Sunday nights can cause feelings of anticipation for the days ahead

What Are Sunday Scaries?

It's like clockwork. You get up on Sunday, ready to seize the day, knowing that you still have a whole weekend day ahead of you before Monday comes knocking. But as the day slowly creeps in, so does that hard-to-shake feeling that something is lurking over your shoulder.

The Sunday scaries have entered the building.

Boy, do they have a way of ruining a perfectly good weekend. Forget lazy Sundays…Monday hasn't arrived yet, but that hasn't stopped the proverbial dark cloud of the new week from looming over us, an indication that the workweek is imminent.

You start thinking of all the things on your to-do list coming up until it becomes overwhelming, and suddenly, the freedom that goes hand-in-hand with a relaxing Sunday is in your rearview mirror.

Here's why we get the Sunday scaries and five ways to manage them.

What are the Sunday scaries?

As the name suggests, the Sunday scaries phenomenon is characterized by the feelings of dread that punctuate the end of the weekend in anticipation of Monday morning and all of the various responsibilities that come with the start of the new week. The name itself sounds a little bit like something made up, but the feeling of the "scaries" is very much real.

They generally occur on, you guessed it, Sundays and are sometimes even referred to as the "Sunday blues." While these feelings usually begin either late Sunday afternoon or early Sunday evenings, some even experience the feeling as early as Sunday morning. In extreme instances, the dread might set in for other people as soon as they get out of bed.

This experience isn't even unique to just one generation. In one LinkedIn survey of working professionals, the results found that the Sunday scaries were experienced by 94% of Gen-Zers, 91% of Millennials, 72% of Gen-Xers and even 69% of Boomers and older.

What causes the Sunday scaries?

Have you ever had a deadline coming up? Or got nervous thinking about all the responsibilities in the distance? Or maybe all of your to-dos are piling up? That anticipation over what is to come is exactly what the Sunday scaries are all about. While this Sunday occurrence can happen to anyone (in fact, 80% of Americans worry about the week ahead on Sundays), there isn't really one specific reason why someone might be experiencing the scaries.

For most working professionals, work-related stresses are a common culprit. Even if you're the type who's "working for the weekend" and are a whizz at compartmentalizing work time and play time, that mentality can be a double-edged sword because returning to your workweek and weekday routine on Monday is all the more abrupt. This can create a ripple effect that leaves many people with a sense of unease about picking up where they left off before the weekend when it comes to their responsibilities.

And it doesn't just stem from work! Anyone used to leaving their weekday responsibilities at the door as soon as Friday night comes around is in for a rude awakening (sometimes literally!) when they have to get back to "adulting" at the start of the week.

There is science to the Sunday scaries. During the weekend we're more relaxed, often to the point where we allow ourselves to be more vulnerable during those precious two days of downtime. This means that when the weekend comes to a close, it takes more effort to get back into the groove of things, suggesting that the Sunday scaries may actually come from the mental gymnastics we play when trying to access the parts of our brain that we don't typically use during the weekend.

How do the Sunday scaries impact your health?

Though they can seem relatively innocent, the Sunday scaries can actually manifest themselves in different ways when it comes to your overall physical and mental health. Just a few of the ways this unwelcome Sunday-to-Monday transition can impact your well-being include:

  • Trouble falling asleep

    —Though difficulty sleeping isn't exactly new to most of us, a whopping 80% have more trouble falling asleep on Sunday compared to other days of the week.
  • Impacting your ability to focus

    —When you have too much on your mind, it can make it harder to pay attention to the present task at hand.
  • Less motivation and energy

    —If you're living in fear of a future state, it can contribute to lower energy and lack of motivation—adding extra difficulty when you're trying to rev yourself up into gear.
  • Affecting your mood

    —If your Sunday night is characterized by the presence of fear and dread thinking about the week ahead, then it inevitably will affect your mood. No wonder some people adopt an "everyone hates Mondays" mantra!

5 ways to beat the Sunday scaries

While it may seem simple to just brush away the inevitable end-of-weekend feelings, it's easier said than done. When these feelings grip you, making the most of your day and what free time remains of the weekend can feel like a Sisyphean effort—unrelenting in your attempt. If you're more prone to these common Sunday feelings, then you're going to need to learn how to better manage your stress. But how exactly can you do that?

