How to Keep the "Sunday Scaries" from Ruining Your Sleep
The Sunday dreads, Sunday night blues, Sunday depression: These are all terms for the anxiety and stress many of us experience as Monday obligations loom over the precious few hours left in the weekend.
A Sleep Judge survey finds 81% percent of people experience the so-called "Sunday scaries," and poor sleep ranks especially high on the list of symptoms that come with it.
So, why must the Sunday scaries steal away your hard-earned rest and relaxation? Among other things, you might be worried about current events and how they'll affect your job (or job prospects), a work project you're behind on, a challenging assignment ahead, conflicts with coworkers, or simply returning to a job where you're unhappy, says Sari Chait, PhD, clinical psychologist and founder of the Behavioral Health and Wellness Center, LLC, in Newton, Mass.
If left unchecked, the stress and anxiety from Sunday scaries can keep you up late or disrupt your sleep, and poor shut-eye may make it harder to cope with the same negative emotions when you wake up, per a review in AIMS Neuroscience. The good news: While you might not be able to control everything that's triggering your Sunday scaries, you can change the way you respond to them.
Here, seven simple ways you can calm your mind to get some much-needed rest and wake up refreshed on Monday morning, even if you're working from home.
Identify what's at the root of your Sunday scaries
“Instead of just treating the symptom, look at why you're having Sunday scaries to begin with," suggests Rachel Wright, licensed psychotherapist in New York City.
Journal it out:
- Do you not like your job?
- Are you going through a period of high stress at work or in your personal life?
- Are you feeling down or anxious in general?
After you've ID'ed the cause, you can begin to work toward a solution rather than trying to relax away an unnamed stressor, Wright says. For example, if you're deeply discontent with your job, it might be time to think about a new position, company, or career path.
Move work prep to Friday
If you're stressed about your workload or work-life balance (the top two reasons for Sunday scaries, according to more than 1,000 professionals surveyed by LinkedIn), it helps to prepare before Sunday even arrives.
Set aside some time at the end of Friday to wrap up your week and make a to-do list for the following week, says Chait. This way, the weekend will feel more like a reward and less like a one-day extravaganza.
Ground yourself in the present
“Mindfulness can be particularly helpful for managing the Sunday scaries, as it helps you stay present in the moment and focus on what you're doing on Sunday rather than being distracted by anticipatory stress or anxiety," says Chait. In fact, a 2018 study in the journal Mindfulness finds that learning to be aware of what you're experiencing and accepting it may help you deal with stress and, in turn, sleep better.
This takes practice, so start small (think: a few minutes of guided meditation every Sunday morning or evening with an app like Insight Timer or Stop, Breathe & Think). Alternatively, you can work on being more present by taking a quiet walk, listening to calm music, or just giving yourself a moment to sit or lie in silence, says Chait.
Related: What I learned from meditating every night before bed for a month
Schedule something you enjoy
Another way to be here now: Instead of reserving Sunday for all-day chores (a set-up for dread and rumination), make it a point to do something fun and relaxing, says Chait. This doesn't have to be big, time-consuming, or expensive.
For example, you might start your morning with a workout like yoga or a light run, try a new recipe, or call a loved one to catch up. Whatever it is, put it on your calendar—it could help boost your mood and distract you from some of your worries.
Create a wind-down ritual
A consistent end-of-day routine can help remind your body and mind that it's time to settle down when Sunday evening rolls around, says Wright. For example, you could prep the coffee machine and set out clothes for a smoother Monday morning, take a warm bath and brush your teeth, then read a book or listen to a podcast.
Take slow, deep breaths
When Sunday scaries threaten a sleepless night, it helps to have deep breathing exercises, says Chait. What to do: Breathe in slowly through your nose as if to fill your belly with air, then exhale at the same slow and steady pace through your lips. Repeat this 10 times or more.
As simple as it sounds, this practice helps activate your vagus nerve, which sends a message to your brain to slow your heart rate and calm down. Research shows 20 minutes of slow breathing may help you fall asleep sooner and have fewer nighttime wake-ups.
Related: 4 ways lavender helps you sleep
Ask for help if you need it
Finally, if you notice your Sunday scaries are stretching into Monday and Tuesday, disrupting your work life or relationships, or pushing you toward unhealthy habits, you may want to consider therapy, says Chait. Working with a mental health professional can help you learn how to better cope with your stress and anxiety—and take back your Sundays.
Stress preventing you from getting a good night's sleep? Try these insomnia cures tonight.