Do you find that as your weekends come to an end, your feelings of anxiousness start to go up? Anxiety on Sunday nights is sometimes referred to as the “Sunday Scaries.” Learn what causes Sunday anxiety and how to help it go away.
What Are Sunday Scaries?
The Cleveland Clinic defines Sunday Scaries as “feelings of intense anxiety and dread that routinely occur every Sunday.”(1) While these feelings generally begin to appear later in the day, someone with higher levels of anxiety may start to experience them earlier, even upon waking.
Along with having anxiety on Sunday nights, someone with the Sunday Scaries might notice other symptoms as well. Symptoms of Sunday anxiety can range from increased sweating, upset stomach, headache, and trouble sleeping to more severe manifestations such as depression or even a heart attack.(1)
One survey found that eight in ten professionals have the Sunday Scaries, with younger generations experiencing them more, affecting 94% of Gen Z and 91% of millennials compared to 72% of Gen X and 69% of baby boomers.(2)
Causes of Anxiety on Sunday Nights
There are a few potential reasons for feelings of anxiety on Sunday nights. Among them are:
- Dealing with a high-stress job: If you have work-related anxiety, knowing that you have to return to your job the following day could cause this anxiety to begin to appear in advance. You start to think about the projects you have to work on or the things you need to get done and this triggers feelings of anxiousness.
- Having a busy week ahead: Even if you don’t have to work, knowing that you have a lot to do in the days ahead can lead to anxiety on Sunday nights. Maybe your days are packed with family obligations or a home project that you’re working to finish. As you begin to go through your long to-do list, you start to feel tense as a result.
- Not handling things the week before: For more than one in three people, Sunday anxiety occurs when they begin thinking about everything they didn’t get done the week before.(2) All that unfinished business gets transferred forward and added to this week’s to-do list, so you start to feel overwhelmed.
- Struggling to balance work and home: More than two in five people who experience the Sunday Scaries have anxiety that stems from trying to balance work and home.(2) You start to think about all your obligations in both settings and the anxiety begins to well up.
How To Ease Sunday Anxiety
If you have the Sunday Scaries, you can start to ease your late-weekend anxiety by taking a few steps.
Make Sleep a Priority
Some people sleep less during the week, then try to remedy this by getting more shut-eye over the weekend. Yet, studies show that taking this approach doesn’t stop the effects of regularly skimping on sleep.(3)
This is why it’s important to make sleep a priority all week long. You can do this by creating healthy sleep habits such as having the same bedtime and wake-up time on weekdays and weekends, creating an environment that makes you want to sleep, and establishing a relaxing nighttime routine.
Do a “Brain Dump”
Does your mind tend to race on Sunday nights, causing your anxiety to shoot up? You can clear these thoughts by doing a “brain dump” says Rachel Goldman, PhD, FTOS, a licensed psychologist specializing in stress management and changing unhealthy behaviors.
Take a few minutes on Sunday night and write down all the things that are contributing to your anxiety. Putting your thoughts on paper gets them out of your mind, freeing it for more feel-good emotions. It also relieves any worries that you might forget something on your to-do list because it is now written down.
Separate Home and Work
Sunday Scaries can occur when worries about work extend into our time off. By striving to keep work and home separate, you can reduce your anxiety on Sunday nights. This helps by training your brain that work-related thoughts are off-limits during your time at home.
When you notice your brain shifting to work on Sunday afternoon or evening, immediately push those thoughts from your head. Tell yourself that Monday will be here soon enough and you can deal with your work-related issues then.
If you work from home, separating your personal and professional life may be more difficult. It can help to create a designated workspace for when you are “on the job.” Not going into this space on Sunday keeps your mind off work, also relieving your Sunday anxiety.
Address Workplace Bullying
Workplace bullying is associated with higher levels of anxiety.(4) When you know that someone is going to mistreat you or push you around when you return to work on Monday, it is only natural to experience anxiety on Sunday nights.
If you face this type of behavior at work, ways to confront workplace bullying include:
- Reporting the bully to a supervisor
- Setting personal boundaries
- Surrounding yourself with people who support you
Turn Off Work Notifications
Are your Sunday Scaries triggered by receiving emails, texts, or other work notifications before your new week even begins? While these notifications may help you stay updated Monday through Friday, they can also cut your weekend short, returning your mind to work before your body has to physically reappear.
Unless you absolutely cannot turn off your workplace notifications, such as if you are on call, put them on mute every Friday when you leave work. This can prevent them from interrupting your time off, reducing your Sunday anxiety in the process.
For some people, “spending an hour checking emails or reviewing your upcoming work schedule can help alleviate the ‘Sunday Scaries,'” says Dr. Goldman, “because you know what you’re walking into on Monday.” If this sounds like you, setting aside a designated period of time on Sunday nights may help.
