By Nydia Nunez-Estrada, M.D.
Family Medicine Specialist at Eskenazi Health Center North Arlington
Now that most schools are back in session, countless Americans all the way from kids in preschool to adults nearing retirement have something in common they experience regularly that brings varying degrees of sadness, nervousness and dread.
Also referred to as the “Sunday Blues,” the “Sunday Scaries” occur when individuals of all ages begin to experience anxiety on Sundays when they realize that after a carefree weekend, in a few hours they’ll return to the pressures and demands of the school or work portions of their lives.
According to a recent LinkedIn survey, 80 percent of professionals say they experience the Sunday Scaries, with over 90 percent of Millennials and Gen Z reporting they also deal with it.
On Sundays, many of us start thinking about catalysts that upset us Monday through Friday that include a constantly critical and micromanaging boss, back-biting and untrustworthy co-workers, a long commute, tight deadlines on projects and grinding to the brink of burnout.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of Americans have been working from home and many continue to do so, which sometimes makes it hard on the weekends and days off to feel that you’re putting work concerns on the back burner because the computer (lifeline to one’s job) is always close by.
Even if we had an enjoyable weekend and don’t have a particularly stressful work week coming up, we can still get hit with the Sunday Scaries if we frequently associate work with stress. The more we think that way, the easier it gets for our brains to identify any work thought as a sign of tension or anxiety, which can result in a loss of sleep and an overall bad mood.
For many, the Sunday Scaries will always be with us, so here are a few ways to make them less troublesome:
One of the most effective ways of lessening the effect of the Sunday Scaries is to do all you can to prevent them from happening to begin with. This means finishing any tasks that you feel you should before the weekend starts.
When you know you have unfinished business to deal with on Monday, it can have a number of effects on you that include 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. It’s why starting the week with a clean slate is crucial, so if you’re a habitual procrastinator we suggest rethinking that way of doing things, and the sooner the better.
Before you switch off your computer and put work behind you on Friday evening, it’s a good idea to leave yourself a to-do list so you’ll feel more organized and prepared when Monday rolls around and find yourself in front of a laptop with your first cup of coffee. If you’re in the 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 specific 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 those negative emotions and make you feel a little more positive about the week ahead. 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 movies after work.
Regardless of the reasons you may get the Sunday Scaries, remember that we often tend to overexaggerate our anxieties and thankfully those fears often turn out to be unfounded.
For more information on dealing with the Sunday Scaries or any mental health issue, we suggest requesting an appointment with the Sandra Eskenazi Mental Health Center by visiting eskenazihealth.edu/mental-health.