Today is Sunday, which means I’ll be sleeping in a little later than usual without guilting myself. I will brunch and I might have two Nespresso coffees instead of my usual limit of one. I will also permit myself to scroll Instagram a little while longer, and I might even start the day by watching a TV show — AKA, the epitome of non-productivity.
Then, lunchtime hits. The person I was an hour ago? She is long gone. My mind starts to race, following the lines of:
There is so much cleaning I have to do. I didn’t follow my morning routine. I have to work out. Except I’m tired. Except I shouldn’t be tired, it’s Sunday and I’ve done nothing all morning. I also need to write. But I don’t know what to write about. But if I don’t write today I won’t get to it tomorrow because tomorrow is Monday and I have so much stuff to do on Mondays. Oh God, tomorrow is Monday and I have so much cleaning to do and I wasted my morning eating pancakes that I won’t burn off because I don’t feel like working out and watching TV that isn’t helpful in any way to building my dream life and career. Why hasn’t anyone answered my emails? Oh, right — it’s Sunday and everything is closed. I should get a manicure to distract my thoughts. Ah, crap — that’s closed, too. I shouldn’t be spending on those anyway, and I haven’t written nearly enough to save up that extra money. I should meditate to calm myself down. But I can’t remember how because I haven’t meditated in 6 months and that’s probably why I’m so anxious and I’m a fraud because I act all put-together and write about being calm and minimal and oh God I hate Sundays.
Sound familiar? I’m sure it does, because I can guarantee you Sunday Scaries are a thing, and so can the rest of the internet.
“The Sunday Scaries is known as the anxiety that sets in on Sunday nights, before the impending return to the office, school or work. Whether you call them The Sunday Scaries, The Sunday Blues, The Fear, The Shakes, The Dread — they’re there.”
— The Sunday Scaries Podcast
What are the Sunday Scaries?
The Sunday Scaries are the opposite of TGIF.
Your weekend — which started out with hiking and mimosa picnics — is now dragging its feet towards a conclusive note which will entail meal prepping, laundry, echoes of mild depression, and melancholy for your freedom that once was.
The Scaries aren’t about hating your job, school, Mondays, or your boss — they’re about the task-induced anxiety and societal pressures of the ineffective American work-life “balance”.
The Sunday Scaries are not exactly clinically diagnosed, but the term has gained major popularity in the past decade (as anxiety rates have also skyrocketed). According to an extensive article published this past February for The Atlantic, the average millennial categorizes the Sunday Scaries as “low-grade existential dread”.
The Urban Dictionary also has a very entertaining definition of what the Sunday Scaries might be:
The feeling you have after a long week of work followed by a Saturday full of binge drinking, when Sunday hits you question your entire existence. Typically characterized by laying in bed all day and both regretting past decisions and questioning your seemingly non-existent future. Thoughts like: “I’m going to die alone” and “Will I ever get a job that I actually enjoy?” — consume you for the entire day while you’re battling a hangover.
Who is Affected?
The transition from weekend to workweek is inevitable, and for some, it has always been unpleasant. In fact, Sunday Scaries are known to affect anyone of any age, regardless of whether you love or dread what you do for a living.
A 2018 survey revealed that 80 percent of working American adults worry about their upcoming work week on Sundays and that the average onset time is roughly 4 pm.
Generally, the discomfort of Sunday stress should remain manageable. Since anxiety comes in all forms and isn’t experienced by all people, some people are barely bothered by Sunday Blues at all. However, research does suggest that people with certain personality traits are more likely to experience general anxiety and its younger sister: the Sunday Blues. For example, those who tend to be perfectionists, empathetic, introverted, lacking self-esteem and self-confidence, controlling, prone to overthinking, or have trouble adapting to change are more susceptible than the average person to experience various types of anxiety.
Why Does it Happen?
Sunday Blues are the tensions that emerge as the result of these two ponderings:
“Have I been productive enough?” vs “Have I relaxed enough?”
