There’s a line in Haruki Murakami’s sprawling novel, 1Q84, that encapsulates the subtle dread many people feel as the weekend wraps up: “Time flows in strange ways on Sundays,” he writes, “and sights become mysteriously distorted.” From worry to being overwhelmed to straight-up sadness, these “distortions” are more commonly known as the “Sunday scaries.”
In a 2015 global poll by Monster, 76 percent of U.S. respondents said they have “really bad” Sunday scaries, compared to 47 percent of participants in the rest of the world. This is a sad statistic, but I’m going to argue that there’s a silver lining. If we identify and explore the source of our dread, we can reframe how we think about the week ahead. Yes, I’m talking about kicking the Sunday scaries to the curb—for good.
Why Monday looms so large
Hating Monday is practically a national pastime—even among those who love their work. Ben Brooks—a New York-based city career coach and founder of career management technology Pilot—previously told Fast Company, “There’s a bit of a collective conscience that Mondays suck.”
Social media also perpetuates the idea that Mondays are a drag. Over time, we internalize this narrative, and we miscalculate the negative effects of a new week. In his bestselling book, Stumbling on Happiness, Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert wrote, “we overestimate how happy we will be on our birthdays, we underestimate how happy we will be on Monday mornings, and we make these mundane but erroneous predictions again and again, despite their regular disconfirmation.”
The key word here is “predictions.” A survey published in the Journal of Cognition and Emotion found that day-of-the-week stereotypes (like the Sunday blues and T.G.I.F.) were most powerful when people predicted their moods for each day of the upcoming week. The stereotypes were least apparent in the moods they actually experienced on each day.
The Sunday scaries are a form of “anticipatory anxiety,” according to Steven Meyers, a clinical psychologist and professor at Roosevelt University in Chicago. That’s why concerns might creep in as you consider the upcoming week. At some level, worrying about future events is human nature. But prolonged anxiety can lead to chronic stress, which increases your risk of health problems including depression, heart disease, digestive problems, sleep issues, and more.
As the CEO of JotForm, I want to feel engaged throughout the week. I also try to foster a safe, supportive culture that minimizes the Sunday scaries for our team. I know I can’t eliminate this phenomenon in its entirety, but I have found that the following practices can help ease the Sunday blues and help you embrace the start of a new week.
1. Plan some Sunday self-care
Treating yourself well on Sunday can help you feel better about Monday. Peggy Neu, president of The Monday Campaigns—a nonprofit public health program connected with Johns Hopkins, Columbia, and Syracuse Universities—suggests a Sunday night S.E.L.F. Care plan. Neu told NBC news that the method includes the following:
- Serenity—a form of relaxation, like meditation or deep breathing
- Exercise—anything from yoga to running
- Love—expressing gratitude
- Food—eating nutrient-rich foods high in vitamin B6 and avoiding caffeine and alcohol.
2. Schedule a Monday mood lifter
The flip side of anticipatory anxiety is looking forward to an upcoming event. Whenever possible, schedule something uplifting on Monday, whether it’s a spin class or a coffee date. For added benefits, spend time with friends and family. When researchers from Rochester University studied the “weekend effect,” they learned that autonomy and connectedness influenced the higher levels of well-being that people report on Saturday and Sunday. Making social plans can extend those good weekend vibes into the workweek.
3. Steer clear of digital devices
Just as social media can ramp up the Sunday scaries, 24/7 connectivity can increase anxiety. The solution is simple, though admittedly not always easy. Shut off your phone, don’t check your email, and stop scrolling through social media. “People really used to relax and go back to their baseline and regroup over the weekend,” neuropsychologist Dr. Susanne Cooperman told NBC News. “And now, very often, they have to check in, or they’re being texted so the stress already is dialed up.”
4. Explore the source of your anxiety
The Sunday blues often feature a mental script of regrets from the past week, like “I should have finished that report,” or worries about an upcoming meeting, presentation, or deadline. Instead of dwelling, psychiatrist Vania Manipod recommends identifying and challenging each negative thought. “For example,” she writes in an article for Self, “You’re just anxious because you want to do a good job and you will.”
Addressing the source of your anxiety also allows you to tackle it head on and write a new mental script. A Gwen Moran previously reported for Fast Company, “Think about the benefits of your job or the parts you like. Think about your income and how it provides for you and your family. Think about how your chores and errands contribute to your quality of life.” When you look at your life from this angle, you might find that you wake up excited for Monday and the week ahead.
Aytekin Tank is the CEO and founder of JotForm, a popular online form builder. Established in 2006, JotForm allows customizable data collection for enhanced lead generation, survey distribution, payment collections, and more.