By Paige Smith - Openfit
If you suffer from sadness, anxiety, or dread on Sundays, you’re not alone. The “Sunday Scaries,” a term coined to describe the gloomy feeling that descends at the end of the weekend, are real.
In fact, 80% of Americans worry about the week ahead on Sundays, according to a 2018 survey from LinkedIn. “Although Sundays are a day for resting for many of us, they are also a reminder that the work week is beginning again,” says Melissa Coats, a licensed professional counselor.
Many people have anxiety about returning to a controlled environment and not getting to spend their time how they want, says Dr. Kate Cummins, a licensed clinical psychologist.
Cummins says other factors — like how much you like your job, how well you’re able to manage stress, and how much time you need to recharge — can influence how often you get the Sunday Scaries, and to what degree.
Fortunately, you don’t have to resign yourself to pre-Monday blues. Here are nine tried and tested tips from experts to kick the Sunday Scaries to the curb.
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1. Get Moving
Working out can help reduce feelings of anxiety, while also giving you an energy boost. Plus, exercising on Sundays is a good way to reset if you had a particularly indulgent or sedentary weekend.
“I think that when you have a regular exercise routine, you have a way of managing the inevitable stress that piles up from a busy work week,” says Amanda Lim, Director of Peak Health Consultancy.
Consider planning your favorite workout for Sundays, Lim says. Try yoga, biking, HIIT, or walking around the neighborhood.
“Movement in general can combat the ‘doom’ feeling,” Lim says, “especially if you can take it outside, where you reconnect with nature and remind yourself that there is a world beyond office commitments and task lists.”
2. Eat a Nourishing Dinner
“Proper nutrition definitely plays a role in our mood and stress,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, and the founder of NutritionStarringYOU.com. Balanced meals with protein and fiber are key to “sustained energy throughout the day,” Harris-Pincus says.
Instead of ordering takeout or snacking through your Sunday, cook a healthy dinner to start your week off right. Look to easy, low-prep meals like sheet pan dinners and slow-cooker recipes, Harris-Pincus suggests.
3. Make Mondays Easy
To prevent the Sunday blues, consider how you can make your Mondays more enjoyable. “I try to keep my major meetings, big presentations, and most difficult work tasks to the midweek,” Lim says.
She also recommends planning an easy workout for Mondays. “This way there’s no dreading both the first day back at work as well as a daunting bout of exercise,” she says.
Changing your Monday can be as simple as moving a meeting, planning a coffee break with a friend, or giving yourself permission to sleep in 30 minutes longer.
4. Prep Your Meals
Spending a couple of hours grocery shopping and meal prepping on Sundays can help you feel better equipped to tackle the week ahead.
“It’s way easier to get out the door on Monday morning knowing your mental energy won’t be spent figuring out what you are going to make for dinner on the commute home,” Harris-Pincus says. And having a general meal plan helps minimize stress and save you time.
And this doesn’t just go for dinner: Try preparing one breakfast recipe for the week, like baked oatmeal or muffin tin frittatas, Harris-Pincus adds. “A high-protein, high-fiber breakfast is key to controlling energy levels and hunger throughout the day,” she says.
5. Update Your To-Do List
If your Sunday stress stems from a feeling that you’re overwhelmed with too many things to do, then getting organized can help you feel more prepared for the week.
“If I find that I can’t relax into the moment,” Coats says, “I’ll go ahead and prepare my schedule, what I will wear on Monday, and a to-do list for the week so that I know it has been bookmarked for later.”
Even taking five minutes to write down your goals or intentions for the week can help soothe Sunday anxiety, says Harris-Pincus.
Getting organized shouldn’t take all day, though. “Try to resist getting caught in activities that will keep you focused elsewhere,” Coats says, “like answering emails or doing chores that can wait until later.”
6. Practice Gratitude
Sundays are a great time for “intentional self-care [activities] where you are actively aware of and connected to your gratefulness,” says Cummins.
Depending on how you like to recharge, you could try meditating, journaling about what you’re grateful for, or simply engaging in something you love, like baking or spending time with a friend.
7. Limit Phone Time
Scrolling social media may seem like the perfect lazy Sunday activity, but excessive screen time has the potential to exacerbate feelings of anxiety or sadness.
If your friends are posting about brunch while you’re home cleaning, for example, you may be tempted to compare your situations. “Some people can get triggered and stressed by comparison,” Cummins says.
Instead of mindlessly checking your newsfeeds, try to be more conscious of your phone usage. Pick up a book, dive into an art project, or try taking a walk without your phone.
8. Prioritize Sleep
“We need sleep in order to function,” Cummins says.
Getting a good sleep on Sunday nights can help you feel more energized and focused on Mondays, and sufficient sleep is also key to managing stress. Research suggests that people who sleep less may experience higher amounts of stress.
For better sleep, Cummins recommends eliminating sugar and caffeine in the evening and going to bed at the same time every night. “Keeping a consistent sleep schedule is crucial to staying healthy and balanced in general, but especially on a Sunday when you’re already anxious,” she says.
9. Recharge During the Week
Saving all your downtime for Sundays doesn’t work. “One of the reasons why [we] dread the upcoming week is because we do not properly care for ourselves on Monday through Friday,” Coats says.
To enjoy your Sundays, it’s critical to recharge throughout the week, she says.
“[Self-care] could mean actually taking 30 minutes for lunch and only lunch, setting a boundary with a coworker, or finding a way to de-stress and transition to home life after work,” Coats says.
About Paige Smith
Paige Smith is a content marketing writer specializing in health, fitness, and nutrition. Her work has appeared in Men's Health, My Fitness Pal, Furthermore by Equinox, and the Huffington Post. Follow her on Twitter.