Just in time for the spooky Halloween season, let’s talk about the Sunday Scaries: feelings of dread, stress/anxiety, or sadness before the start of the work week.
By Lauren Grossbach, LMFT
You waited all week for the weekend. Finally some freedom and change of pace. By the time you just start to feel rested, you realize that your work week is about to start. One minute you’re enjoying the weekend and the next you’re spiraling into a mental to-do list for the following morning. Your laid-back weekend attitude has quickly shifted to stress and anxiety. Instead of soaking up the last bit of time off, you’re snapping at your loved ones or sulking about the start of another week.
When I say “work” in this blog, I’m also referring to the physical, emotional, and mental labor that goes into caring for a family. Stay at home (SAH) parents experience the Sunday Scaries, too. SAH parents experience ongoing stress and anxiety, especially as related to caretaking. They are expected to meet the family’s needs during both the week and the weekends. Therefore, they often don’t get the chance to relax on a Sunday like they want to. An upcoming week of school means spending the weekend focused on preparing for the upcoming week. And so on so and on…
What You Can Do: 3 Steps
1. Use Mindfulness
Are you stressing about your 9:00 AM Monday meeting when it’s 8:00 PM Sunday? Remind yourself that you’re not on the clock yet. Ask yourself, “what’s my job right now?” Compare that against what your job will be tomorrow. Stay in the present moment and notice where your thoughts go. When you find your thoughts drifting back to work and stress, visualize putting your thoughts on a cloud and sending them off, away from you. Bring your focus back to what you’re seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting. (By the way, this exercise is exactly what people mean when they say “mindfulness”.)
2. Schedule the Worry
If that 9:00 AM Monday meeting is still picking at your brain, tell yourself to schedule/reschedule the worry. Use self-talk to say: “I know you’re worried about tomorrow, but I’m not going to think about that until 8:45 AM. You can worry about it then, but not now.” Remember what your expected working hours are. We all have to put in extra hours sometimes, but we also all deserve to be checked out during our time off. Rescheduling the worry can help you cope with the stress and anxiety of what you have the following day.
3. Create a Personal Ritual
To feel a little less dread and a little more joy, do a ritual for yourself to start the work week. This could look like…
- Catching up on your favorite show every Sunday evening. Don’t forget the super comfy pajamas!
- Your favorite coffee with some extra whipped cream on Monday morning
- Setting aside time to cuddle with your loved ones, including fur babies
- Jamming out to your favorite artist on the way to work
- Scheduling self-care in the form of a haircut, time with a friend, or a special meal
- Writing in a gratitude journal first thing in the morning, like this simple one.
- Tip from the therapist: the benefits of gratitude are backed by science. Read more about that here.
Remember that rituals are all about consistency. You deserve to consistently care for your wellbeing throughout the week and weekend. Be as diligent with your personal rituals as you are with your work deadlines. If you need reminders of this, seek an accountability partner who supports you managing your stress and anxiety.
How Therapy Can Help
Finding support around mental health can be difficult for some. If you don’t already have someone in your life who can support you on this journey, consider meeting with a mental health professional. Therapy is focused on what you need to achieve your goals. If your goal is to be accountable and take better care of yourself, your therapist is here to guide you. Perhaps you want to learn more ways to manage your stress and anxiety. Maybe you need an outsider’s opinion. Just by attending your weekly therapy appointment, you’ll be showing up for your mental health with consistency.
Additionally, therapy is a healthy way of untangling your thoughts from the week. If you’re not resting enough on the weekends, you’re probably carrying over stress from one week to another. This can result in mood swings, mental exhaustion, and unpredictable outbursts. Instead of letting it build up, find a safe place to purge and organize your thoughts. Therapy can help with mood stabilization, anxiety, work/family stress, relationship issues, and more.