Wisdom//

Overcome Your Sunday Scaries—26 Tricks to Reclaim Your Weekend

No matter how much you love your job, you have probably experienced a version of the infamous Sunday Scaries.

Oscar Wong/Getty Images
Oscar Wong/Getty Images

By Caileen Kehayas

This is the feeling that Sunday, the second day of the precious weekend, doesn’t quite belong to you—that from the moment you wake up, the day is a dismal countdown to the dreaded Monday. According to a LinkedIn survey, 80 percent of working professionals have reported experiencing the Sunday scaries. Of those who reported feeling the onset of Sunday scaries, 1 in 3 admitted they have them every week. Why so scared? Among other things, professionals have reported that they experience these weekly “frights” due to an incoming workload (60 percent), a poor work/life balance (44 percent), and unfinished work from the prior week (39 percent). Seemingly, the answer to defeating the Sunday scaries would be to change jobs. If you are dreading work on a weekly basis, then surely you are deeply unhappy at your own job.Perhaps, though, the Sunday scaries can be defeated in other, less extreme ways. This year, let’s defeat the Sunday scaries for once and for all. We came up with a few ways to put those icky feelings to bed, to reclaim your weekend, and to arrive Monday morning refreshed and ready to go.

1. Party less

Think of the worst set of Sunday scaries you have ever experienced—where you were curled up in the fetal position in your bed, unable to get up but also unable to sleep. I can think of some of mine. They all had two things in common—alcohol and late bedtime. Weekends can be a fun time to let go. But let go too much? You can end up paying for that well into mid-week. Seriously. Do that enough and it really starts to take a toll on your mental health, your physical health, your relationships, and, yes, your job. I’m not here to preach about your party habits, but next time you have a set of Sunday scaries after a long night of drinking and carousing with your friends, think about it. Is it worth feeling like hot garbage all day, drowning in Gatorade, and soaking in greasy pizza? Is it worth the weird emotional (and intensely physical) duress you go through the day after? Late night parties can often be the culprit in particular cases of nasty Sunday scaries. Our first tip is this: party less. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a margarita (or maybe even two) with your girlfriends on a Saturday night. Be mindful about what your body can handle, how safe you’re being, and how you might pay for your decisions in the days to come.

2. Exercise over the weekend

Now that you’re drinking less, go for a run. Hate running? Go for a hike or take a yoga class. In short, do something that gets your heart rate going, makes you feel good, and leaves you feeling refreshed and accomplished. By now, most people know that exercising has both physical and mental benefits. Exercise is known to produce endorphins and enkephalins. These hormones are your body’s natural feel-good rewards generated by exercise. In addition, exercise will often get you outside, whether it be for a hike or a run, and in the direct path of some Vitamin D. The old hippocampus is incredibly important to our mental health. Guess what? Exercise has been proven to create new hippocampal neurons—these neurons are involved with memory, emotion regulation, and learning. Give your Fitbit a treat and seize those 10,000 steps!

3. Go to a museum

Feed your brain and soul some art this weekend. Sundays are a great day for an early trip to the museum. According to Attention Restoration Theory, your brain needs to shift mental gears in order to refocus its attention. A great way to do that is to physically remove yourself from your everyday routine. Going to a museum can rest your brain with thoughts of fascination (of seeing something new), get yourself away from your typical surroundings (get out of your apartment), and it typically places you somewhere that aligns with your tastes and purposes.If you live in a small town, there might be a smaller museum based around your region. Learn something new about where you live — maybe it’s even where you grew up.If that’s not available, consider browsing some of the world’s most amazing museums online. Museums like New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art showcase much of their collection (thousands of works of art) online.

4. Learn something new

Learn something new—or at least start to learn. We are all guilty of saying we will do things—eventually when we have the time. Chances are, if you are wallowing in Sunday scaries, you might have some time to devote to a new craft. Maybe learn how to sew or knit. Or start learning an entirely new language! Use easy programs like Duolingo to finally brush up on your high school French. Learning a new skill or a new language is a great way to give yourself purpose. If you use Monday morning to brag about what you learned about this past weekend—well, hey, that’s just a great perk! Sidenote—you can literally learn anything on YouTube.

