How to Beat the ‘Sunday Scaries’ and Calm Your Work Anxiety

By Robert Half on October 7, 2021 at 5:30am

Halloween can be a spooky time of year, but for many workers, the “Sunday Scaries” cause fear, dread and angst all year long.

We’re talking about that feeling of work anxiety about the week ahead and a kind of mourning for the weekend that is nearly over. Psychologists call it a situational depression, a short-term form of melancholy also known as the Sunday night blues, and it’s more common than you might guess.

Of course, for those of you who have transitioned to remote work as a result of the pandemic, working weekends may eliminate this workplace creep. But if you’re not disconnecting from work or taking the time to rest and recharge, you may have work-life balance issues that are even more unwelcome than the Sunday scaries.

Assuming your work focus is meant to be on Mondays through Fridays, let’s look at seven not-so-scary steps to take as the weekend hourglass empties so you can prepare yourself for the week ahead.

Prepare for Monday on Friday

If you find Monday’s tasks are regularly souring your whole weekend, see if you can set better boundaries. Before you leave the office — or your home workspace — on Friday, tidy up, tend to unanswered emails and prepare a to-do list for Monday morning. That way you can make the weekend an entirely work-free zone and let yourself disconnect. Listen to your gut: If you feel better and more recharged after a work-free weekend, run with it. But if you can assuage some feelings of burnout by clearing out your work email inbox Sunday evening, by all means, go for it.

Work out your anxiety

Studies show that exercise can improve both your physical and emotional health. Exercise not only releases feel-good endorphins, but it will also help you get a restful night’s sleep before Monday morning arrives. Make a point of going for a walk or a hike on Sundays, or schedule a regular spin class or yoga session to exercise your mind and body. Then find a relaxing activity to help you wind down your weekend and prepare for bed on Sunday evenings.

Stay on top of household chores

Are you putting too much pressure on your weekends? If your Sunday stress is caused by an undone to-do list, try distributing your chores and errands throughout the week after work instead of saving them all for the weekend, or try making Saturday your getting-stuff-done day. Save just a few low-stress items for Sunday: Prepping meals for the week, catching up on laundry or making sure you’ve got a full tank of gas.

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Make fun plans for Sunday evening

There’s no rule that says you can’t have fun on Sunday night. Often our social lives are busier on Fridays and Saturdays, but if you’re regularly fighting off the Sunday night blues, it’s worth revamping your schedule. Invite friends over for a game night or family dinner on Sunday evenings. Make an excursion to a park or a museum you haven't visited in a while. If you make a standing appointment to spend time with loved ones, you’ll get out of the habit of dwelling on negative feelings and get into the habit of enjoying your weekend.

Anticipate the week ahead

The Sunday-Monday divide is totally psychological: One day flows into another like a river. Break down Sunday apprehension by making plans for something to look forward to in the coming week. Schedule time for meals with friends, note upcoming classes or happy hours on your calendar, and make a point to explore new interests. There’s no time like the present to make space for enjoying yourself and taking care of your needs outside of work. Just don’t overbook yourself.

Appreciate your accomplishments

As Sunday night approaches, reflect on the weekend and appreciate the things you did. Try to focus on the positives. So maybe you didn’t clean out the garage like you wanted to, but you did prep your meals for Monday and you saw some good friends. That’s still a weekend well-spent.

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Examine those 'Sunday scaries'

Evaluate the origins of your work anxiety: Could it be the nature of the job you’re in? Are you experiencing late-weekend malaise because you no longer enjoy your work, or is it more of an occasional issue tied to the stress of looming deadlines?

Solving the Sunday scaries could mean taking more time to prepare for the impending return to the office or simply untethering yourself from that self-inflicted to-do list and focus on calming your nerves.

If you’re finding yourself in a funk at the end of every week, it might be time to consider looking for a new job or trying a new career path.

Robert Half's Heard in the Lunchroom® blog series offers real-world advice on navigating tricky topics that can impact your professional happiness and career prospects.

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