Combatting the “Sunday scaries”

May 22, 2024

By Karla Rockhold, Director of Alumni Career Engagement, OSU Alumni Association

You’re home at the end of a relaxing weekend — Saturday brunch with friends, a blissful Sunday morning hike, and now, a quiet afternoon at home. But as you settle in to make the most of your remaining free time, a pang of anxiety bubbles up. Your weekend is almost over. You glance at the clock and, while it’s only midday, your mind collapses the hours into minutes, casting a shadow of urgency and dread over what should have been a serene Sunday evening. 

This harsh and premature transition into the work week is often called the “Sunday scaries.” 

Characterized by a creeping sense of anxiety that starts to set in as the weekend winds down and work on Monday looms large, the Sunday scaries usually bring on a feeling of worry about the upcoming week’s demands. 

One study indicates that it sets in, on average, around 3:58 p.m., resulting in hours of anticipatory stress during what should be your time to rest. 

Believe it or not, the Sunday scaries are common. A 2018 LinkedIn-commissioned survey revealed that 80% of American professionals experience the feeling. Younger generations in the workforce, particularly Millennials and Gen Z, are impacted most by Sunday workweek anxiety. 

This could be due to various factors, including job security, work-life balance and the pressures of modern work environments. It’s important for individuals experiencing such anxiety to seek effective coping strategies and, if necessary, professional support to manage these feelings. 

Dealing with Sunday pre-work anxiety can be complicated, because everyone faces different workplace stressors. While one person might be fretting about a temporary bump in the road, like a Monday morning presentation, another may be having their energy sapped by a toxic work environment. 

Whether managing the Sunday blues or improving your overall mental well-being, developing solutions means reflecting in order to find what works best for you. 

Here are five practical tips that can help ease that start-of-the-week anxiety and improve your overall mental health, especially tailored for our OSU community. 

Strategies to manage the Sunday scaries 

  1. Set boundaries and unplug. Today more than ever, there is an expectation to be reachable at all hours, whether for work or for socializing. This can make it feel like you always need to be “on.” Even if only for a few hours each weekend, create a time to dial back the stress by turning off cell phones and avoiding social media.

  2. Create a routine. Do you ever end the weekend feeling like you’ve failed to relax or be productive? When you’re stressed, it can be difficult to make decisions about what to do and when. Having a go-to groove for Sundays can help you feel in control and prepared for the week. Be sure to schedule time in the evening for things that help you wind down: preparing a recipe, taking a sunset walk with your dog, exercising or stretching, listening to music, reading, journaling or working on a craft or activity you enjoy.

  3. Find a way to make your worries useful. Stress can seem like it comes out of nowhere, but sometimes it’s a necessary gut check about what is and isn’t working in your life or career. Jotting down your worries can help you A) prioritize for the work week and recall those little unfinished tasks you may have forgotten, and B) provide you with a record of your experiences and feelings; if you can see that you are constantly dreading work and feeling debilitated by it, then it could be time for a bigger career change.

  4. Seek support: Know that you’re not alone. The OSU community is rich with support networks. Students can access  counseling services through the university, and alumni and friends can find supportive mentors, fellow alumni with shared identities and experiences, and resources for all-around wellness through the OSU Alumni Association and its programs.

  5. Don’t lose the present moment. When you’re neglecting your present self to worry about the future, practices such as mindfulness and meditation can help reduce anxiety. OSU offers various resources, including: