The Sunday Scaries

The Sunday Scaries

I don’t think there is anyone out there who is employed or runs a business who hasn’t experienced the so-called ‘Sunday Scaries’.

While this term sounds a tad juvenile, like the proverbial Bogeyman under your bed or hiding in your closet, it’s a very real and adult thing. If you’re old enough to work then you’re old enough to have felt this Sunday sense of dread.

I think that technically, anyone who has ever experienced bullying or had a hard time socially at school is probably more than familiar with those same feelings about going back to school on Monday. So not just an adult thing then.

It’s the complete opposite of the Friday Feels, that lightness that builds as the day goes on and you get closer and closer to your weekend free time and me-time. The anticipation of no commute, no responsibility, no dealing with colleagues who may prove ‘challenging’. Fridays offer a sensation that is often hard to beat.

What exactly are the Sunday scaries?

Mental health experts will tell you that it’s a form of anticipatory anxiety. And of course, it’s not limited to Sunday. Whatever work schedule you’re on, your return to work date is your ‘scary’ day.

It’s also got a high-profile relative called ‘return from holiday scaries’ with similar vibes, but you get the picture.

Nothing has actually happened yet, but it’s all about the what if’s. It’s about knowing your upcoming workload or dealing with tricky presentations and client meetings. It can be any number of work-related situations that you aren’t looking forward to or are resigned to as the norm.

Many people report symptoms like feelings of dread, worry, and anxiety.

Physically it can manifest in heart palpitations, excessive sweating, sleeplessness, headaches, trembling, general depression, and even nausea.

They can start early on a Sunday, or as you’re easing into the evening and getting ready for bed. Your mind may start racing and you’re unable to unscramble or stop irrational thoughts from creeping in.

Nothing about it is fun to experience. And yet so many of us do.

In fact, a recent report from a LinkedIn survey of 2000 people in the US found that 75% of us experience this type of anticipatory anxiety. It’s been steadily getting worse with economic uncertainty, the rising cost of living and record inflation.

Burnout is also a contributor because many of us feel like we just don’t get enough respite from our working time, especially in metropolitan areas and who often have to factor in lengthy commutes (I’m talking to you, London).

So how do we ward off the Sunday scaries?

For some of us, it’s all about living for the weekend. Socialising and partying mean that we are overloading ourselves with pressure to live it up on our down time which doesn’t give us much time to relax and reload for the week ahead.

Others leave work unfinished on Friday which creates added pressure for Monday because nobody wants to work on the weekend. And if we do work on the weekend that isn’t a real break and burnout can worsen. This is anxiety mode flexing its considerable muscle on our mental health.

The good news? There are some tried and true things you can do to minimise the impact of these Sunday sensations that offer you a lifeline or coping mechanism.

Finish tasks on Friday

Prioritise your workloads on Friday so that essential tasks are done and dusted. Being able to start fresh on a Monday will lighten the load for the coming week.

Experts also suggest looking back on your week to see where anything went wrong and outlining a plan to avoid them from happening again. Whether that involves time management or better preparation and prioritisation for certain tasks it can certainly have a positive impact.

Write out what scares you

Oh sure, we all know the benefits of journaling. But it can be illuminating to write down on paper all of the things that are causing you stress and anxiety on any given Sunday.

You’ll begin to see patterns emerging that can help you take measurable actions that help reduce those fears and feelings of dread.

If it’s too stressful to do early in the day which might set off your stress levels before they normally kick in, do it in the evening. Experiment with different times of day to see what works best.

Change up your anticipatory thoughts

Since we know the root of our stress and anxiety is about unknown negative anticipatory events, start to have positive work-related events or plans in your itinerary so that you have good things to look forward to.

Maybe it’s scheduling a work lunch with a colleague, socialising after work, or looking forward to seeing a client that you get along well with.

Find out if a four-day week is a flexible option

Many companies are discovering that there are inherent benefits to a four-day workweek. That extra day off means you really can be social, get odd jobs done and add in a component of relaxation when it doesn’t all have to be crammed into 48 hours.

If your employer is open to flexible work options, this may be something that works for some.

When to get help

If you find yourself emotionally stressed to the point of regular tears, calling in sick, or begin considering Sundays as negatively as the impending Mondays, you might need to get some professional help.

It might be that you need to change your place of work, but not everyone who experiences the scaries hates their job.

It’s when it starts to happen without fail and intensifies in its physical and mental manifestations.

Sundays or whatever day of the week you feel back-to-work anxiety don’t have to be ‘scary’. But knowing what you need to do to minimise their impact and when you might need some additional support to get them under control is part of the way forward.

May we all eventually get to a place where we can enjoy that laid-back feeling when we hear Lionel Ritchie sing out, “That’s why I’m eaaaassssyyyy…”.