The power of positive thought is just that—powerful. Adopting a brighter mindset and reframing the narrative of the Sunday scaries works wonders on how you shape your reality and the world around you. By focusing on the current moment and what you can control you'll find that Sundays aren't so scary after all!

Some easy ways to reframe the narrative and turn the Sunday scaries into a Sunday "funday" include:

  1. Doing a brain dump

    —Getting your workflow, ideas, feelings, commitments and to-do lists out of your head and releasing them in a planner or on a piece of paper can help you declutter your mind and tackle your needs head-on—literally!
  2. Unplugging from technology

    —With the doom scroll of social media just a touch away, taking the opportunity to disconnect—be it for an hour or a whole evening—can help you live more presently and keep thoughts of Monday morning far away. Getting outdoors and taking in nature around you can also help refresh you with positive energy.
  3.  Building positive habits and a routine

    —Having a daily or weekly routine helps you stay focused on your goals and gives you a sense of accomplishment when you get what you need to done. This is especially true on Sunday: by cultivating a routine that requires decisive action, it can empower you to tackle whatever is ahead—be it your Monday morning deadlines or any other responsibilities. Start simply by committing to one ongoing task every Sunday—you'd be surprised by how your mindset changes!
  4. Reaching out to your community

    —If you're struggling with pre-Monday stress, reaching out to catch up with your friends and family through regular check-ins can help keep your mind from wandering to your to-do list.
  5. Taking a mental health day

    —If the thought of leaving the weekend behind leaves you with more dread than you anticipated, it may be time to take a Monday mental health day. Remember, mental health is just as important as physical health. By stepping away from your work environment for a day, it allows you the opportunity to reset before returning. And planning time off can help you better appreciate your weekdays and improve your overall morale—at work, home or otherwise. Practicing a little self-care can go a long way!

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How to prevent the Sunday scaries

It should come to no surprise that most of the techniques for managing the Sunday scaries are also effective tools for managing general stress. Since our well-being is inextricably tied to how much stress we have in our lives at a given time, making sure you keep your stress in a manageable spot is essential for keeping feelings of dread under control, in both the short and the long term.

In fact, think about stress as a bucket. As the weeks of unmanaged stress add up, the bucket becomes more full. By engaging in activities that are beneficial to your mind, you can drain the bucket slowly but surely. A few things to keep in mind include:

  • Maintaining a consistent sleep-wake cycle

    —Getting enough sleep, and getting quality sleep at that, will keep your mind and body in harmony with each other. Rest is undeniably rejuvenating and a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to keeping your physical and mental health in a good place.
  • Eating well and prioritizing exercise

    —We've all been prone to stress eating at one point or another. Maintaining a balanced diet and regular workout routine can help you better support your stress response. In fact, exercise is key to a healthy mood—it helps you deepen your breath and relieve muscle tension.
  • Establish better work-life balance

    —If you regularly take your work home on Friday and keep working well into Saturday and Sunday, consider taking a step back and draw some boundaries. While you don't want to completely ignore a deadline, you also don't want to answer every email midway through your weekend! It's important to ensure you don't blur the lines between your work life and your home life—and it can even be beneficial to your productivity.
  • Prioritize your mindfulness with meditation

    —When life gets hectic, turning inward might be the way to go. Focusing on your breath helps you wind down—it activates your parasympathetic nervous system, giving your body a sense of calm, helps keep your heart rate in a good place and helps relieve both physical and mental tension.
  • Try taking stress relief supplements

    —You're doing the best you can to manage your stress, but sometimes your best efforts deserve a little help. Smart supplementation with stress-modulating nutrients, like ashwagandha, can help you get a leg up on your Sunday scaries. Better yet, ashwagandha combined with spearmint can help you better focus on the week ahead.
  • Spend time with your social network

    —Not only does a strong social network contribute to your longevity, regular time with people in your social network can provide emotional support and feel-good quality time spent with those you care about—a powerful stress reliever.
  • Make time for your hobbies

    —Don't let stress get in the way of the things that you love. Cultivating time solely dedicated to the things that you are passionate about can benefit your emotional well-being and make it easier to deal with anything that comes your way.

With all of these tools at your disposal, you'll be able to make the most of your weekends and conquer Mondays in no time!

Pro tip: Take a quiz to further up your stress management strategy and find nutrients that nourish your mind!

About the Author: Holly Denton got her degree in English Literature from Florida State University and previously worked in English education abroad with the Peace Corps and other development organizations before joining Life Extension, where she is currently a Copywriter.