by Jolanta Burke – Senior Lecturer, Centre for Positive Psychology and Health, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences
Sunday is often a chance to catch up with friends, lost sleep, and recover from last night’s hangover. But for many of us, by the time Sunday afternoon rolls around, a feeling of intense anxiety and dread sets in – often referred to as the “Sunday scaries”.
It’s hardly surprising the “Sunday scaries” are so common. After all, research shows Sunday is our unhappiest day of the week – with Saturday being the peak. There are a number of reasons why the Sunday scaries happen, and how you spend your weekend can play a big role.
For example, spending all your weekend stuck inside on your computer probably isn’t a good idea, even if it’s for leisure. This is because research shows people who spend a lot of time on their computer tend to feel more anxious in general. Abundant alcohol and drug use can also cause your mood to plummet and cause anxiety levels to soar the following day. So if you spent your Saturday night partying, this might explain why you feel down or anxious by Sunday afternoon.
This article is part of Quarter Life, a series about issues affecting those of us in our twenties and thirties. From the challenges of beginning a career and taking care of our mental health, to the excitement of starting a family, adopting a pet or just making friends as an adult. The articles in this series explore the questions and bring answers as we navigate this turbulent period of life.
For many people, the Sunday scaries also happen due to the work they left behind on Friday evening. The anticipation of the next day, the work you might have to do, and all the emails you’ll need to catch up on can cause anxiety. But working through the weekend isn’t the answer either – and could actually leave your mental health worse off.
The Sunday scaries may also happen because of a social overload that happens during the weekend. This may be especially true for people who work hard during the week or those who are single, who designate their weekend as being their primary time for socialising. But spending time with others, as enjoyable as it may be, can put additional pressure on us. For example, when we share our friends’ worries, we may become stressed too..
If you’re someone who tends to suffer from the Sunday scaries, here are a few things you can do to cope.
One of the most effective ways of getting rid of the Sunday scaries is to prevent them from happening to begin with. This means trying to finish any tasks you need to do before the weekend, instead of leaving it until Monday morning.
When you know you have unfinished business to deal with on Monday, it can have a number of effects on you, including by ruining your night’s sleep and making you more anxious on Sunday. It may even affect your next week by making you more likely to experience burnout. This is why starting the week with a clean slate is crucial.
Before you switch off your computer on Friday evening, you might also want to take time to reflect on the negative things that may have happened during the week, consider what changes you might want to make for the next week, and try to tie up any loose ends and easy tasks that you can instead of leaving them for Monday.
If you’re in a middle of a long-term project, at least try to complete a milestone task that will help you feel like a chapter of your work is closed on Friday, with a new one ready to begin on Monday.
Probably the biggest reason for feeling anxious on Sunday evening is due to dreading the work you have to do the following week – especially those tasks you hate doing.
But having events planned for the week that you can look forward to can help balance out these negative emotions and make you feel more positive about the week head. Try creating a new routine on Sunday where you plan out fun things you can do the next week, such as meeting friends for lunch or going to the cinema after work.
If you get your Sunday scaries but have no idea what’s causing them, take 20 minutes of uninterrupted time to write down your deepest thoughts and feelings. This simple exercise can help you figure out what causes your anxious thoughts, which will ultimately help you address them.
But if you’re someone who has never tried expressive writing before, here are a few things that might help you get started:
Write about your challenges using a different perspective (such as how your parent or best friend might see it).
Try writing at different times of day. You may be more focused at different times of the day, which can be important for helping you tune into how you’re feeling.
If you find it difficult to talk or write about yourself, imagine you’re writing with a specific audience in mind, such as your friend. This may help you better express what you’re feeling and understand why you’re feeling that way.
If writing isn’t for you, use a recorder or video to help you express yourself.
Of course, there are many reasons that people may experience the Sunday scaries. While some of these factors we can change, some of them are a bit more difficult to address, such as if your feelings of anxiety are due to working with people who treat you unfairly. But regardless of the reasons you may get the Sunday scaries, remember that we often tend to over-exaggerate our anxieties in our heads – and often these fears turn out to be unfounded.
The Conversation via ReutersConnect