“Set peace of mind as your highest goal and organize your entire life around it.”
The term “Sunday Scaries,” sometimes referred to as the Sunday Blues, is believed to have been coined in or around 2009. There is some debate regarding who created the term. Some say it was a person who would eventually become a TikTok influencer. Others say it was a random person who created an Urban Dictionary entry for when they feel anxiety on Sundays from their hangover from partying on Friday and Saturday.2 Either way, the term is real and quite precise in its accuracy. Unfortunately, the phenomenon affects a large part of the American population, with many people recently experiencing it for the first time. It is believed that mass layoffs and the impending recession, which has been anticipated for almost a year now, are causing people to feel real anxiety over work, especially on Sundays.3 These feelings tend to start during the afternoon and evening when the weekend is coming to an end. In addition to feelings of anxiety, the Cleveland Clinic says that the Sunday Scaries also exhibit physical symptoms, such as a racing heartbeat, difficulty breathing, headaches and trouble sleeping.4 We all might feel panic attack-like symptoms occasionally, but the Sunday Scaries are a weekly occurrence. They must be dealt with directly and consistently. (If you are dealing with clinically diagnosed anxiety, everything in this article is advice in addition to your medical professional’s instructions.)
Although none of us are alone in feeling the Scaries, they manifest and affect us differently based on our personalities and personal circumstances. Here are some of the common causes:
- Exhaustion and burnout: Weekends allow us to recover from the previous week and to recharge for the following week. Some of us recoup through physical activity, having company over or literally relaxing. Whatever your method, not feeling rested by Sunday can cause major anxiety because of physical exhaustion or mental fatigue. Your job can make weekends harder to enjoy if you do not have enough time to rest and if you are burned out. A sign of burnout is that it takes more effort than normal to do basic tasks such as responding to emails, making simple phone calls or participating in meetings. Burnout and the Scaries are two separate issues to deal with, but they both, unfortunately, feed each other.
- Never catching up: Weekends pass by quickly, making it difficult to get through our to-do lists. There are many chores and errands we can only do on weekends because weekdays are dedicated to work, children and other pressing matters. If we do not get far enough down our checklist, it affects our feeling of accomplishment and our ability to prepare for work, leading to a feeling of being behind or overwhelmed. This is another source of anxiety, which feeds into the dread of the coming workweek.
- Our jobs: Sometimes we feel the Sunday Scaries simply because our jobs are stressful. We become afraid because we have tight deadlines, are worried about job security or because our jobs are difficult. Anxiety consumes us because we have just spent the last two days not thinking about our demanding jobs, only to have to return to them on Monday morning.
- Mini vacation syndrome: You know that overwhelming feeling you get when you return from a great vacation only to have 1,000 emails to read? Every weekend has the potential to be a mini vacation. It is tough to shift back into work mode when you have spent two days shifting out of it.6
Words of Wisdom
We can beat many types of anxiety with an action plan. The Sunday Scaries manifest in our imagination because, unfortunately, many of us are programmed to imagine the worst. The first step in beating the Sunday Scaries is finding clarity. You can only solve a problem when you identify it and clearly describe the problem.
“Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.”
The rest of this article will outline
suggestions—including some based on personal experience—to help you avoid or at least alleviate the worst of the dread associated with the Scaries. These solutions are general and need to be tailored to suit your everyday schedule, family obligations and your lifestyle. But they should give you a good starting point.
Prepare your week. We experience the Scaries because we either experience a feeling of fear of missing out (FOMO) on the weekend or dreading the week ahead. Sometimes we feel both. To make sure you increase the chances of having another great weekend and stomp out the angst, get active. Plan out your week. I, personally, do not plan my days and the week chronologically. I have scheduled meetings both internally and with clients, but I have to be ready to switch gears quickly when I get a last-minute request from a client or a sudden crisis that needs to be addressed. I would never be able to stick to an hour-by-hour plan. That would cause another set of Scaries. Instead, I make a list of everything I need to get done during the week in no particular order. Then, I go back through the list and assign a number to each item that signifies its importance. For instance, I assign the number one to items that need to get done immediately. By doing this, I know not to attempt the items marked as number two until all the number ones have been completed. I then mark the items in order of importance. I feel so much better when I get the list taken care of because I know what I need to do during the week. More importantly, though, I know what I need to do first as soon as I sit down to work on Monday morning. Planning takes time, but I would be spending that time worrying and not enjoying it, anyway. That preparation time is invaluable to my psyche and my productivity.
