How to beat that dreaded Sunday Night anxiety

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·Features and Health Editor
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We all know the feeling. We're closing in on the end of what's been a very enjoyable weekend, only to find that by Sunday afternoon or evening you are hit with a sense of worry or dread about the upcoming week.

The ‘Sunday scaries’ - yes it has a name - is more common than you might think with that feeling of creeping anxiety being felt by many ahead of another week at work, school, or in your home office.

girl lying on lounge
Sometimes Sunday doesn't feel like the weekend at all. Photo: Getty

In fact, a recent survey discovered that two in three people struggle with Sunday anxiety as they worry about the tasks that await them in the week ahead. 

While things have been a little all over the place over the past 18 months due to ongoing lockdowns and working from home, that general sad feeling of waving goodbye to the free time of the weekend and facing all of your upcoming responsibilities isn't something new.

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But there are a few things you can do about it.

Here, the health specialists at Delamere rehab clinic have shared with Yahoo Lifestyle some tips for making small changes that can add some happiness to the end of your weekend and help you prepare for a productive week ahead.

Plan your Monday morning routine

Creating a schedule for Monday is a great way to take control of your fears and be proactive in dealing with your Sunday anxiety. Schedule some time on Friday afternoons before signing off for the weekend to set yourself some goals and deadlines for the following week. Organising your thoughts, time and preparing for upcoming events will help you head into the weekend on a positive note.

Try creating a list of all the things you ideally want to achieve by the end of the week, as well as fun activities for the evening or during your lunch breaks that will give you something to look forward to when returning to work or school. Fun shouldn’t be restricted to just the weekend - planning a mid-week activity can help you break up the work week.

Fun activities could include things like a trip to the cinema, a long walk in the park with your dog, treating yourself to lunch at a local cafe or even a spontaneous visit to see friends or family that live nearby.

Exercise is also a great way to increase your weekday productivity, so consider a workout activity that you find more stimulating and fun, perhaps a jog, run or something that includes a social element allowing you to spend time with other people.

Make Sunday the new Saturday

Typically we schedule our fun activities for a Saturday and our obligations on Sunday. This only reinforces the weekend blues and reminds us of the upcoming responsibilities in the week ahead. Instead, take care of your chores, errands and commitments on Saturday, leaving yourself plenty of time on Sunday for fun and relaxation.

You are naturally in a happier mood on Saturday, so it will make it easier to get through your weekend to-do list, whether that’s your weekly food shopping, meal preparation for the week, cleaning the house or sorting your finances.

Plan something fun for Sunday, so you have something to look forward to. Depending on your budget, you could go out for a roast dinner, cook a family dinner, invite friends over for a coffee and a catch-up, or take a trip to the beach or park.

weekend calendar showing saturday and sunday
Plan something fun for Sunday so you have something to look forward to. Photo: Getty

Adopt relaxation techniques

While it’s important to fill your Sundays with fun activities that keep your spirits high, it’s important to set aside time to unwind and mentally prepare for the week ahead. If you’re stressed on a Sunday night, you will feel more dread and anxiety about getting up in the morning and returning to work, and may find it hard to fall asleep. If you spend time relaxing in the evening you will feel calmer about your transition into the upcoming week.

If you start to feel anxious or stressed on a Sunday afternoon or evening, here are some relaxation techniques you can try to calm your nerves;

  • Exercise

  • Take a hot shower or bath

  • Read a book

  • Meditate or try some yoga poses

  • Listen to relaxing music

  • Play with your children or dog

  • Go for a walk

  • Watch your favourite funny movie or TV show

You need to find things that truly relax you and take your mind away from work.

Exercise over the weekend

Being physically active outdoors has been shown to reduce stress, anger, depression and improve overall mental and physical health. Exercising is a natural and effective way to reduce Sunday anxiety. It can help to relieve tension and enhance well-being through the release of feel-good hormones called endorphins. These include serotonin and dopamine, the hormones that calm and relax the nervous system.

When exercising over the weekend, we experience feelings of happiness, relaxation, overall mood improvements, and lower symptoms of anxiety. It doesn’t have to be anything strenuous. As little as 10 minutes a day can help to lower anxiety. Taking a walk to the park with friends and family, heading on a light jog, or even taking the children for a swim will help you to feel more relaxed and experience less stress about the week ahead.

Take some time off social media

Your weekend should be a time to relax and unwind, but often we find ourselves glued to our phones, checking work notifications and looking to see how others are spending their weekends on social media, which can create a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety.

Although it can be tempting to scroll through your work emails or check your messages from colleagues, it can be a pointless task that leaves you feeling restless, drained and unable to live in the moment.

A total phone ban can be challenging, so stick to cutting screen time on apps that make you feel more anxious in general, be it, Instagram, WhatsApp or Slack. Turn off notifications for the week or temporarily delete the app if that helps.

Before bed, it’s important to practise switching off from technology and learning how to get a good night's sleep, something which many people struggle to do on a Sunday evening. The blue light emitted by your smartphone restricts the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycle. So by scrolling on your phone before bed or watching television it can become more difficult to fall asleep and wake up the following morning.

You should stop using electronic devices, whether that’s your phone, tablet or games console for at least 30 minutes before bedtime - instead pick up a book!

Start a Sunday journal

Writing down your thoughts, feelings and emotions on a Sunday evening can increase your chances of falling asleep easily and can help calm your mind before bedtime. Instead of letting your anxious thoughts take control of your nighttime, write them down through a stream of journaling, to help ease Sunday anxiety.

Sunday journaling can help you prioritise your problems, fears and concerns. Tracking your emotions on a Sunday so you can recognise what triggers your anxiety and stress, and learn ways to better control them. To get started, grab a notebook and get cosy and let your thoughts take it away…

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