You know the feeling. It’s 3:00 p.m. on a Sunday, and the dread sets in. Popularly known as the Sunday Scaries, the phenomenon of end-of-the-weekend anxiety also goes by the Sunday Sads or the Sunday Blues. Whatever you call it, the fear and paralysis that strikes so many of us— on what should be our day of rest, no less—is a real drag. How can we learn to take back Sunday (is that what that band is about)?
Will deFries, a 29-year-old writer for millennial humor site Post-Grad Problems, says he suffers from the Scaries “without fail, every single Sunday. It’s an inevitable thing, like your alarm going off: it’s Sunday, here they are!”
In 2012, on a lark and in need of a creative outlet outside of work, he created a website and a brand called the Sunday Scaries, designing comfy, long-sleeved t-shirts that say “Sunday Scaries” and “Ride the Wave.”
His philosophy serviced an online community for the anxious. “If we’re all scared collectively, we’re less scared individually,” DeFries says, quoting a former Sunday Scaries contributor.
And there is no shortage of Scaries victims in need of some kind of community. On Twitter, where deFries operates the handle @SundayScaries, he serves as a sort of de facto therapist, receiving countless DM’s and tweets from sufferers every seventh day of the week.
Does creating a sort-of meme out of the Scaries help lessen their impact, we wondered? Not exactly. “Now [the Scaries] are always on my mind, it’s impossible not to get them,” he says. But there is a silver lining: “The more I get them, the more self-aware of them I am, and the more tolerable they become.”
He does have some fun with the concept, finding levity in a weekly series called “The Panic Room”: Every Sunday, deFries puts out a call for folks to tweet photos of their Sunday panic room scenarios — with details of how they set up their living room or bedroom to fortify themselves against the onset of end-of-the-weekend anxiety — and then he rates them out of ten.
Meanwhile, Man Repeller also attempts to create a community for the Sunday scared. The fashion and lifestyle publication has a column called the Sunday Scaries Diary, in which “haunted humans chronicle their end-of-the-weekend terrors...hopefully to make all of us feel a little less alone in the fetal position come Monday morning.”
In a Novembercolumntitled “Sunday Scaries Diary: Leandra Did Nothing, Socialized with No One, Bought a Pair of Jeans,” Man Repeller founder Leandra Medine details the procrastination, writer’s block, stress eating and self-loathing thoughts that defined a recent Sunday.
Again, the idea seems to be that by sharing your Sunday Scaries, you can normalize them, making them... less scary?
But it might take more than that. In that same post, Medine gets real: "The thing about Sunday Scaries is that the only way to make them go away is to do a bunch of s—t you really don't want to do."
So how do you make yourself get s—t done when you're too busy fearing your case of the Mondays?
According toDr. Megan Clary, a clinical psychologist in NYC, the trick is to carve out a window of time over the weekend to be productive, and then reward yourself after by doing something that makes you feel good.
To fight inevitable procrastination, she says you have to make at least some aspect of the task appealing. For example, grading papers is a drag, but maybe if you do the work at your favorite coffee house, it will be a little less painful than hunkering down on the couch in your cluttered living room that you didn’t get around to cleaning yet.
As for the reward impetus, make a plan in advance to meet up with a friend, maybe even one who suffers from the same Sunday anxiety, Clary suggests. You can even set up a ritual. “I think that’s what HBO does [for people],” she jokes, referring to its Sunday night programming.
She also cautions against thinking about the week ahead as only a work week, five full days, back to back. “That’s overwhelming for anyone, it’s too much,” she says. “Finding ways to positively reinforce your week by making plans ahead of time, like going to a movie or getting a manicure, will make the week feel less deadening.”
Life coachKara Loewentheilagrees that avoiding your to-do list only makes the weekend anxiety worse.
“The problem with not planning is that you always feel like you should be doing something,” and that feeling can seep into your leisure time. “Your brain is constantly thinking when you’re not aware of it and it’s making you miserable a lot of the time,” she says.
The Sunday blues make intuitive sense to Loewentheil, being that they're often rooted in anticipatory dread about the week ahead: “Part of the reason humans aren’t happy is that they’re constantly thinking about the future,” she says. “On Friday night and Saturday, they feel free and happy; on Sunday, by the time the sun goes down, mentally they’re already in Monday. It’s ironic, because you’re ruining the free time you have worrying about the job that you’re not even at right now.”
The fact that work emails start filling up your inbox on Sunday evening does not help, she adds.
Yet, a case of the Sunday Scaries doesn’t necessarily indicate job dissatisfaction. “If everyone who hated Sunday nights had chosen the wrong career, we’d havea lotof people in the wrong career,” she points out. She makes the distinction that it’s often the way you’re thinking about your job, rather than your job itself, that causes stress and anxiety.
Using cognitive techniques, Loewentheil attempts to change the often overly negative way people think.First, she helps her clients identify the trigger for the negative thought — be it receiving a stressful work email from their boss or just anxiety setting in once the sun goes down — and then examine the feeling it creates. “The awareness of it is a little bit magic, itself,” she says. “One of the biggest things I teach clients is that your thoughts are not reality. We all think that intellectually, but actually most people when they experience a thought or feeling, they think it’s true.”
Helping clients gain that perspective is the first step. Then, Loewentheil encourages them to practice thinking more positive thoughts — not necessarily positive affirmations, which she says often don’t work because they’re too positive and you don’t believe them when you’re saying them—or at least slightly less negative thoughts. You can’t go from "I hate this job it makes me miserable,” to “I love my job,” but you could practice thinking something like, “I don’t always love my job, but so far, I’ve survived it.”
She also teaches folks to learn how to sit with an uncomfortable feel, using techniques from mindfulness. Because many get anxious about being anxious, she shows them how to redirect it by focusing on the body, for example, “I feel a tightness in my chest,” is much more manageable than, “I’m freaking out right now.”
We'll work on it, but until Sunday rolls around, can we talk about something else?