It’s terrifying, and it’s coming—Monday. In a phenomenon well-known as the “Sunday Scaries,” the first day of the workweek is something to seriously dread for many Americans. In a 2021 poll by isolved, 42% of workers reported that they get “very stressed the night before returning to a workweek.” Though it might seem that the continuation of flexible work schedules and spaces since the pandemic would have helped, sleep is still being lost over it, according to a survey from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Just over a quarter of survey participants—including 32% of Generation Z and 34% of millennial respondents—“always, almost always or often have a harder time falling asleep on Sunday nights compared with other nights of the week.”
“Work stress; toxic work environments; lack of work-life balance; performance anxiety in the case of an upcoming exam, interview or a presentation; weekly targets; and goals are all common triggers for experiencing the Sunday Scaries,” says Smriti Joshi, Wysa’s chief psychologist. “If you’re experiencing a lack of motivation or satisfaction at work, or going through an acute issue like an ongoing conflict with a colleague, the anxiety around the return to work or school once Sunday ends could be heightened.”
How to get rid of Sunday Scaries
The good news is there are concrete ways to cope, and you can try them as soon as this Sunday. Here’s how to get rid of the Sunday Scaries.
1. Figure out exactly what is causing your Sunday Scaries.
Though some people might just dread working, others might have a specific issue they are dreading or avoiding.
“The first step is to identify the fears or concerns that are triggering this stressful experience for you, and preventing you from fully enjoying your Sunday. Anxiety is a survival response and is triggered to protect us from a threat, like a tiger or lion about to attack us,” Joshi says. “In modern times, we deal with more perceived threats like perceived failure or the anticipation of being expelled from work.”
She recommends listing these worries out, as they start to infiltrate your thoughts on Sunday (or before).
2. Determine if remote work is making it worse.
We all remember our first rosy images of the days when many began to work from home—staying in pajamas all day, checking out the snack cabinet at will and even taking a mid-afternoon Netflix break. Then reality hit, and it might be making your Sunday Scaries worse.
“Remote work has changed the expectations organizations have of their employees, and even the expectations employees have of themselves. Since they live and work in the same place, they feel compelled to be available to respond to calls or messages at any point in the day, on any given day,” Joshi says. “These heightened expectations and extended working hours throughout the week can make it a more daunting period for people to know they’re heading into after a Sunday.”
Check on your own boundaries between work and home, even if you are at home for both, to see if further separating those can help. Joshi adds that while flexible arrangements have the potential to improve the problem, since you can be more mindful about your personal productivity timeline, it’s not a widely implemented perspective yet.
3. Get rid of the Sunday Scaries by getting organized over the weekend.
Maybe Monday isn’t the problem, but Friday through Sunday is. Stacey Graham, founder of SGPR Group, says weekends themselves were the culprit.
“It was more the Sunday Scaries because during those years of coming off such jam-packed weekends with kids sports, and such commitments and constantly running in and out of the house—the long list of to-dos that I was hoping to accomplish on the weekend that never got done is what made me scared,” she says. “I knew starting the week not totally organized, planned and on top of what was to come was never a feeling I was OK with, and it sent my head into a spin.”
4. Set aside some self-care time on Sundays.
Though the term “self-care” became overused during the pandemic as remote workers scrambled to organize childcare and tech issues while being told to relax and create routines, self-care has its place in getting rid of the Sunday Scaries. “Taking a moment to perhaps work out and have some self-care completely helped shift that dreaded feeling I had,” Graham says. Intentionally integrate something that makes you feel replenished into your weekend so you’ll feel more ready to get back to work once Monday comes.
5. Try Bare Minimum Mondays to get rid of Sunday Scaries.
Maybe Sunday wouldn’t be so scary if Mondays weren’t so Monday-like. Look for ways you can alleviate your schedule, such as moving calls to the afternoon or Tuesday, and blocking off time to reset yourself at work Monday morning. This TikTok trend is called Bare Minimum Mondays, and basically involves doing less on Mondays, intentionally.
This trend is working for Graham, who moved to working from home Mondays for this reason. She could get some things done around the house on Mondays as well, making it a less stressful day. “By Monday night I had crossed off the to-dos and was ready to take on the week at hand,” she says.
Specifically, being able to run some extra errands was essential. “Little things like running to the grocery store as soon as I dropped kids and being able to go home and unload rather than the office, maybe make returns at stores while weekend crowds were gone it just made everything more efficient.” She adds that these more low-key Mondays helped her learn to ease off the pressure on herself at work and give herself some grace.
6. Make Sunday a day you look forward to.
If Sundays seem downright dreadful, it might be time for a Sunday makeover. Joshi recommends planning things you want to do for Sundays intentionally. “Is there an experience you can schedule, a meal you can make or another Sunday tradition you can begin that can help you look forward to these days?” she poses. Whether it’s a family outing or solo shopping trip, prioritizing exercise or meeting up with friends, Sundays might be the perfect day that just hasn’t gotten enough attention yet.
7. Determine and vocalize what employers can do to help get rid of Sunday Scaries.
You can’t get rid of all Sunday Scaries by yourself. Instead, determine if something causing you anxiety is a workplace issue that you can involve a boss or colleague in solving.
“Employers can address some of these issues by creating a psychologically safe workspace where employees can feel comfortable being vulnerable, talking about their concerns openly and sharing ideas without feeling threatened,” Joshi says. “Providing wellness support services can also provide a dedicated channel for employees to talk about their concerns without feeling judged.”
If you aren’t feeling accepted, comfortable, appreciated or validated at work, consider strategies to make change through open discussion with leaders.
“Ultimately, a culture of radical candor and transparency is what allows employees to feel at ease and comfortable bringing their authentic selves at work, which reduces the pressure they might feel heading into the week,” Joshi adds.
And, when all else fails, and you have a terrible case of the Sunday Scaries, it might be time for a personal (Mon)day.
Photo by Guillermo Spelucin R/Shutterstock