Clients looking for a “cure” for the Sunday Scaries is a common Monday conversation. For the uninitiated, the Sunday Scaries is a term to describe the building anxiety people experience as the weekend comes to an end, and thoughts of the looming week begin. Common complaints include an uncomfortable feeling in the stomach, thoughts of worry, and a general inability to enjoy the current moment. While an actual “cure” is not realistic, there are some things to consider if this common set of symptoms ails you.
In general, anticipatory anxiety refers to the worry someone experiences prior to an event that is causing fear or panic. When it comes to Sunday evening anxiety, individuals are thinking about upcoming workplace situations, and they are predicting the worst case scenario will absolutely happen. To cope with this prediction, people rarely engage with the thought in a helpful way. Often they choose to sit in their misery, willfully, or say “I can’t deal with this now” and jump to a distraction. Aside from being unhelpful, both of these approaches create a feedback loop and the individual unintentionally “trains” their brain that when anticipatory anxiety regarding work comes up, they lack the skills to deal with it in the moment.
Working with a professional can help identify these underlying thoughts and challenge the feedback loop. Also, it is good practice to remember that the anticipation of something is never as bad as doing the thing itself.
Alcohol has numerous effects on the brain and body. As it relates to Sunday Scaries, the hangover and recovery process is going to trigger anxiety There is no way around it. If you have several days of drinking in a row (Friday happy hour, Saturday brunch, and Sunday funday) the impact of alcohol on anxiety is going to be that much more intense.
Additionally, alcohol impacts the REM stage of the sleep cycle. This means you are more likely to wake up after a few hours (around 2am), stay awake, and when you eventually fall back asleep, it will not feel as restful or restorative in the morning.
Because alcohol is tied into socializing and being around other people, it can be difficult to change this pattern. However, difficult things are just difficult. They’re not impossible. There are many strategies and distress tolerance skills to discuss with a professional if you are finding it difficult to drink less.
Ultimately, the trigger for Sunday Scaries is work. However, instead of dreading the thought of Monday, try to be effective and recognize the anxiety is likely being triggered by a core value. Below is a hypothetical conversation between a therapist and client to exemplify what this conversation can look like:
Client: I just have this anxiety and dread on Sunday. I can’t sleep.
Therapist: What are you thinking about at this time?
Client: I just have a lot to do, and I don’t feel like I have the support to get it done.
Therapist: So you’re thinking about how you want more support?
Client: I’m thinking about how things are going to slip, or break, and I’m going to be responsible.
Therapist: What do you mean by responsible?
Client: It’s my fault if something fails.
Therapist: So you care more about it being your fault, how others see you if you fail, or how failure will affect your career?
Client: All three I guess
Therapist: Okay, let’s look each one and see what core values are coming up for you.
The goal is to see that while there are difficult moments during the day, we make these moments worse for ourselves when assume too much (I am going to fail and be responsible). Learning to identify how we talk to ourselves and then changing it to be more effective is the goal of therapy.