Sundays are not the same as they were 30 years ago. Instead of being solely reserved for leisure, Sundays now include paid or gig work, chores, shopping, child-rearing, and child-care — making them “busier and behaviorally closer to weekdays” than ever before.
We glamorize the hustle and constant productivity, make it difficult — and almost taboo — not to feel guilty about rest. Yet, we constantly stress the importance of self-care and its benefits, contributing as a collective to the loophole that never seems to end. A hamster in its cage, both running and sleeping in its wheel until it either gets too dizzy to continue or so overwhelmed with stimuli its heart simply stops.
It is also important to note that not only have we dragged the workweek into our weekends, but our habits have also contributed to the result of our generalized anxiousness. The changes in our sleep patterns on the weekend, such as staying up late and snoozing in later, deregulates and stresses our biological clocks. The side-effects of caffeine withdrawal (or excess) and the occasional hangover also increases our susceptibility to the all-too-familiar weekend melancholy.
How to You Stop It?
Make Sundays fun. By purposefully scheduling a fun activity, like a long hike, a dinner with friends, or an afternoon DIY project, you will deter and occupy your thoughts with the present moment rather than ruminating over something that hasn’t happened yet (or may not even happen at all).
Some people suggest writing a Sunday to-do list in order to jot down, on paper, all of the thoughts and tasks you juggle in your mind. (Personally, I find this technique is productivity-based and anti-restful, which makes my stress worse — I’d rather not have yet another dreadful reminder of all the work I impose myself to get done, thank you very much).
Sunday was made for rest and reflection, so plan for something that’s is relaxing to you. For some, that’s journaling and reading in a bubble bath. For others, it’s working on a side project, a long run in the trails, or a long nap by the pool. Regardless of what it is, make sure to step away from the ingrained habit of guilting yourself to be productive and fully immerse yourself with what you are doing.
By checking out of your weekend ahead of time and planning your Monday morning on Sunday nights, it’s no wonder you contribute to your own anxiety.
Try doing your daunting Sunday tasks — such as cleaning or planning meetings for the week — on Friday night. This way, Sunday remains available for you to actually rest, replenish, and fully enjoy your day off without guilt.
Turn off your phone
Mindlessly scrolling is guilt-inducing, stress-triggering, and a waste of your time. Make Sunday your one day a week where you can shut off external stimuli and reconnect to what truly makes you happy. You’ll quickly find that taking your mind out to wander is the best thing you can do for both your productivity and your well-being.
If you need more convincing, check out my other reasons below.
4 Reasons To Go Tech-Free One Day A Week
You’ll quickly find that taking your mind out to wander is the best thing you can do for both your productivity and…
There is a panoply of alternative methods one can try to alleviate general anxiety. Yoga, meditation, journaling, working out, acupuncture, watching Youtube videos on how to effectively plan a stress-free Sunday routine, investing in some CBD — with some trial and error, you’ll be able to find what works for you.
Mild anxiety can be very manageable with specific techniques and habits catered to your individual needs. However, if you do find yourself in a position where anxiety becomes paralyzing or unmanageable, please do not hesitate to consult your general practitioner for professional advice.
As a chronic overthinker myself, I am prone to being a bit more anxious than your average person. Since the onset of COVID-19, a career reroute and all of the other fun surprises and life lessons 2020 had to offer, I have experienced the Sunday Scaries almost weekly.
I used to spend each Sunday without my phone, and have now reverted to being more plugged-in than ever. I have trouble disconnecting and resting because I feel guilty or I feel like I don’t deserve it.
Weekends have become somewhat restful and mostly terrifying, since I know there’s a high probability that I will be blocked with doubts and consumed with negative thinking.
Except there is one thing that keeps me going: I take great comfort in knowing I am equipped with the tools I need to make Sundays enjoyable again. I know I am the sole creator and manager of my anxiety, and I hold the power to deter from anything that makes me feel like sh*t and reroute towards what doesn’t.
I am smart enough to understand my stress, and I am strong enough to beat it.
We’re only human, after all.
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