It creeps up on you slowly… You'll be minding your own business, enjoying a leisurely lunch, cuddling up on the sofa, or reading your favourite book on a sunlit bench when that feeling of dread starts to wash over you. There's no rationale or external reason for the mild knotting of your stomach, tightness in your chest, and shallow breathing, but that doesn't make it any less real. Unfortunately this reaction isn't uncommon. In fact, it's so frequently felt it even has its own name: the Sunday scaries, also known as the Sunday blues.
What Are Sunday Scaries?
Sunday scaries refers to the anxiety felt Sunday afternoon and evening when you begin to anticipate the return to work or school the following morning.
According to a Monster.com poll, 76% of people in the U.S experienced Sunday night anxiety, while 45% of the world rated their Sunday scaries as "really bad." And if you thought that was dire, another study published in PLoS One found Sundays were the number one day of the week for panic attacks. So how does one manage this stress on our traditional day of rest? To find out, we asked six successful women with thriving careers how they ward off the Sunday scaries.
Lisa Sugar, Founder and President, PopSugar
Since 2005, Lisa Sugar has been the driving force behind pop culture platform PopSugar. The talented editor has successfully transformed her obsession into a global media brand with a reach of over 100 million uniques and more than 500 employees. On top of creating and curating the brand's Must Have subscription boxes, she's the mother of three girls and the author of Power Your Happy, which aims to help women combine their passions and talents to achieve their own success. With all of those responsibilities, it's little wonder she gets a case of the dreaded Sunday scaries. Here, she shares her tips for fighting them off.
On what the Sunday scaries feel like: "I've learned to avoid the Sunday scaries. We tend to make Sunday night a special routine with an early big family dinner (often with another close family) so the kids can play and we can still relax and enjoy the weekend."
On the physical and emotional toll: "The most draining part is looking at my calendar and seeing if I am traveling. If I'm not, it's easier, and it's more about getting our three daughters ready for bed. Once they're down, it's back to TV time and usually answering some emails, which I find relaxing."
On the Sunday-specific routines to combat them: "The day is hopefully filled with a great workout, family time, and accomplishing something on a to-do list. Then we go into a long family dinner. This is key. It makes the weekend feel like it's still going strong."
On working Sunday nights: "I pretty much always work on Sunday. I have been for over a decade. It works for me, and I feel like I start the week off fresh. Sometimes it's only an hour; other times it's a full afternoon or evening (especially during award season or big live events on a Sunday), so I'm just used to it by now."
On what you should never do: "If you're stuck at the office with co-workers, don't bitch about it to them. It only makes everyone more upset about having to work. Find ways to take a short break, especially if you happen to be waiting on others for something, and learn to be super efficient so you're not wasting your time.
On why the Sunday scaries are such a phenomenon: "People have ridiculous expectations that they only work Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. We need to get that out of our head and apply work/life balance to the entire week. If you love your job, you are never working too much."
On the foods that help fight it: "I love warm water with lemon. I have it every night while watching TV and answering email. I also love candy. That always makes me happier."
On her personal coping mechanisms: "I have many ways to deal with stress. I like to take long walks and clear my head. I enjoy a nice long shower, and working out helps as well. Most importantly, I've found I need to get sleep. If I am anxious and can't sleep, I lie on my back with my hands on my heart and stomach and take deep breaths until I calm myself. I've found this to be meditative and helpful during my most stressful nights."
Rebecca Atwood, Founder and Creative Director, Rebecca Atwood
Brooklyn-based designer Rebecca Atwood turned her love of making art into a profitable business. After receiving her BFA in painting at Rhode Island School of Design, Atwood enjoyed a stint as an assistant designer at Anthropologie before realizing her dream of starting her own company. The talented designer has transformed her bold and whimsical patterns into best-selling pillows and fabrics and more recently into a beautiful book, Living With Pattern. Even Martha Stewart is a fan. Atwood has been a design finalist in the Stewart's American Made program for two years running. Here, she shares her tactics for to beat the Sunday blues before a big week begins.
On what the Sunday scaries feel like: "I'm feeling lucky, as it's been a while since I've had the Sunday scaries, but for me, they most often come out in the winter when it's dark and cold and I don't want to leave the house. I love what I do, and I honestly feel grateful to be able to do what I'm doing every day, but it doesn't mean it's easy or that I'm immune to the stress."
