Johnny Cash wrote about the Sunday Scaries the best when he sang, “There’s just something in a Sunday that makes a body feel alone.” The rest of us understand it as a feeling of dread creeping up on us sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, as the workweek approaches. What are we so anxious about? No one’s exactly sure; it’s just an evening-ruining feeling of discomfort and anxiety.
According to a recent LinkedIn survey, 80% of working professionals said they’ve experienced the Sunday night dread. One in three reported feeling them every week.
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Having the Sunday Scaries doesn’t necessarily mean you hate your job or need to quit your current gig, said Megan Dalla-Camina, an entrepreneur, mentor, speaker, and author of “Simple Soulful Sacred,” a guide for helping women find balance in a busy world.
It can certainly be one reason, she admitted. “I think [that feeling] is more obvious to people when they’re doing jobs that they really don’t like and get that sense of, ‘Oh my God. I’ve got to put up with a week ahead of me,’ she says.
But often, they’re dreading a constellation of things.
“I don’t think it has just one flavor,” she says of the negative Sunday feels. “It could be that you like your job but hate your boss. It could be that you’re having an issue with one of your co-workers. It could be challenging, stressful commutes to work. It can absolutely be a parent who is just dreading that juggle – I know as a single parent, for the majority of my son’s life, just the sheer thought of having to get up on a Monday morning and go through the drama and the anxiety the stress that came with just managing was enough.”
Dalla-Camina said that women may feel it more intensely, as they often manage the housework as well as regular jobs.
“I think what we would know from research is that women have more of the juggle feel to the day to day, between work and family and taking care of the house,” she said. “And they’re feeling very stressed out by having not managed the week, as well as the work.”
Why you’re feeling so freaked on Sundays
- First, stop distracting yourself from your discomfort and pay attention to yourself, Dalla-Camina said. Don’t drug yourself by scrolling through social media or whatever your creature comfort is – instead, take a look “Why do I feel this sense of discomfort?” asked Dalla-Camina. “And where am I at on this scale of discomfort? Is it like a little niggle, like ‘Oh God, I’ve got another week,’ or is it like arriving sense of depression and anxiety? Like, where are you at? And I think that leads you to what to do next. Is it dealing with my boss? Is it in my family? Is it how I get to my workplace? Why do I feel this level of dread, and where am I on this scale?
- Is there anything you can do? Ask yourself if there’s anything you can change about your job, or at least make better. “I think that’s the first thing that’s really helpful for people to do, and then looking at what could you change about that. Is it that the commute is really long and stressful for you? You might not be able to move, but could you change jobs? Could you do more flexible work? Is there an option to work from home? Can you make better use of your commute time by listening to podcasts or an audiobook, or doing something with a passion project on your commute? Do you want to do some writing, or is there something else that you want to be progressing on? You can make the most of that time.
- Ask yourself what you’re actually looking forward to this week. “I think what also is really helpful on a Sunday is to start looking at ‘What am I looking forward to this week?’ Because again, our brains are geared for the negative. Our brains are geared with that negativity bias, and it’s all too easy for us to flip into that slipstream of negative thinking and then ruminating on that negative thinking. So even if there’s going to be things in our way that we’re dreading, what are we actually looking forward to?” Make plans, even if it’s just for a relaxing night in or a movie.
- Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. “Bringing in a gratitude practice is another really helpful tool to keep up in that sense of gratitude of what is going well for us at the moment, what are we enjoying, what are we grateful for, and we can do that every day,” says Dalla-Camina. “Because sometimes the Sunday dread is not just a Sunday dread, right? It can creep in into the week, and so bringing back into what are we thankful for, what are we grateful for, what’s going well for us is also really helpful.” You can make gratitude lists daily, she said.
- If you must start your week on Sunday, be pro-active. “I’ve seen a lot of people over the years who – their workweek really starts on Sunday. It doesn’t actually start Monday morning. I know from my personal experience when I was working in my corporate jobs that by the time I got to Sunday [my weekend] was done, you know? …By early afternoon Sunday I was on my laptop, I was doing my emails, I was planning for the week, and Sunday was pretty much done.” For people in those types of situations, Dalla-Camina said, “if you’re either mentally or physically already in your week, then having some boundaries around that, I think it’s really important.” That said, don’t let work take over your weekend for too long – you might want to reconsider your options eventually. “If every single weekend you’re losing half of your Sunday, or more, to prepare for you week, then something’s off with that picture.”
- Plan something on Sundays, no matter what “Plan something joyful for Sunday afternoon. Catch up with friends, or go to yoga, go for a run, spend time in the garden, have fun time with your kids or your partner, and intentionally plan something that is going to be joyful, and take your mind off that arriving sense of whatever level of dread that looks like for you.”
- Work in moments of happiness throughout your week. To make sure there’s no dismal week to dread, make sure you have something to look forward to. “And then, to plan things during your week that you know are going to make you happy, have you feel fulfilled, bring in some joy, make you feel like you are doing something purposeful,” said Calla-Camina. Even if your job doesn’t feel purposeful, you can have moments of purpose and meaning throughout your week.” To the extent you can, treat your weeks like a weekend.