Everyone works for the weekend, but more and more often that relief outside of work is cut short by a looming sense of dread. A LinkedIn survey found that 80% of people experience this “Sunday anxiety,” rising to 91% for Millennials and 94% for Gen Z. Some experts suggest that this Sunday anxiety is probably even more prevalent of late, as work-life boundaries are blurring with people working from home. In addition, the American Psychological Association (APA) says anxiety rates have risen among American adults, with more than five times as many people reporting experiencing anxiety symptoms than before 2020.
That said, “although the fears on Sundays cause anxiety and sadness, it doesn’t mean you have an anxiety disorder or depression,” explains Angela Ficken, a psychotherapist based in Boston, Massachusetts. Still, the APA warns that over 80% of Americans are more stressed than ever — so we could all use a little less Sunday stress and a little more Sunday fun in our lives.
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What are the “Sunday Fears”?
“Sunday fears are when you feel a sense of dread, nervousness, sadness, or anxiety about the week ahead,” explains Ficken, adding that these feelings can even bubble up as early as Saturday. By the time Monday rolls around and you start your day, the anxiety tends to subside and not return until the following weekend.
In clinical terms, the Sunday fears are a form of “anticipatory anxiety,” says Briana Severine, MS, LPC, LAC, CPRP, founder of Sanare Psychosocial Rehabilitation. As it sounds, anticipatory anxiety involves worrying not about what is happening right now, but about a future event or situation.
But while this may only happen one or two days a week, the Sunday fears can be accompanied by similar symptoms to anxiety disorders. “[It] can be experienced both mentally and physically,” says Naiylah Warren, LMFT. You may experience psychosomatic symptoms of your worry, such as a feeling of heaviness throughout your body, obsessive thoughts, and maybe even shallow breathing and tight muscles, she says.
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Why does Sunday cause fear?
Severine says anticipatory fear is a natural response that occurs in preparation for something we perceive as a “threat” or something that could cause us pain or discomfort. “In today’s modern world, our fight-or-flight response is often triggered not by an approaching hungry tiger, but by the pressures and deadlines of our jobs and the financial security they provide.”
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Here are some of the most common reasons why you might be experiencing the Sunday fears.
Fear of failure or fear of judgment are all too common “threats” to the modern American, Severine says. And this high pressure can trigger irrational thinking patterns, like entertaining all the what-ifs that could go wrong in the next week.
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You had a relaxing weekend
You pulled the plug on Friday at 5 a.m. sharp and spent Saturday on self-care or recharging time with a loved one. That personal time is a huge…and expert-recommended way to invest in your mental well-being. Come Sunday afternoon, you might see the unchecked items from your personal to-do list.
That’s why, even if you successfully use your weekend to fully recharge and compartmentalize work stress, the Sunday fears can crop up. “Sunday reminds us that, the next day, your time will be mostly spent at work,” says Amanda Stemen, a licensed therapist and owner of Fundamental Growth in Los Angeles, CA.
Still, you’ll probably agree: that Saturday “you” time remains essential.
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you had a pressure weekend
Happy hour, brunch, that new fitness class, evening plans – there’s nothing better than a fun weekend with people who bring a smile. And while a busy social schedule can be energetic, it can also leave you with a proverbial hangover, even the non-alcoholic, just plain tired kind.
Spending all of your free time with family and friends can leave you feeling exhausted, Stemen says. “You may not have even had a moment’s rest [so you] am afraid to jump into a hectic schedule again.”
Even if you’re enjoying life, you might decide to keep some balance by keeping next weekend’s calendar a little more light-hearted.
You hate your job
No big shocker here: The Sunday fears often stem from not liking a job, a boss, or co-workers. “This could be due to a career or work environment that isn’t a good fit for you — or potentially quite toxic and totally unpleasant to be in,” Stemen says. “People… fear what they think Monday will come, based on past experience.”
Fortunately, we are in a job market where many candidates can leverage their choices to choose the healthiest environment, as well as a time in society where a harmonious workplace culture has become a greater focus for many employers.
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…or you love your job
“We experience fear regardless of whether a situation is ‘positive’ or ‘negative’,” says Severine. “Even jobs we love have stressful aspects.”
So true, right? According to some experts, the pressure could even rise Lake if you are passionate about your work. The fear of judgment, criticism or failure can escalate as a result. Recent research from May 2022 published in the journal Personality and individual differences emphasized how people who are passionate about their job may experience more anxiety, stress and burnout than those who don’t have such a “bottom-line mentality,” as the researchers who led the study mentioned.
But we live in a time when professional passion can be a slippery slope. Here are nine ways to manage toxic productivity.
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Briana Severine, MS, LPC, LAC, CPRP, founder of Sanare Psychosocial Rehabilitation
Angela Ficken, a psychotherapist based in Boston, Massachusetts
Naiylah Warren, LMFT, Therapist and Clinical Content Manager at Real
Amanda Stemen, Licensed Therapist and Owner of Fundamental Growth in Los Angeles, California
Naiylah Warren, LMFT, therapist at Real
LinkedIn: “Your Guide to Winning @Work: Deciphering the Sunday Scares”
American Psychological Association: “Depression and Anxiety Escalate During COVID”
American Psychological Association: “Stress in America”
Personality and individual differences: “Empty theories of obsessive passion and achievement: it all depends on the bottom line”