On the physical and emotional toll: "When I'm feeling this way, I'm lethargic, and my head will feel the way the TV used to look when I was growing up and the cable wasn't coming through—gray static moving back and forth."
On the Sunday-specific routines to combat them: "One of the biggest things I find that helps is yoga. When I'm in a good routine and getting to class regularly, it makes everything else feel easier. Sunday afternoons are a great time to take a yoga class, and they generally leave me feeling anxiety-free. It's amazing what a difference it can make, and I have to remind myself of this, as I've recently fallen out of my routine. I'm making a conscious decision to get back into it!"
On working Sunday nights: "It depends on the week. I'm usually keeping an eye on my emails, orders coming through, etc., but only responding if it's urgent. There have been times where the weekend or nights are the only time to really catch up on this sort of thing. Other times when I'm feeling stressed, checking my email can make it worse. I like to think most people should be able to respect that you deserve a weekend too. Setting boundaries can be hard."
On what you should never do: "Never keep it all bottled up. Talk it out, write it out, exercise it out, but get it out. If you keep it all in, it just gets worse."
On why the Sunday scaries are such a phenomenon: "I think there's just a lot of pressure to constantly be doing, which can lead to feeling like you're never doing enough. We are lucky to be able to make our own rules, but we also need to set more boundaries for ourselves so that we can relax too. I think it can feel overwhelming because there's constantly the option to be plugged in when it comes to emails, social media, etc. I think when we stay focused, we can be more productive and get more done in less time, but there are always so many distractions. Make downtime a priority and time with the people who are important in your life (without your phone).
On the foods that help fight it: "I'm not sure if I've got the right answer here, but comfort food is usually my go-to when I'm feeling stressed, but I'm not sure if that actually helps."
On her personal coping mechanisms: "Yoga has definitely taught me the importance of breathing. We take it for granted, as we are always breathing, but there are ways to breathe that are fuller and more healing. When I'm feeling anxious, I try and take a moment to just sit and breathe somewhere quiet. It can be as simple as closing your eyes and focusing on your breath.
"I've been using Tata Harper's aromatic irritability treatment recently, and I think there is definitely something in the power of fragrance. It may also be that I'm slowing down, addressing that I'm feeling some stress, and breathing in this great fragrance. I also find talking really helps. Often the things we're feeling anxious about can feel less stressful when verbalized or written down. I try to think about all of the things I have to be grateful for as well."
Jacqueline Tatelman, Co-Founder and Owner, State Bags
When Jacqueline Tatelman and her husband Scot started State Bags, they had one mission in mind: to help kids in America's most at-risk neighborhoods. When the Brooklyn-based entrepreneurs (and parents of two) saw how many kids were carrying around school supplies in trash bags, they founded nonprofit Country Roads Foundation and launched State. For every bag purchased, they hand-deliver a backpack to a kid in need. But helping others can be stressful, especially when you're raising a family of your own. This is how Jacqueline handles the Sunday anxiety around those looming Monday deadlines.
On what the Sunday scaries feel like: "Sundays have always felt and smelled different to me. I know that sounds so strange, but it's the total truth. I loved them as a very little kid. I loved the time we spent at home. Watching football, snacking all day, a giant dinner; it all felt so good like a perfect fall day frozen in time. I also very distinctly remember the time in my life when I was like, Holy sh*t, it's Sunday already. I didn't do anything I was supposed to do!
"I was never a good student. In fact, I was a horrible student. So after a giant Sunday night meatball dinner and a hot shower, I would suffer crazy anxiety and churn over the burning questions I'd receive come Monday morning, such as Where is your homework? Did you finish that paper? and so on. While the questions have changed today, and I'm now a mom and entrepreneur (who's also a vegetarian), the Sunday scaries still hold a special, evil place in my brain."
On the physical and emotional toll: "Well, first and foremost, I almost always pick a Sunday night fight with Scott (my husband). Nothing too intense, but definitely enough to warrant sulking to myself as I brush my teeth next to him—poor guy. I let out a constant stream of enormous sighs and pace in and out of my closet.
"I stress about everything I need to accomplish on my to-do list, why there are 600 emails in my inbox, and how many slack messages have sat unready since Friday. It's also just one of the inexplicable, intangible, sad feelings that lives way down in the pit of your tummy."
