life’s Mental Health services to ensure you’re ready to help employees whenever needed.

Change the Narrative and Learn How to Enjoy Your Sundays Again

Sundays are a great time to catch up on all those personal/home-related projects you’ve set aside, relax with friends and family, and prepare for the week ahead. However, most of us know just how badly a case of the Sunday Scaries can completely throw this time of recharging off kilter!

Practising self-compassion is a great way to go easy on yourself at the end of the week. If you didn’t quite find the time to meal prep for the whole week or start that new book, don’t beat yourself up! Instead, focus on what you did achieve. Being down on yourself for your shortcomings will only worsen any feelings of Sunday anxiety. Instead, try these for a more restful Sunday:

  • Do your worst chores first, and avoid leaving them until Sunday evening. Knock them out on Friday evening or Saturday morning so they don’t hang over you all weekend.
  • Pace your chores and errands. If you have the time, try spreading out your chores over your free time during the week so the weekends aren’t full of responsibilities and you’ve got plenty of time to do fun things and relax!
  • Be strict with your intentions. Telling yourself that Sundays are for relaxing activities only will help you prioritise what you need to do accordingly.
  • Try mindfulness or meditation. The Scaries are a form of anticipatory anxiety, so use meditation to bring your focus to the present. Mindfulness is a great way to empty your mind of all those worrisome thoughts. If you need guided meditations, try Calm or Headspace.
  • Treat yourself! Plan something to look forward to at the end of the week, like a long bubble bath or a takeaway.
  • Make Mondays more exciting. Having something to look forward to on Mondays can make them much less daunting. Phone a friend or go to a pub quiz to take the edge off after the work day.
  • Stay AFK (Away From Keyboard!). Log off from any form of work communication, including emails and texts – however tempting it is to check them!
  • Spend some time outside. Curb your racing brain by taking a long walk or enjoying the scenery at your local park. The natural light will boost your mood and support your circadian rhythm, helping you fall asleep quicker in the evening.

There isn’t always a quick fix to that creeping sense of dread that sets in on a Sunday. However, you don’t have to spend half your weekend feeling anxious about the week ahead! Understanding what makes you feel worried about the working week will help you work out how you can combat it and create a Sunday routine that leaves you feeling relaxed, recharged, and fulfilled. When we prioritise relaxation and taking time off, our work can become much more enjoyable and productive. It’s time to trade the Sunday Scaries for relaxation and calmness.

Further Reading

Having a good work/life balance is especially important when trying to switch off from work mode for the weekend. Check out our series on sustaining a healthy balance.

Creating a routine to stick to on Sunday evenings can help set up a productive and successful week ahead. Check out this article for some ideas that can help you build a Sunday routine that prepares you for a calmer, more positive week.

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