5. Wake up early

We are not all morning people, I know. Getting up on the weekday is trial enough for some people. But getting that early bird on the weekend is crucial to taking back your weekend. Try getting up as early as you would on a Monday. Go out for a morning stroll, get a coffee, walk your dog, or go for a run. Sleeping in until 12 p.m. on a Sunday is almost guaranteed to start you off on the wrong foot. By waking earlier than others, you can take advantage of the quieter part of Sunday and still have a whole day to yourself.

6. Take a social media hiatus

Social media can be a bummer, especially on the weekends. Have you ever been in bed well into the afternoon scrolling through Instagram? Suddenly, the sun is setting and you are three hours deep in your best friend’s ex-boyfriend’s sister’s cousin’s Instagram feed. Can you believe she is in Peru? Didn’t she just go to Italy in 2014? How is she so tan already? She sure uses a lot of filters… OMG, get off social media. Seriously, take a day off. It’s a wonderful feeling. If you have to delete it from your phone, do it. You can always re-download it tomorrow. Social media is proven to give users feelings of anxiety and loneliness when they use it to compare lives. It can seem especially daunting over the weekend when everyone seems to be doing everything. Well, everyone but you. Ditch Instagram, Twitter, and co. this week. Go out, do something, and let no evidence hit the internet at all. It can be your little secret.

7. Take a hiatus from all screens

If you tried ditching Instagram (and you liked it), consider taking a break from all glowing screens this weekend. Instead, try one of those paper-y things. They’re kind of like a Netflix binge but without video and they are kind of cool. You know, like Twitter, but longer. Like Instagram, but less pictures of food. A book. Read a book. Do it.

8. Have a substance-free weekend

Remember how we talked about booze’s role in Sunday scaries? If alcohol and other substances are playing into your Sunday blues, consider having a fully substance-free weekend.Pay attention to how it makes you feel. Do you feel better? Does it make you feel anxious to socialize without substance? Take note. If you feel like you might have a problem that is bigger than an occasional hangover, consider contacting the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Know that you are never alone.

9. Go for a long walk

Maybe this technically counts as “exercise,” but I wanted to include it anyway. Go for a walk without any real intentions. If you are feeling really crappy, give it five or ten minutes before giving up. Take along some headphones. Queue up your favorite songs, a great podcast, or a new audiobook and go for a walk in your neighborhood. This is one of my favorite ways to decompress. Unlike vigorous exercise, you can walk for a while. I get some of my best thinking done on walks. The best part? Sometimes, you might leave with the intention of walking for 5 minutes only to return two hours later. Walking is a great way to get outside, get your blood pumping, and work out your thoughts— all while taking in some moving scenery.

10. Do (a little) retail therapy

Don’t roll your eyes at me! Retail therapy is a cheap (well, hopefully) and easy fix, sometimes. Just like anything, it’s okay in moderation. Don’t blow $500 on a jacket because you feel a little down. Be smart. If you’re really dreading going into the office, maybe a slick new Monday outfit will give you a boost of motivation. If you’re feeling really down, go for a quick shop. Treat yourself.

11. Start a Sunday journal

If you’re plagued with negative Sunday thoughts, take some of them to paper. Why are you feeling down? What did you do the night before? What is coming up this week that makes you anxious? By beginning to keep track of these thoughts and putting pen to paper, you can better understand why you’re feeling this way.

12. Meditate

Have you ever tried meditation as a way to rid yourself of negative energy? Before you scoff it off, think about it. Meditation has been proven to alter your brain’s grey matter in as little as eight weeks. What does that mean? Well, your brain’s grey matter is a major part of your central nervous system. It is associated with processing information and providing nutrients to neurons. Meditation’s effect on your brain’s grey matter can improve memory, increase empathy, heighten your sense of self, and relieve stress. So, try a meditation center or pick up a meditation class at your local yoga studio, if they offer it. If you’re shy about meditation, that’s no problem. There are tons of meditation apps that allow you to try from home.

13. Create Sunday night goals

Sunday evening can be the worst, especially if you’re having a bad case of the scaries. Instead of wallowing in it and counting down the hours until Monday morning, create a list of goals. What do you want to do this week? Maybe you want to hit the gym three times, get dinner with a friend you haven’t seen, and buy a birthday present for your mom. Instead of worrying about all that you may have to do, start your week by carving out “me time” and organizing your goals— no matter how big or small they may seem.

14. Think about your accomplishments

Give yourself a boost! It’s always good to take note of what you have accomplished. Many women have experienced some negative self-speak. If you feel like you didn’t get enough done last week, change tracks. What did you accomplish? Even if it’s something small like making it into work on time every day, note it. Don’t be so hard on yourselfIf you think of your accomplishments and you’re still unimpressed, consider how you can improve in the coming week.