On the Sunday-specific routines to combat them: "I try to focus on the fact that my nanny is also arriving on Monday morning. That gives me a little wiggle room, a chance to get excited and release some anxiety. I find time at home or with close friends to slow down the day and make sure we get in some quality family time. This makes me very happy and fills my heart. I also allow myself to eat a huge dessert, followed by a large bag of popcorn, and do some late night meditating."
On working Sunday nights: "It works for me. Part of me loves the start of the workweek, since it's my own business and it gives me great satisfaction. Working a little on a Sunday night makes me feel like I'm already getting things done. I can also plow through my loaded inbox and answer anything that will close the loop on looming ideas or projects. That makes it easier to get up and face the new week."
On what you should never do: "Drink too much. There’s almost nothing worse than being tethered to your desk doing reports while hungover on a Monday morning. Not to be too specific, but trust me, there isn't enough coffee or green juice in this city to help that."
On why the Sunday scaries are such a phenomenon: "I think it's always been there, in some way shape or strange form, but now more than ever, we have the ability to talk about it and share, which is a good and a bad thing. We've all bonded over that desire to have just a little more weekend. We all just want to stay in bed and escape the feelings of responsibility."
On the foods that help fight it: "Tons of chocolate! I'm also a super-healthy eater and a vegetarian (despite the chocolate). I believe feeding your body with the right food helps maintain your energy and brain function. Healthy food definitely helps reduce my stress levels."
On her personal coping mechanisms: "I work out every morning, and if I don't have time for a full workout, I just do something to get my body moving, either jumping rope, a Kayla challenge, or a fast run. I also love spontaneous dance and, of course, some bits of meditation."
Anna Decilveo, Product Merchandiser, Tictail
New York native Anna Decilveo is a major design devotee. Thankfully, as the product merchandiser at social shopping destination Tictail, she's surrounded by it every day. The inspiring creative oversees all merchandising strategy for both the online Tictail.com and offline Tictail Market (the company's store in NYC's Lower East Side). Prior to Tictail, Anna launched the design direction for BCBGeneration's non-apparel products and founded the fashion merchandising team at Amazon. Here's how she copes with the Monday's mega to-do list on Sunday.
On what the Sunday scaries feel like: "They feel like taking a huge bite of sushi and not realising it was filled with a ton of wasabi until your eyes start watering and your chest is on fire."
On the physical and emotional toll: "Once I realise the end of the weekend is coming, I like to make sure I'm well organised for Monday morning. I try to work out on Sundays, and in the evening, I like to have a yummy, healthy home-cooked meal (or dinner out at a restaurant where I might not be able to get a reservation during the week). If I've had a long weekend traveling or hosting friends in town, I try to take Sunday evening as a night to have alone time, do laundry, and get ready for the week."
On working Sunday nights: "Even if I'm not shooting out emails, I do like to skim through what's in there and make a list of priorities for when I get to the office Monday morning. When I have an inbox full of unread messages, I can easily spend the first hour of my day bogged down in responses. Reviewing what I need to do Sunday evening is a great way for me to come in on Monday focused and full-throttle."
On what you should never do: "Get wasted. There's nothing worse than a hangover on a Monday morning!"
On why the Sunday scaries are such a phenomenon: "Unfortunately I think there are a lot of people who dread going to work or who have trouble managing stress. I feel so lucky to adore my job. I crave coming to work and jumping into new projects. Whenever I feel that bubbling up feeling of Oh god, I can't believe I have to go back to work in 12 hours, I take a minute, pause, and remind myself I have the coolest job on the planet.
"Probably. But I love my job so much that I don't think about it that way. I get to shop for a living! I discover new amazing emerging designers every day digging around on Tictail. And then I get to feature them on our site and see as they get sales and grow a global consumer base. It's pretty rad."
On the foods that help fight it: "I'm big on making my own huge healthy salads for lunch. Every Monday morning, I come to the Tictail office with a grocery bag filled with a week's worth of salad fixings. I like taking the time to prepare the salad before eating it. It's a great way to slow my mind from thinking of the millions of things that still need to get done each day. It's 15 minutes of 'me' time I can give myself at the office. My secret salad addition: a colourful, crunchy fruit like a pear."
On her personal coping mechanisms: "Hot yoga is my number one. I love Modo Yoga in the West Village and Williamsburg. No matter how stressed out I am before class, by the time I leave, I am sweaty, centered and sane."
Brooke Taylor Corcia, Founder, The Dreslyn
When it comes to women we admire, Brooke Taylor Corcia definitely tops the list. The savvy, smart, stylish, and incredibly talented entrepreneur is the founder of Los Angeles–based clothing and home goods store The Dreslyn. Corcia left her senior womens wear buyer role at Ssense to pursue her passion and found her own company, and it's paid off. The sleek, chic, and expertly curated boutique has struck a chord with female shoppers, and it shows no signs of slowing down. With a growing business to run, Corcia shares her tips for scaring off the Sunday blues.
On what the Sunday scaries feel like: "I call this the Sunday blues, and it’s like a light mourning period for the end of a great weekend, a slower pace, and not having a fixed agenda."
On the physical and emotional toll: "It doesn't happen often, but when I feel this way, it's a mild and unspecified restlessness."
On the Sunday-specific routines to combat them: "I usually practice yoga on the weekends to restore balance, and I grocery-shop on Sundays. My husband and I cook a solid meal together most Sunday evenings. It's a great way to wind down and connect."
Why Sunday scaries are such a phenomenon: "If I had to guess, I'd chalk it up to lack of balance. The world has become more competitive and more distracted than ever. It's exhausting. Recording every moment and persistently measuring oneself against others is a formula for dissatisfaction, no?"
On working Sunday nights: "I steer clear of technology on my personal time, but getting inspired by or cultivating ideas for the business is pretty continuous for me. My weekday schedule starts extremely early, so I have plenty of time to review my agenda and tackle bigger objectives before stepping into the office."
On what you should never do: "Watch the news."
On the foods that help fight it: "I drink a lot of tea, and the whole ritual of it works for me. Coffee or pistachio ice cream also does the trick."
On her personal coping mechanisms: "Yoga, regular massages, and red wine, but not necessarily in that order."
Roxy Te, Founder, Society Social
We have a lot in common with Roxy Te: We share a mutual love for the bar cart. In fact, Te started her company, Society Social, in 2011 with just six custom-made bar carts and a dream. Within months, she garnered the attention of all the top home publications, from Real Simple to Apartment Therapy, and the orders started rolling in. Now her one-of-a-kind designs can be found in thousands of homes across the country. The busy entrepreneur certainly has her work cut out for her, this is how she keeps her Sunday anxiety in check.
On what the Sunday scaries feel like: "Like a runaway train. Once I think of one thing to worry about, the floodgates open."
On the physical and emotional toll: "Falling asleep can take forever. Emotionally, I have been a nervous wreck, and for the really bad Sunday scaries, there have been tears."
On the Sunday-specific routines to combat them: "Champagne brunch? Honestly, I love taking the time to cook and sit down to a proper Sunday supper. I will bust out the serving platters, the spiralizer and other kitchen accessories that don't get a lot of play during the weekdays."
On working Sunday nights: "No thank you. I would much rather spend time doing things I can't do during the workweek. A little separation of work and play helps me go full speed ahead come Monday morning. With coffee, of course."
On what you should never do: "Drink your face off at brunch—so fun but so bad. It works for a few hours, but then it leaves you even more anxious, not to mention off to a slow start on Monday."
On why the Sunday scaries are such a phenomenon: "Smartphones. Can't live with them, and can't live without them. They are constantly beeping or buzzing or vibrating. They make it almost impossible to disconnect and can prevent you from being in the moment—if you let them. Once I dropped my phone into a pool, and as it sank to the bottom, I was almost happy. Somebody else went after it before I even flinched."
On the foods that help fight it: "I try not to stress eat, but if I'm going to go for it, comfort foods from my childhood seem to do the trick. Nothing like mom's recipes to remind you of the important things in life!"
On her personal coping mechanisms: "These five things always seem to work for me:
"1. Call a friend or family member I haven't spoken to in a while.
"2. Exercise. Lately, I absolutely love 305 Fitness. A DJ in every class is right up my alley.
"3. Watch something funny like Will & Grace or The Office.
"5. Wine. (This one may be combined with numbers 1, 3, and 4, but not 2.)"
How do you ward off the Sunday scaries? Do you have any psychological tricks to share?
Kao LT, Xirasagar S, Chung KH, Lin HC, Liu SP, Chung SD. Weekly and Holiday-Related Patterns of Panic Attacks in Panic Disorder: A Population-Based Study. PLoS One. 2014;9(7):e100913. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0100913