If you find your anxiety soaring on Sunday afternoons most weeks, you’re not alone. “Sunday scaries” are a common form of work anxiety that many adults deal with — especially those who have demanding, high-stress jobs.
Given that many working adults now deal with long commutes, hours spent sitting inside staring at computers each day and expectations that they’ll be available nearly around the clock, it’s not surprising that work stress is a legitimate problem.
How can you cope with that uneasy feeling that arises on Sunday afternoons or for some people on Monday morning? Solutions, as explained more below, include taking pressure off of yourself to have a packed schedule on the weekends, implementing natural stress relievers such as exercise into your routine and talking to your employer about potential work-life-balance options.
Sunday scaries describes late-weekend uneasiness and anxiety.
Why is it called “Sunday scaries?” It typically kicks in when the weekend is ending and the standard workweek is about to begin.
Some surveys have found that people tend to experience an increase in anxiety around 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. on Sundays, although for some it starts later, like Monday morning, or not at all.
This “Sunday dread” phenomenon (also called the Sunday blues) seems to be a growing concern among both younger and older adults. As one article published in The Atlantic put it:
The end of a weekend has always been unpleasant, but there is something distinctly modern about the anxiety many people feel on the eve of a workweek… A 2018 survey commissioned by LinkedIn found that 80 percent of working American adults worry about the upcoming workweek on Sundays.
Might you be dealing with “Sunday evening feeling” or “Sunday syndrome” (two other names used to describe this type of work anxiety)? Here are some signs and symptoms often caused by Sunday scaries:
Certain types of professions and job schedules are more likely to contribute to Sunday afternoon anxiety than others. Causes and risk factors for experiencing Sunday scaries, which can also be described as “burnout,” can include:
Researchers believe that one reason more people may be dealing with this issue is because their week lacks balance overall. Decades ago it was common for Sundays to be about relaxing, spending time with family and perhaps attending religious services. Today, more adults are packing responsibilities into their busy Sundays — such as chores, socializing, exercising, shopping, meal planning, cleaning and child care — which may not leave enough time to simply unwind.
Psychologically speaking, feeling anxiety before the workweek starts is a response to the perception of some sort of threat. Even though most of our jobs don’t actually put us in any immediate danger, it can feel this way if we don’t believe we have the ability to cope with what’s demanded of us.
When our workweek responsibilities feel overwhelming, this triggers a “fight or flight” stress response, which can have many physiological effects on our bodies and minds. Our adrenal glands release more adrenaline and cortisol than usual, also known as “stress hormones,” which puts a damper on our immune systems, energy and moods.
Do you ask yourself: “Why can’t I ever fall asleep on Sunday nights?” Then you may be dealing with one major symptom tied to Sunday scaries: insomnia due to stress, fear or worrying.
Other ways that work anxiety can affect our mental health include:
Ready to tackle the Sunday scaries (or other forms of work anxiety that can hit at different points in the week)? Here are tips for getting a handle on this common type of stress: