How you can beat the 'Sunday scaries'

23 June 2024, 11:41 | Updated: 23 June 2024, 19:58

If you're overwhelmed by a creeping sense of dread as the last of the weekend slips away, you're not alone. 

Seven out of 10 Britons experience the "Sunday scaries", according to research commissioned by the government in 2022.

Suddenly the task it seemed a good idea to abandon on Friday beckons, a groaning inbox awaits and the ambitious list of weekend chores remains incomplete.

Work stresses, lack of sleep and looming to-do lists were reported in the research as the top causes of feelings of stress or anxiety on a Sunday.

The Sunday scaries are a form of anticipatory anxiety - in other words, worrying about something that is yet to happen.

Apparently Sunday scaries peak for many people just after 5pm.

The distraction tactics people reported varied by age group, with those aged 18 to 24 most likely to scroll on social media, 25 to 32-year-olds binge watching TV and 33 to 40-year-olds turning to comfort eating.

But a psychologist warned these tactics can actually exacerbate the problem.

So what should you do to tackle the Sunday night blues?

Do your worst chore first

Tackling Sunday night's anxiety starts earlier in the weekend.

Workplace wellness specialists Thrive4Life recommend doing your worst chores on Friday night and Saturday morning, so they're not hanging over you when Sunday rolls around.

Be strict with your relaxing

Set an intention to rest and relax on Sunday - and stick to it, Thrive4Life recommends.

Try mindfulness or meditation

Yes, mindfulness is a mental health buzzword - but it can help you break the loop of anxious overthinking and anchor you in the present.

If you're worried you'll just end up ruminating on Monday morning, try using a guided recording through an app.

Work on a project

Working on a project that requires your full attention either physically or mentally is a good way to distract your mind and stay away from bad habits like turning to alcohol, Mental Health First Aid USA says.

That could mean getting down to some gardening or DIY, or focusing on knitting, a crossword or a craft project.

Get physical

In a similar vein, getting in some exercise is a good way to keep your body busy so your mind doesn't go into overdrive.

And hopefully it will tire you out enough to get a good night's sleep.

Make a To Do list

This might seem counterintuitive if a To Do list as long as your arm is part of the reason for your anxiety - but prioritising your tasks on Sunday can help focus your mind on Monday.

Plan a treat

The millennial need for a "little treat" to get through daily life has become meme-worthy. Do adults really deserve a cookie just for making it to the office on Monday morning?

If the prospect of it is going to make you feel better on Sunday night, the answer is yes.

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What can employers do?

The University of Exeter developed a toolkit for employers to help them help workers.

Their tips included organising meeting-free Monday mornings and Friday afternoons so employees can prepare for the week and finish to-do lists.

They also suggested offering support to their team, being approachable as managers and knowing where to refer colleagues for mental health support.