- A new survey reports that about two-thirds of people in the United States feel an anxiety known as the “Sunday scaries” as they face the upcoming workweek.
- The anxious feeling has reportedly become more acute during COVID-19 and is affecting younger people more than older adults.
- Experts say you can help ease the anxiety by getting enough sleep, eating a nutritious diet, and practicing mindfulness.
If you’re dreading the week ahead, you’re not alone.
More than half of working people in the United States report experiencing the “Sunday scaries,” a phenomenon in which people experience stress or anxiety on a Sunday before the coming workweek.
A LinkedIn survey of 3,000 Americans found that 66 percent of respondents said they felt anxious or stressed on Sunday. In addition, 41 percent said the COVID-19 pandemic has either caused the Sunday scaries or made them worse.
Dr. David Spiegel, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Stanford University in California, said the survey results aren’t surprising.
“To some extent, it’s understandable. The weekend tends to be easier going, less structured, less scheduled. You’re usually surrounded by people who love you, and you love them, and that’s a pleasant thing, and you’re not facing strangers or people you know at work who are a pain,” Spiegel told Healthline.
“So, some of it is normal. What’s happened to us is as the world has become a scarier place, even loved ones can be a source of danger or death. It’s natural you associate going out… with being anxious,” he added.
The LinkedIn survey found that the Sunday scaries may be impacting people differently.
About 31 percent of male workers said the pandemic was the main cause of their first-ever experience with the Sunday scaries.
Young people were particularly troubled on a Sunday. The survey found that millennials and those in Generation Z were the most impacted by the phenomenon, with 78 percent of survey respondents in both groups reporting stress on a Sunday.
Spiegel says that trend is in keeping with age groups experiencing the highest stress levels due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The age range that have been most affected by the pandemic and who are the most anxious and upset by it are 15 to 30. You would think it would be older people who are more medically vulnerable to COVID-19,” he noted.
“I think the reason is this: Your main task in life at that age range is break free of your family of origin… the pandemic has been unbelievably interfering with that,” Spiegel explained.
However, feeling a bit anxious on a Sunday night isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Spiegel says.
It becomes problematic only if those feelings start to interfere with daily life.
“Anxiety is a normal, natural way of our brains and our bodies telling us to watch out. It’s not always a bad thing, but if you get immobilized or you get to the point where you don’t feel able to engage and, to some extent, control the things that make you anxious, then that can build on itself and make you feel bad for no good reasons,” he said.
“You get anxious, your heart rate goes up, your muscles tighten, you start to sweat, blood pressure goes up a little, and you notice that, and you think, ‘Oh God, this is really bad.’ So then your heart rate goes up some more, and your muscles tense more, and when that starts to happen, your natural physiological reactions start to confirm your anxiety,” he explained.
Spiegel said that if the Sunday scaries stop a person from going to work or school, cause them to be late regularly, or cause an individual to rely on anti-anxiety medication, alcohol, or drugs, then they should seek help.
“It’s a red flag if it actually inhibits you from doing what you need to do and what is reasonably safe to do,” he said.
Spiegel suggests you can ease the Sunday anxiety by practicing mindfulness, exercising, getting enough sleep, and eating a nutritious diet.
“One of the things I teach people to do is self-hypnosis. Imagine you’re floating in a bath, a lake, a hot tub, or floating in space and just calm your body down as a way of managing your anxiety. Rather than fighting a feeling, you let it flow through you like if you were watching a storm go by. The act of accepting and not struggling with the fact you’re anxious can sometimes reduce anxiety as well,” he said.
“Our emotions are there for a reason. They help us orient to what matters and what doesn’t matter, and being a bit anxious about facing the hard, cold, virus-infested world is a perfectly reasonable thing,” Spiegel added. “There’s nothing wrong with you. That happens. You just want to know how to manage it.”