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Sunday night anxiety: how to handle the “Sunday scaries,” according to an expert

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Lauren Geall
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A woman experiencing Sunday Night Anxiety

Do you spend most of your Sunday consumed with dread about the working week ahead? You could be dealing with Sunday night anxiety. Here’s how to deal with this form of anticipatory anxiety, according to an expert.

Among all of the anxiety and stress of the coronavirus pandemic and UK recession, Sunday night anxiety has remained a constant presence in many of our lives, whether or not we’ve been able to work from home. 

Sunday night anxiety – or the “Sunday Scaries” as it is sometimes called – is a form of anticipatory anxiety (a type of anxiety characterised by an overwhelming feeling of dread about something that is due to happen) that many people feel about their upcoming week, especially in response to the idea of returning to work. 

Not only does this kind of anxiety get in the way of someone enjoying their weekend, but it can also get in the way of a good night’s sleep, and leave people feeling exhausted for the week ahead. And it’s more common than you might think.

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“Not wanting the weekend to be over or experiencing disappointment about not being able to lie in the next day is very much expected, and happens to all of us. However, if these thoughts start to manifest into a concern or even a fear that occupies your thoughts at length, or starts to hinder your day and mood, you may well be experiencing the Sunday Scaries,” explains Dominique Antiglio, sophrologist at BeSophro clinics and author of The Life-Changing Power Of Sophrology. 

“For some people, it can become chronic enough that they spend the whole day carrying the anxiety around, which has a negative impact on their stress levels, physical recuperation, social lives and mental health.

“People who experience the Sunday Scaries often report counting down to Saturday from the moment they walk into work – the desire to be away from the work environment is the driver for this anxiety. Sunday is significant because the day signals the countdown to Monday, so people can often find that their ‘scaries’ build up during the day and get worse as the hours go by.”

A woman with anxiety
Sunday night anxiety: “People who experience the Sunday Scaries often report counting down to Saturday from the moment they walk into work.”

While, for some people, Sunday night anxiety is typically an extension of their naturally anxious personality, for others, it could also be indicative of something more worrying.

Of course, during the coronavirus pandemic when some of us are still working from home, there’s no longer anxiety over a return to a physical work environment. But with many people experiencing increased stress levels at the moment, it’s no surprise that so many of us are still experiencing that sense of Sunday night dread.

“People who are naturally more anxious are more prone to experiencing the Sunday Scaries, and if prolonged, it could also be a sign that you are close to burnout, so do listen to your body so you can take steps to address it.”

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While experiencing Sunday night anxiety can be a particularly distressing experience, there are things you can do to get those feelings of stress and worry under control. Of course, if your workplace is a toxic environment or placing significant pressure on your mental health, it might be time to consider a change in job or career.

Here, Antiglio suggests two methods to help you manage your feelings of Sunday night anxiety right here, right now.

1. Try the ‘bubble’ visualisation exercise

“Upon waking on Sunday, one of the most helpful things you can do to quell your anxiety is to practice setting a more positive and productive intention for the day. This helps you to bring clarity and focus so you are less likely to dwell or be preoccupied at length with the anxiety. A really powerful and proven technique to address this is a sophrology visualisation exercise called the ‘Bubble’, as follows.”

• Sitting forward in a chair, breathe easily, close your eyes and start to visualise yourself sitting into a bubble.

• Think about how it looks – is it large or small, close to you or very big around you, transparent or a coloured hue?

Sunday night anxiety
Sunday night anxiety: 88% of people experience it regularly.

• Tune into how calm you’re starting to feel, and picture all your anxiety and stressors on the other side of the bubble – they can’t touch you and you are protected. Think about how reassured and secure that makes you feel. Sit with this feeling for as long as you need, and when you feel like you can take that feeling away with you for the day, open your eyes and continue with your day.

2. Rid yourself of negative emotions with the ‘bag’ technique

“Techniques that engage both the mind and body can be much more effective in quelling anxiety as you have two powerful systems working in unison for one common goal – where the mind goes, the body should follow. Try an empowering technique called the ‘bag’ to rid yourself of negative emotions when they take hold during the day – it will help to clear the associated weight and tension effectively, reinstate your sense of control, and really help to lighten the metaphorical load.”

• With your eyes closed, stand about a metre-and-a-half in front of a wall and imagine there is a target on that wall, and on that target is a bag.

• Think about the negative feelings, one by one, that have surfaced and picture taking a hold of them and placing each one into the bag.

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• You can put any feeling, situation or conversation into this bag – but not actual people.

• Hold out your hand as you picture holding the bag, using your other hand to ‘physically’ place it into the bag – name each one that goes in. When done, ‘close’ the bag.

• Now, assume a position of strength and picture symbolically crushing the bag until the pieces fall to the ground. You might picture crushing the remaining pieces with your feet until everything has disintegrated, like all those negative associations you previously carried around.

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