Achieving a healthy work/life balance is already a challenge, as work increasingly bleeds into personal time.
The reward for making it through another long week is the weekend, when many try to squeeze in as much as possible, whether it’s cleaning up around the house, reading a book, bingeing a new TV series or spending time with family and friends.
Weekends are already too short, so the last thing we need is something that takes precious time away from us. As Sunday progresses, a dark cloud moves in, bringing with it a sense of dread as you begin thinking about the week ahead. Enter: the Sunday scaries.
If you’re not familiar with the term, the Sunday scaries is a form of anticipatory anxiety — a feeling of nervousness or fear that sets in as you transition from the weekend to the workweek. The intensity of it varies from person to person, from feeling a mild sense of unease to triggering your fight-or-flight survival instincts. People who experience the Sunday scaries also report restlessness, irritability, insomnia and digestive issues.
While it may not be a frequent topic of conversation with your friends and co-workers, Sunday scaries are fairly common.
A 2018 survey conducted by LinkedIn found that 80 per cent of respondents experienced it. For millennials and Gen Z, it’s by a whopping 90 per cent. Another survey pinpoints 3:58 pm as the average start time, with 88 per cent of participants reporting that they experience anticipatory anxiety every week.
You may feel like there’s no way to escape this weekly bout of anticipatory anxiety, but there are ways to cope and ultimately eliminate the feelings altogether. Here are 10 ways to reclaim more of your weekend by getting rid of the Sunday scaries for good.
Identify the source of your anxiety
There are several triggers for the Sunday scaries, with juggling large workloads, balancing professional and personal to-do lists, and thinking about the tasks that weren’t completed the previous week as the leading causes, according to the LinkedIn survey. For some, it’s stress over an upcoming presentation or deadline, and for others, it’s returning to a high-pressure or toxic work situation. It feels like a never-ending cycle that can’t be broken, but the good news is that once you identify the sources of your Sunday scaries, there are ways to make them a thing of the past.
Be prepared and ease into the workweek
Instead of mentally checking out partway through your Friday afternoon, take some time to get ahead of your Monday tasks. Going into the week with a shorter to-do list will allow you to ease into the workweek. Also, whenever possible, try not to schedule huge deadlines, presentations or meetings on a Monday.
Maintain your sleep schedule on weekends
While you may be tempted to stay up late and sleep in on weekends, sticking to a sleep schedule will help combat that Sunday evening stress. Part of this is making sure that you have a full, restful night of sleep on both Fridays and Saturdays. Keeping to that schedule will also help you get a decent night’s sleep before starting a new workweek.
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Tackle tedious tasks on Saturdays
Instead of leaving tasks like laundry, grocery shopping and meal prep to Sunday, get them out of the way on Saturday, or even Friday evening. This will help reduce stress and help you dedicate Sunday to rest and recreation.
Cap your weekend with a Sunday funday
With your chores out of the way earlier in the weekend, Sunday can be all about living life to the fullest. Make your Sundays fun days by planning activities like a leisurely brunch with friends, checking out a nearby winery or brewery, hitting up a matinee at your local movie theatre, or exploring a new neighbourhood.
If you’d rather stay home, curl up with a good book or make your way through that TV show that’s been on your list. Families can use this extra time to visit a local attraction, go on a day trip, or spend quality time with loved ones they don’t get to see very often. Soon enough, you’ll be looking forward to Sundays rather than dreading them, and the good times will be front of mind as your weekend comes to a close.
Exercise or do something physical
Physical activity is one of the best ways to combat the Sunday scaries. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, it only takes five minutes of aerobic exercise to reduce anxiety. Set aside time on Sundays to take a long walk, hike a new trail, join a running club or cycle your local bike path. If your body feels better, your mind does as well; exercise will reduce fatigue, improve concentration and counter the harmful effects of stress on your physical well-being.
Put down your electronics
We spend so much of our lives tethered to our devices, but one way to tackle the Sunday scaries is to put down our electronics and step away from social media over the weekend, especially on Sundays. This will reduce your urge to check your work email or passively scroll through social feeds, both of which can increase stress. Comparing ourselves with others can cause us to feel FOMO, or that we didn’t fully take advantage of leisure time over the weekend.
Set a Sunday evening routine
Rather than ending your weekend as a bundle of nerves, establish a Sunday evening routine that will help you unwind. For example, order takeout from one of your favourite restaurants and watch a feel-good movie or listen to music, then practise meditation or restorative yoga. Before going to bed, take a bath, put on your favourite PJs, and get between a fresh pair of sheets so you wake up on Monday well-rested and refreshed.
Schedule self-care or fun activities on weeknights
Don’t limit your self-care or fun to Saturday and Sunday. By scheduling post-work drinks with friends or a manicure on a weeknight, it gives you something to look forward to instead of focusing solely on work. You could also plan something as simple as watching your favourite show with a friend or two while munching on tasty snacks. You’ll not only break up the monotony of your weekdays, but the weekend will no longer feel that far away.
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See a therapist
Seeking professional help from a therapist can help you identify the sources of your Sunday scaries and come up with techniques to not only cope with them, but also to reduce or end them.
According to psychology professor Jonathan Abramowitz, cognitive behavioural therapy is the most reliable way to say goodbye to the Sunday scaries for good. This is the process of altering mental and behavioural patterns, ultimately changing your perception of Sunday evenings. A therapist can also work with you to identify if something greater is at play, like a job that you no longer find fulfilling or a conflict with a co-worker that hasn’t been addressed.
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