15. Do mid-week things

Guess what? You have free will all week long. Sure, work can take up a good portion of your day, but it’s probably not taking up all 24 hours (if it is, maybe it’s time to start looking for a new job). Skip a night of television in bed and go out. Catch a new movie with a friend or get dinner with your significant other. Don’t put so much pressure on the weekend being the only leisure time you have. Get it going on a Tuesday.

16. Count your freaking blessings

I recently saw a church sign on the internet. It read, “Get rich quick! Count your blessings.”I don’t want to be too preachy here. Sometimes, we all need to take a moment to register how lucky we are, that we have a job to even go to, and that we are in good health.Sometimes, a little mindful gratitude will help you out of a funk. Sometimes it won’t—that’s ok, too.

17. Plan a full Sunday

When you’re anticipating some Sunday scaries, plan ahead. Feelings of anxiety and depression usually creep in when your mind is less busy. Purposefully plan a wonderful Sunday that is full of activities you love. Instead of counting down the minutes until Monday morning traffic, distract yourself. See a movie, do some yoga, and get dinner with a friend. Basically, take everything on this list and have the busiest, best Sunday ever.

18. Clean your house

I need to be in the mood to clean. However, when I am in that mood, I go nuts. Clean the tub and behind the toilet where all that gross dust and dirt accumulates. Dust your moldings and clean out under your bed. Maybe even organize your closet? Doing a deep clean will usually distract you from creeping negative thoughts. Let your favorite podcast or a throwback album accompany you on your cleaning quest. Throw on a pair of headphones and go for a deep clean this Sunday. Your feelings of accomplishment coupled with your sparkling home are almost guaranteed to clear any mood.

19. Cook a delicious meal

There’s this Greek nachos recipe that I have been promising to make my boyfriend for two years now. They aren’t even hard to make—I’m just that lazy over the weekend. Next time you’re facing a Sunday afternoon of dread, consider making a big, delicious meal for yourself—and maybe some friends, too.

20. Prep your week

Get your stuff together on Sunday. Make the onslaught of the week more palatable by planning your week in advance. This can include preparing lunches for the week, planning what you’re going to wear to work (and making sure it’s all clean), and ensuring that you are ahead of the game before you go to sleep on Sunday evening.

21. Front load your Fridays

Speaking of prepping work—if your Sunday scaries are due to a seemingly insurmountable amount of work, then see what you can front load on Friday afternoon. That’s right—instead of counting down the minutes to 5 p.m. on Friday afternoon, stay awhile. Get some work done on Friday afternoon and evening instead of scrambling all of Monday morning. Even if you missed the mark on Friday afternoon, you can soothe your worries by hitting the books on Sunday night. You should not be working around the clock every week. Ebbs and flows of work are normal in any workplace. However, if your job has left you with a regularly overwhelming workload, you might want to communicate this to a manager or look for a new job altogether.

22. Catch up with someone

Remember the good old days? Remember your senior year of college, when you didn’t even have your first class until Tuesday afternoon? Instead of sulking in your own memories, use the weekend to catch up with an old friend. Take an afternoon to laugh about college, to share stories from your life as it stands, and maybe even to get some advice from an old friend.

23. Get a massage

Need I say more? Get a massage—whenever you can afford to, just do it.

24. Hang out with a dog (or a cat)

Along the same lines of the massage tip, I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. Unless you are allergic, hang out with a cool dog or a cat. Go for a walk in the park or cuddle up and watch a movie. Studies have shown that when a person pets a friendly dog, blood pressure decreases, breathing becomes more regular and muscle tension relaxes. I’m not crying, you are. Go hang out with a dog.

25. Call your Mom

When I am feeling bummed out, I always call my mom. She makes me feel good and she lifts me up. If you have a person who can do that for you, call her.

26. Make sure it’s just the Sunday Scaries

Sometimes, Sunday scaries aren’t Sunday scaries at all. If you are repeatedly having feelings of depression or anxiety, consider that it might be more than a Sunday occurrence. Almost 18.8 million American adults experience depression each year—it’s very common so don’t feel alone in it. If you feel that your Sunday scaries may be more deeply rooted, speak to someone. Here are some resources to get you started:

This article originally appeared on Career Contessa and is reprinted with permission.

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