4 Ways to Combat Sunday Scaries and Post-Holiday Work Anxiety

sunday scares

Do you feel a sense of dread wash over you every Sunday evening? Do you not only feel nervous after a nice long break but also somewhat fearful?

You’re not alone. “Sunday scaries” is a term used to describe the feeling of anxiety we experience on Sunday evenings because of the thought of returning to work. The name might not sound very frightful, but job site Monster found that 76% of American adults reported having “really bad” Sunday night anxiety which was significantly higher than other parts of the world that reported their anxiety at 47%.

LinkedIn also conducted a survey, in which 80% of Americans admitted to having Sunday scaries, with the younger generations feeling more anxious. Gen X reported 72%, Millennials were 91%, while Gen Z was slightly higher at 94%.

There are several factors that can cause worrying about the upcoming work week. LinkedIn cited reasons such as worrying about your workload, balancing your personal life, as well as work that has carried over from the week before. Although everyone’s career and jobs may be different, we all feel universal stress from things such as giving presentations, handing in dreaded KPIs or even speaking up during meetings.

Neuropsychologist and psychoanalyst Dr. Susanne Cooperman told NBC News that Sunday scaries are “an anticipatory anxiety —not the stress in the moment, but the anticipation of what will come puts people in this fight or flight mode.”

Aside from the very real anxiety that we feel from worrying, Dr. Cooperman also explained the physiology behind the sensation.

“The adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys and they release adrenaline and cortisol. They flood the system and you have a real stress reaction that feels like anxiety.” 

What can we do about it?

Although there’s not really a “cure” for Sunday scaries per se, there are steps we can take to help put our minds at ease and make that dreaded work week a little less scary.

1. Spice Up Your Week

The thought of returning to another long week of work after a pleasant break is actually terrifying. Try organizing activities that make the week a little more bearable and not only about work. For example, hit happy hour with some friends after work. Try that new fitness class you’ve been thinking about, passing by, but putting off. Schedule lunch with a friend and get away from the office for a bit.

Working out can decrease stress and produce endorphins. Image via Bruce Mars.

2. Get Enough Sleep

It’s no secret that we function better physically and emotionally when we’ve had a good night’s rest! It is recommended that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep a day, so yes, maybe don’t stay up watching Netflix. Certain things may impact our sleeping schedule, too, like drinking caffeine too late in the day or repeatedly checking our phones. It’s recommended that we tuck our phones away before bed, as our phones can be secret sleep-stealers. Staying on our phones keeps our minds psychologically engaged while we are physically trying to rest, according to Cleaveland Clinic. It has also been said that blue light emitting from our screens can suppress melatonin.

3. Confront Problems and Make a List

When we feel anxious or stressed, it can be hard to think clearly or properly assess a situation. It feels like we’re drowning in worry. When everything feels overwhelming and crazy, try to take a step back, breathe and make a list! Writing down what we are worried about gives us a visual of our hectic thoughts. Now with a visual, we can brainstorm ways to fix the problems and get our heads out of the anxiety-ridden water. Worried about replying to that high-key passive-aggressive email? Try drafting a response (or get your manager to respond). Worried about that presentation? Practice what you’re going to say. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Image via Tirachard Kumtanom.

4. Assess Your Work Situation

Although Sunday scaries are a completely common phenomenon that Americans experience, a frequent ongoing battle with the anxiety might be a signal for something larger. Not a lot of people are exactly ecstatic to return to work on Monday, but if you’re completely miserable then it might be time to find something better. It can be hard to walk away from something that you’ve known for so long, but if you’re in a toxic relationship with your work and you find yourself feeling down often, it’s just not worth it. Take your time, reach out to contacts, peruse job listings and brush up on that resume. You can do it!

If you have a hard time coping with anxiety and depression, a licensed therapist can help. Find a doctor near you.

Feature Image via Verena Yunita Yapi

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