How to stop the ‘Sunday scaries’ from ruining your weekend

Sundays don’t have to be so scary.

Psychologists say the “Sunday scaries” —that anxious feeling of dread many of us experience the night before the work week starts, or following a long holiday weekend — may actually cause stress that can make you sick.

“It’s caused by real world stress, because a lot of the time, people have more work than they can handle that they carry into the weekend. The unknown of Monday and thinking, ‘Oh, am I going to have 1,000 emails waiting for me?’ There’s anticipatory anxiety that’s mixed with the unknown that can be really punishing,” Dr. Matthew Lorber, a psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, tells Moneyish. “The transition [from weekend to work week] tends to be too abrupt for people who don’t give themselves enough time off. Some people will report headaches or nausea. There’s a legitimate physical reaction to the stress and anxiety.”

A global poll conducted by career site found that 76 percent of people in the US report having “really bad” Sunday night blues compared to only 47 percent of people in other parts of the world. And it could be because Americans are using less vacation days and so have less time to relish in days off. The average US employee who receives paid vacation time has only taken about half (54 percent) of those days in the past year, a Glassdoor survey of over 2,200 workers reported.

“The great thing about a long weekend is freedom — being able to do whatever it is that you want — and that feeling of a loss of freedom come Sunday night is particularly painful for people,” says Lorber.

Here are five ways to overcome your “Sunday scaries:”

Eat well

You are what you eat and snacking on healthy foods Sunday night before a big work week can help you de-stress.

“Stress depletes your resources,” says Lorber. “There are specific foods that lower anxiety: like dark chocolate, which is high in antioxidants; and nuts like almonds, cashews and walnuts, which are loaded in vitamin B, that helps fight stress. Oily fish are very high in omega three fatty acids, which help boost mood and focus, while foods with magnesium can lower anxiety.” But avoid alcohol, which is a depressant, on Sundays.

Rethink your routine

Doing the same thing each week can get old quick, so Lorber says it’s important to create something to look forward to — like an upcoming weekend trip, or even something as simple as scheduling a happy hour with a friend or co-worker.

“A lot of it is mindset. One of the best things we can do to fight anxiety at any point is to have things to look forward to. On Monday morning, make a change to your typical week to do something you want that will improve your quality of life. Plan to wear a favorite outfit, or just making lunch plans or doing a new workout can change up the routine. If you’re single, perhaps plan a date mid-week so you have something exciting planned, rather than saving it for a weekend,” says Lorber.

Even choosing to work remotely can make all the difference. Studies show that the most innovative employees spend only 74 percent of the work week at the office and instead relocate to remote places like a coffee shop or another city for a change of scenery from their office desk.

Detox from social media

Put your phone down.

Scrolling through photos from the weekend or seeing friends doing cool things you missed out on can cause serious FOMO and make you more weary about returning to work. Plus, there have been a number of studies done on the negative effects that social media can have on mental health, such as causing feelings of isolation, loneliness, low self worth and anxiety. Lorber recommends avoiding social media apps when you’re back at work on Monday, too.

“After long holidays, try to avoid social media on that first day back. Not only is it going to hurt efficiency, but it makes you long for being back on vacation,” urges Lorber, who even suggests taking Tuesday off for a personal day after a holiday weekend to decompress if you have the option to take vacation.

Go to sleep

Getting to bed at a reasonable hour on Sundays can make you more likely to rise and shine at work the next day.

Two-thirds of American workers — specifically, 73 percent between the ages of 19 and 44 — say they would be better workers if they slept longer, according to a recent Glassdoor report. And three in four workers sleep less than the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night, averaging just 6.9 hours.

Lorber recommends getting the standard eight hours of shut eye.

Have a “To Do” list and don’t book meetings

Making a game plan can help you physically check off all of the things you need to do come Monday morning.

“Say, ‘these are three tasks I’m going to get done today. These are the most important and this is how I’m going to do it,’” says Lorber. “Know what you’re going to do first, second and third. Try not to let people distract you, or get in the way. It’s sometimes good to try to avoid planning meetings on Monday. Once you get that first task done, it feels better,” he adds, encouraging people to write their list down and cross things off to make the agenda seem less daunting.

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