Picture this: you’re enjoying your weekend, finding a good balance between relaxation and being productive. 4pm hits on Sunday afternoon and your mind wanders to tomorrow and the upcoming week. Suddenly your heart starts beating faster, and you can feel your stomach twist into a knot. You aren’t relaxed anymore, you’re feeling anxious. Despite your great weekend (which isn’t even over yet) you’ve got the Sunday blues, or what some people call the Sunday scaries.
Sound familiar? In this blog we’ll cover the meaning of the Sunday blues, and how to work through them and be more present on the weekend. Here’s to enjoying your Sunday at last!
What are the Sunday Blues?
The Sunday blues, the Sunday scaries, anxiety, worry or dread. Call them what you like, they all have the same effect and kick in on Sunday. Despite your best attempts each weekend to prevent your mind from wandering to the week ahead, come Sunday afternoon it can be hard to stay present and enjoy your day. Once you start thinking about the upcoming week, your mind starts to spiral and suddenly you’re thinking about the to-do’s that you didn’t get to last week, the meetings on the calendar, the kids’ extracurricular activities, the list goes on.
This anticipation has negative mental and physical effects. Your heart can race, you feel physically uncomfortable, it might be hard to concentrate, and you likely (unsurprisingly) are irritable. It’s like the body and mind are in a hyper-alert state, but the ‘threats’ are a rather typical week that you’ve likely experienced before.
That’s why the Sunday blues can also be called existential dread, where you might question your career and your choices that leave you feeling this way. That can be a lot to process every Sunday evening. So how can you deal with the Sunday blues and actually start to enjoy your weekends?
How to Deal With the Sunday Blues
If you’re feeling the Sunday blues on a regular basis, first take whatever comfort you can in the knowing that you’re not alone. A LinkedIn survey found that 8% of professionals report feeling the Sunday blues, while over 90% of millennials and Gen Z say they feel it too. It doesn’t matter if you’re someone who loves their job or career, someone who has an ‘easy’ job, a difficult one, or is a stay-at-home parent. It’s all relative, and many people in many different circumstances deal with these feelings.
There are many ways you can deal with these weekly panic attacks (that’s essentially what they are to some degree) so they have less and less of an effect on you over time.
- Create Sunday habits - good, healthy habits aren’t a cure-all but they can help in many ways. When you’re feeling anxious on Sundays, part of this may be because of the anticipated switch from an unstructured, free-time weekend to the structure of the work week. Without going overboard (or actually working), making a plan for your day and schedule in some activities to help ease you into a routine again. Maybe it’s a routine morning workout with a friend or going to brunch with your family. Make it something that you enjoy doing.
- Have something to look forward to - this is true for Sunday but also during the week. Having something to look forward to on your Sunday will keep your mind occupied and in the present. Then, adding in something during the week that you’re looking forward to can help you re-frame the idea of the work week in your mind.
- Reduce your screen time - don’t get caught in a doom scroll on Sunday afternoon. Instead of taking in all the posts from friends who got up to fun and exciting things on the weekend, put down your phone and try a different activity to occupy your time. We often resort to our phones to distract us, but this doesn’t really work in practice and can often have the opposite effect, making us more anxious.
- Manage your stress throughout the week - your Sunday blues can get better over time but it’s not a process you work through on Sundays only. Manage your stress during the week so by the time Sunday rolls around, you’re not still feeling the weight of last week. In addition to adding something in during the week that you look forward to, find ways to de-stress during your week. That could look like physical exercise, visiting a friend, practicing meditation, writing routinely in a gratitude journal, or improving your morning routine.
- Make a list - the panic you feel when the Sunday blues hit could be your brain scrambling to think about what you have to accomplish this upcoming week. Maybe it’s a combination of what didn’t get done last week or something urgent that came up on Friday. Either way, you can deal with that before Sunday so it’s been captured already and doesn’t need to occupy any space in your mind during the weekend. Before you close your laptop on Friday, make a list of what you want to tackle on Monday and next week. Things will still be fresh in your mind and it’ll be easier to jot down your priorities.
- Use positive self-talk - when we get stressed out and anxious, our internal voices are often driving this by saying we’re unprepared, disorganized, or not good at our jobs. These feelings, and the Sunday blues in general, are rooted in feelings associated with the unknown and things we can’t control. Use positive self talk to remind yourself in simple affirmations that you’re capable and doing your best.
- Be mindful - to expand on the last point, one of the biggest tools to combat the Sunday blues is mindfulness. This means checking your thoughts and being curious about them, then letting them go. Thoughts are not facts. When you start to feel these thoughts or worry creep in on Sunday, take note of them and remind yourself that you’re doing your best and you deserve to feel okay. The fears and nerves you have that drive your Sunday blues don’t need to dominate your mind and body. Use mindfulness and even meditation to take control of your thoughts and be present in your current circumstances.
Sundays Come and Go
Lastly, one of the key things to remember as you work through your Sunday blues is that you’ve been here before and you’re still standing. You got through it! There are 52 Sundays in a year, and you’ll get through them. When things feel out of control and you feel like you don’t have a grasp on your week, hold on to the fact that this too shall pass, and you can handle it.