How to Fight Off the Dreaded Sunday Scaries, According to a Psychologist

The "Sunday scaries" are a common form of anticipatory anxiety for the week ahead.
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We've all been there. After an awesome weekend of fun and relaxation, it finally hits you: It's about to be Monday again. Suddenly all your carefree weekend energy goes down the drain and now you have a constant feeling of anxiety — aka the "Sunday scaries."

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Here, licensed psychologist Kathryn Hall, PhD, breaks down the reason behind Sunday night anxiety and healthy ways to handle it.

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What Are the Sunday Scaries?

The "Sunday scaries" are a sense of dread felt as the weekend is coming to an end. It's a type of anticipatory anxiety, per the Cleveland Clinic, because you're feeling anxious about the work week ahead.

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There's a reason your anxiety may be particularly bad on Sundays. As the weekend winds downs, your weekly responsibilities and endless to-do lists come creeping back up. The Sunday blues set in, ruining the rest of your day.

It's a common experience that will usually happen in the late afternoon or Sunday evening, but it's also possible to feel anxiety upon waking Sunday morning, per the Cleveland Clinic.

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Causes of Sunday Anxiety

The main cause for Sunday night anxiety is usually work-related stress, according to Hall. It's not uncommon to lose sleep because of it, tossing and turning while you think about the busy week ahead.

This doesn't help: "Sleep is essential to a person's day, but it's even more important on a Sunday night when you're preparing for your work week," Hall says.

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Of course, there are other possible stressors that could be causing your Sunday anxiety. Other potential reasons can include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed with responsibilities at home
  • Anticipating a busy week ahead
  • Balancing work and personal life
  • Having important deadlines or events coming up

Symptoms of Sunday Anxiety

Sunday scaries aren't just in your head. Your anxiety can turn into physical symptoms that potentially interfere with your day, per the Cleveland Clinic.

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Common symptoms include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Heavy sweating
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shaking
  • Stomachache
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Headache
  • In extreme cases, depression or even a heart attack

7 Ways to Combat the Sunday Scaries

With planning and preparation, you can overcome the Sunday scaries and feel ready to tackle the week.

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Here's how:

1. Get Some Sunshine

Sunlight is a mood-enhancer and can make you feel energized, Hall says.

"Sunshine will regulate your internal clock alongside daylight hours, plus it could have some positive effects on your hormone cycles and body temperature, too," she notes.

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If you're worried you don't get enough sunlight, you could also simulate sunshine with sunlight lamps.

2. Have a Set Bedtime and Stick to It

It might be tempting to stay up late on a Sunday night, but it's better to set yourself up for success with a good night's rest, Hall says.

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"Sleep can help prepare you mentally, physically and emotionally for Monday morning," she says. "It also gives you time to let go of any stress or worries from the previous week so you can start fresh."

Having a bedtime may feel childish, but turning in around the same time every night helps your body regulate its internal clock and creates a healthy sleeping pattern, Hall says.

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The result? It's easier to drift off to dreamland.

"This will likely result in you feeling tired at roughly the same time every evening and prevent periods where you crash from exhaustion," Hall says.

3. Avoid Sunday Afternoon Naps

This one may be challenging. Who doesn't love a weekend power nap? But Hall says afternoon naps can disrupt a healthy sleeping pattern.

"Napping can make you feel less tired, and in turn, cause trouble sleeping at night, as you don't feel sleepy at your usual bedtime," she says.

If you find yourself feeling drowsy, pick yourself up off the sofa and get active. Try going for a walk or simply doing the dishes.

Exercise is one of the best natural remedies for anxiety. And it doesn't have to be a gym session, either — it can be any activity that gets your body moving and prevents you from dozing off and ruining your night's sleep.

4. Put Down Your Phone

Stop the late-night scrolling and resist the urge to check your emails or the latest posts on Instagram. According to Harvard Health Publishing, the light from phone and TV screens can suppress melatonin levels and stimulate your brain rather than relax you.

Hall suggests trying to read a book instead. "The average person only needs to read six pages before their stress levels are reduced, making this an easy habit to form for anyone," she says.

"Plus, reading a book also makes you more likely to experience an increase in slow-wave activity (a type of brain wave associated with deep sleep) during the initial stages of your sleep cycle, meaning you'll have a deeper sleep overall and wake up feeling more restful."

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5. Plan Your Outfit the Night Before

Avoid decision fatigue and make your life easier by cutting down on choices you have to make in the morning.

"Not only will you save heaps of time that is usually wasted on indecision, but your bedroom floor won't be covered in various tops and trouser combinations, and you won't need to rush to iron something last-minute," Hall says.

"If you're wondering how to start a good work week, getting ready quickly and easily is a great start, as you're less likely to be late for work, causing you to have to stay longer," she adds.

6. Try Sleep-Inducing Movements

If you're lying in bed and struggling to drift off, try rubbing the inner part of your wrist to help soothe yourself into a slumber more quickly, Hall says.

"The pressure points on this part of your wrist are known as heart four, five, six and seven. They are four acupressure points that help alleviate stress by reducing your cortisol levels, also known as your stress hormones," she adds.

7. Cool Yourself Down

If you find yourself wide awake with anxiety and need help calming down, try using an icepack to cool yourself down. Hall suggests placing a towel-wrapped icepack to your chest and holding it there for 15 minutes.

"This helps cool down the vagus nerve, which is responsible for your parasympathetic nervous system. Throughout the 15 minutes, you will slowly feel yourself calming down and your heart rate lowering to a more still-like rate," Hall says.

When to Get Help

Ultimately, it's OK to feel a little anxiety the day before your work week.

But if Sunday anxiety is severely interfering with your sleep, eating habits or everyday life, talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment options.

According to the Mayo Clinic, anxiety disorders can typically be treated with psychotherapy and medication like antidepressants or anti-anxiety meds.

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references

Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.

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