Routine, routine, routine. I am going to emphasize action repeatedly here. Remember that having the feeling of dread during the weekend is not a sacrifice you are required to make just because you have a job. You are allowed to love (or hate) your job and enjoy the weekends without worrying about the following week. A routine might be helpful in order to ward off the Sunday Scary demons. Now, this is where it gets personal and may take some trial and error to figure out what you need to do to not feel work anxiety. In addition to planning your week, or in lieu of it, what eases your mind? Working out, cooking, taking a walk in nature, reading favorite books, planning meals for the week and journaling are common activities that help a lot of people. Writing down your feelings of dread could help you discover patterns and the reasons you continue to feel this way every weekend.8 Routines are a lot easier when you do not have kids, I have come to learn. Although we have routines with our children—when they wake up, eat, play, watch TV, take a bath and go to sleep—they rarely go out of their way to allow us to have our own routines. You might need to ask for help from a spouse, a relative or someone else who can provide child care. Whatever the case is, having a go-to activity and routine can scare off the Scaries. The goal is to do that thing that makes the workweek feel less daunting and do it until it stops working.
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit at home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” Dale Carnegie7
Sleep is always underrated. I feel like we hear this all too often, but it is also a no-brainer. Nothing is worse for the Scaries than waking up Monday mornings cranky and sleep-deprived. Bad sleep makes the start of any day difficult. Sleep is even more important after two days off, especially after a fun and memorable weekend. Make sure you get to sleep at your normal bedtime and develop a routine to help facilitate sleep. Minimize screen time, record the game to watch the highlights in the morning, and do not check emails. (I know that one is tough.)
Be kind to yourself. We can be our own worst enemy. When anxious, we tend to let our imaginations run. Unfortunately, few of us have imaginations that run in a positive direction. Many of us are wired to think the worst, which is a defense mechanism, but it usually has negative effects. In addition, thinking the worst causes “paralysis through analysis.” We think so much and so negatively that we do not act. We all know that others are walking a hard road, too, and we try to be kind to others because of our shared experiences of suffering. But we sometimes forget to be kind to ourselves. Be kind to yourself on Sundays and Mondays (or always) by doing something for yourself that makes the day end or start off well. Some ideas include watching your favorite TV show, cooking your favorite dinner, having a game or family night or taking a walk in nature or to your favorite place. Remember, though, whatever you do has to be a special activity to prevent the Sunday Scaries. Make it a routine and switch it up when it starts to lose its efficacy. I believe that dreading a busy work week, a terrible boss or a vital meeting is not a requirement because you have a job. Keep telling yourself you can handle anything that comes your way and try to keep a positive mindset.
“On the other side of fear, lies your freedom.” Roy T. Bennett9
My last piece of advice is to have a routine for Monday mornings. Mondays are difficult enough after having two days off—as well as having catching up to do—as you start the workweek. Everything seems urgent on Fridays and Mondays, the two days we want to either unwind quickly or start slowly. Do not start your Mondays by checking your email. I know you are rolling your eyes because I am rolling my eyes at my own words as I type them. But you know you regret checking your emails the second you wake up every time, especially on a Monday. Admit it! We are in a judgment-free zone. The best Mondays I have ever had started off with me doing something other than job work. My best mornings have started with me spending time with my kids, which is not easy at their age because they have so much energy. My best mornings—any day of the week—have started with me not doing work or emailing anyone for work, having a great cup of coffee (or three), reading a few lines of the book I am reading and taking care of myself. By taking care of myself, I mean the basics: Taking a nice, unrushed shower, putting on work clothes (not a t-shirt and workout pants if I am working from home) and eating breakfast. This is all before checking my first email or making my first call. That is a routine I must remind myself of every day because the Sunday Scaries do not end on Sunday; they evolve into a “Case of the Mondays” overnight. To avoid this, you should confront your feelings of angst the moment you feel them become a pattern every weekend. You are not alone and it is not a sign of weakness if you feel anxiety because of the upcoming week. You should ask yourself why you feel that way. That is the question you need to answer with personal rumination and meditation. However, you can solve the problem with awareness, action and a dash of self-prioritization.
Sanjeev Menon, ACAMS Career Guidance columnist, managing director—Legal & Compliance, Madison Davis, New York, NY, USA, firstname.lastname@example.org,
- Brian Tracy, “Set peace of mind as your highest goal and organize your entire life around it,” Facebook, July 23, 2015, https://www.facebook.com/BrianTracyPage/posts/10153116955733460
- Caroline Burke, “Feeling Ornery About the Office? 75% Of American Workers Are Now Dealing With the Sunday Scaries,” Katie Couric Media, April 10, 2023, https://katiecouric.com/lifestyle/workplace/sunday-scaries-
- “What Are the ‘Sunday Scaries’?” Cleveland Clinic, December 8, 2021,
- Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet, Rupa & Co, 1923.
- Abby McCain, “What are the Sunday Scaries? (+ What to Do About Them),” Zippia, October 12, 2022,
- Dale Carnegie quote, BrainyQuote.com, https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/dale_carnegie_132157
- Julie Pennell, “5 ways to get rid of the Sunday scaries, according to a psychologist,” Today, May 22, 2023,
- Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart, Roy Bennett, February 26, 2016.