Practice Relaxation Strategies
If you experience anxiety on Sunday nights, another option is to use this time to engage in activities that are designed to relax you. By getting your mind and body to release the tension they hold, your anxiety can slip away as well, providing some much-desired relief.
Three effective strategies for feeling more relaxed both mentally and physically are progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, and guided imagery.(5) If other activities relax you, such as taking a warm bath or listening to soothing music, you might want to do them too.
“No matter what you pick, make sure it is relaxing and distracting,” says Dr. Goldman. “You don’t want to be in the bathtub and have your mind still at work. Find things that truly relax you and take you out of your work head.”
Stay Active on Sundays
Sometimes, all you need is a little distraction to keep your mind from wandering to work before you actually have to punch back in. Instead of spending your Sunday evenings doing nothing (or mindlessly watching TV), plan something that will keep your brain engrossed enough that work cannot enter in.
This might be a good time to meet up with friends and have a few laughs, finishing your weekend on a high note instead of wrestling with Sunday anxiety. You might also look for fun events in your area or take a Sunday night class.
If you’d rather be at home, spend your Sunday nights engaged in a hobby you enjoy. One hobby good for relieving stress is drawing.(6) If you enjoy woodworking, writing, gardening, or something else, you can do that instead.
Create a Weekly Plan
For some people, Sunday Scaries occur because they have a lot to do during the week but are unsure how they’ll get it all done. This is where weekly planning comes in handy. By creating an outline of how you’ll tackle your to-do list, your brain is able to relax.
Make a note of things you need to do each day. If you’re working on a bigger project, breaking it down into a series of small steps can help keep you from feeling overwhelmed. It also gives you a bunch of smaller wins throughout your week, which motivates you to keep moving forward.
Make Mondays a Day You Look Forward To
If you get anxious on Sunday nights because you dread the start of a new work week, schedule Monday activities that you will look forward to. This turns your Sunday anxiety into excitement as you anticipate the event you’ve scheduled for the next day.
Make Monday the day you meet a good friend for lunch or save some of your favorite television shows to watch after work. Monday could also be the day that you take a class that makes you feel good and naturally relieves stress and anxiety, such as one that involves exercise or art.
Leave Breathing Room in Your Week
While staying busy during the week can help you get things done, if your weekdays are too full, it can lead to Sunday anxiety. You know that you’re about to face non-stop activities and your brain starts to gear up for it.
One way to combat this is to give yourself a little breathing room in your weekly schedule. Leave some open time between meetings or other obligations so you don’t feel as rushed. Also, block out a few nights each week where you don’t schedule anything, giving your body and mind time to recharge.
When to Seek Help
If you face extreme anxiety on Sunday nights or you’ve tried everything to get rid of the Sunday Scaries with no luck, a mental health professional can help. A counselor or therapist can help get to the source of your Sunday anxiety and provide tips for overcoming it.
There are several types of therapy effective for easing anxiety, including cognitive behavioral therapy(7) and art therapy,(8) along with many others. So, you don’t have to just accept anxiety as part of your Sunday routine. Instead, learn how to deal with your feelings of anxiousness in a way that keeps them at bay, giving you the opportunity to enjoy yourself all weekend long.
- Cleveland Clinic. What are the ‘Sunday Scaries’?
- Heitmann B. Your guide to winning @work: Decoding the Sunday Scaries. LinkedIn.
- Depner CM, Melanson EL, Eckel RH, et al. Ad libitum weekend recovery sleep fails to prevent metabolic dysregulation during a repeating pattern of insufficient sleep and weekend recovery sleep. Curr Biol. 2019;29(6):957-967. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2019.01.069
- Rodríguez-Muñoz A, Moreno-Jiménez B, Sanz-Vergel AI. Reciprocal relations between workplace bullying, anxiety, and vigor: a two-wave longitudinal study. Anxiety Stress Coping. 2015;28(5):514-530. doi:10.1080/10615806.2015.1016003
- Toussaint L, Nguye QA, Roettger C, et al. Effectiveness of progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, and guided imagery in promoting psychological and physiological states of relaxation. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2021;2021:5924040. doi:10.1155/2021/5924040
- Hartono M. Drawing hobby as a medium to manage stress and self-development. J Visual Communic Design. 2022;7(1):43-52. doi:10.37715/vcd.v7i1.2905
- Carpenter JK, Andrews LA, Witcraft SM, Powers MB, Smits JA, Hofmann SG. Cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety and related disorders: A meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials. Depress Anxiety. 2018;35(6):502-514. doi:10.1002/da.22728
- Abbing A, Baars EW, de Sonneville L, Ponstein AS, Swaab H. The effectiveness of art therapy for anxiety in adult women: A randomized controlled trial. Front Psychol. 2019;10:1203. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01203