How to overcome your Sunday fear
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, most Americans work more than 8 hours a day – they spend more time at work than on household activities, family care, education, meals, personal care and leisure combined. If this rut sounds familiar to you, you probably don’t need scientific data to tell you how much Mondays can suck (although researchers at the University of Vermont used Twitter data in 2011 to confirm that we all hate Mondays). But in recent years, these Monday blues have also crept into our off hours, a phenomenon that experts call the Sunday fears.
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“The Sunday fears are an overwhelming feeling of dread and dread of going to work or school the next day,” says Renée L. Goff, PsyD., PMH-C, a licensed clinical psychologist and the owner of Orchid Wellness & Mentoring. Depending on your schedule, this anxiety doesn’t necessarily strike on a Sunday, but when you spend on what’s meant to be personal time, stress over upcoming work.
And what do the Sunday fears feel like? “Some people describe it as a heaviness they can feel in their bodies, while others feel so jittery that they can jump out of their skin,” says Dr. Goff. “You are also very aware that time is ticking away and the freedom of your weekend is coming to an end.”
It is also very common. Based on various polls, 75 to 80% of people experience the fears on Sunday, says Amanda Stemen, a licensed therapist and owner of Fundamental Growth in Los Angeles, California. But just because it’s widespread doesn’t mean it isn’t manageable. Here’s how experts say you can ease your Sunday anxiety.
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Structure your Sunday
“Structure can be a best friend when you’re feeling the Sunday fears,” says Angela Ficken, a psychotherapist based in Boston, Massachusetts. “Instead of sitting on the couch and watching the clock, do something you enjoy.” You can still get a whiff of that feeling of dread, but that feeling is harder to hold on to when you’re doing something that makes you feel good, she says. Plus, research tells us that adding structure to our days can help us feel a greater sense of control and improve mental health. That’s why it’s important not only to structure your Sundays, but also to be consistent with them, says Ficken.
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Don’t forget to relax
That Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows how little time we have during the week to engage in non-work-related activities, but when structuring your Sunday, try not to do too many errands and chores. If you’re feeling more stressed in general, it’s important to make room for relaxing activities in your Sunday plan to ground yourself, says Naiylah Warren, LMFT. And there is no right way to relax. “Maybe a body scan meditation, maybe an afternoon shower or bath, maybe an engaging movie or show,” Warren says. “[Whatever] feels like a useful distraction to recover from the fears.”
Need inspiration? Check out 10 proven strategies to relax and calm your mind
Locate sources of fear behind the Sunday Scaries
Anxiety is a normal human experience and one of the most important ways to deal with it is to identify your personal triggers. “Try to identify what really makes you dread the week,” says Dr. Goff. “Is it a deadline, meeting or presentation?”
Even if there’s no reason for your Sunday anxiety, organizing the stress you expect from the week ahead into bite-sized chunks can help make it all more manageable. “Make multiple to-do lists,” Dr. Goff on. A list for tasks that must be completed immediately, another for tasks that are less urgent, and a final list for tasks that you want to complete at a specific time. “Seeing this one helps you put into perspective what’s important and what you can let go of for now,” she says. “This can help reduce the anticipation of the week’s stress and anxiety.”
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Create some tension for the coming week
Getting rid of the fears on Sunday isn’t just about tempering the doom and gloom of the week ahead. “If you have something to look forward to, you also have something to think about that is pleasant instead of just focusing on the fear you feel,” says Ficken. It’s a form of reframing your thoughts: Instead of focusing on the awful things you expect for the week, build excitement over a coffee or lunch date with a friend you wanted to talk to. “This will give you the opportunity to shift your mind to something fun and will help improve your mood.”
One idea: have a friend join you for these fun workouts for people who hate sports
End your Sunday with the right energy
Whether you want glowing skin, a healthier night’s sleep or a mental boost, a great evening routine can provide major health benefits. But if you’re dealing with Sunday fears, you may want to build a special routine for these more anxious evenings, Warren says. “This is an opportunity to give yourself time to settle down – maybe you want to keep a journal, put on a face mask, read a few pages of your book – allow yourself to decompress so that you feel empowered and confident that you are ready for the next day,” she says. And do your best to honor this “you” time. That means, if possible, devoting Sunday night to your self-care — and leaving the work emails for Monday morning.
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Renée L. Goff, PsyD., PMH-C, a licensed clinical psychologist and owner of Orchid Wellness & Mentoring
Amanda Stemen, licensed therapist and owner of Fundamental Growth in Los Angeles, California.
Angela Ficken, a psychotherapist based in Boston, Massachusetts
US Bureau of Labor Statistics: “Average Hours Per Day Spent on Selected Activities on Days Worked by Employment Status and Gender”
University of Vermont: “Study: Happiness Down”
Journal of Global Health: “Regularizing mental health daily routines during and after the COVID-19 pandemic”