Inside: Do you get a mixture of dread, anxiety, blues, or depression on Sunday evenings? Here’s how to get rid of the Sunday Scaries as a Christian.

The minutes tick by at 5:50 p.m. on a Sunday. “Where did the weekend go?” you sigh to yourself, shoulders slouched. The weekend was a welcome relief from the relentless pace of the workweek.

Staring down the barrel of Monday’s to-do list is, well, not so welcome. 

Once again, you’ve got that familiar knawing pit in your stomach, also known in pop culture as the “Sunday Scaries.” This all-too-familiar feeling often prevents you from enjoying the last part of your weekend—but it doesn’t have to. 

Is Sunday Scaries a Real Thing?

If you suffer from the Sunday Scaries as a Christian, you’re in the same boat as most Americans.

Also known as the Sunday Evening Blues and Sunday Depression, Sunday Scaries is a kind of anticipatory anxiety that people feel when facing the workweek ahead.  The Cleveland Clinic defines it as “feelings of intense anxiety and dread that routinely occur every Sunday.” 

The Sunday Scaries can also manifest in physical symptoms, including increased pulse, sweating, upset stomach, headache, and insomnia. Interestingly enough, one study even pegged this exact time to be at 3:58 p.m. on Sundays.

Although Sunday Depression isn’t a formal diagnosis in the DSM-5 handbook used by mental health professionals, it’s still a real phenomenon. One LinkedIn study showed that 80% of professionals experienced some form of Sunday night anxiety.

Of the people surveyed, 94% of Gen Z, 91% of millennials, and 72% of Gen X reported experiencing this dread regularly. 

Why Do People Get the Sunday Scaries?

For most people, the Sunday Scaries arose from switching from weekend mode back to weekday mode. Some of the top concerns were:

·       upcoming workload (60%)

·       balancing professional with personal to-dos (44%)

·       unfinished tasks from last week (39%)

In our overscheduled society, the Sunday Scaries are increasingly common. It’s not limited to people who dislike their jobs. Even people who enjoy their jobs might shudder at the thought of opening their e-mail inbox or the mountain of responsibilities awaiting them.

Why Do Some People Get Sunday Depression?

For other people, Sunday evenings involve a sense of sadness rather than anxiety. When Sunday night hits, they feel disappointed about squandering away the weekend. They regret seeing how little they accomplished over the last two days, whether it be accomplishing personal projects or getting rest. 

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl had yet another theory. In Man’s Search for Meaning, he describes the term Sunday neurosis as “that kind of depression which afflicts people who become aware of the lack of content in their lives when the rush of the busy week is over and the void within themselves becomes manifest.”

Frankl believed that weekend downtime causes existential angst, as people come face to face with the meaning and purpose of their lives. 

Studies have shown that Sunday neurosis hits harder for people who derive most of their fulfillment and identity from their work. The higher their education, the more likely people questioned the meaning of their lives on the weekends. In other words, knowledge workers are more prone to the Sunday Scaries than blue-collar workers. 

Perhaps you can relate to one or more of the above. Fortunately, there are ways to fight the Sunday Scaries as a Christian, whether they stem from responsibilities, regret, or existential doubts.

How to Get Rid of the Sunday Scaries as a Christian

1. Reclaim the Sabbath as a life rhythm.

One of the best ways to counteract the Sunday Scaries is to implement a time of Sabbath rest on Sundays. During Sabbath, we purposefully stop our usual weekday activities. We switch instead to activities that not only give us rest, but also help us worship and delight in God.

Sabbath will look different for each person, but it might include time to read the Word, worship, feast with family and friends, reflect, read, sleep, wander in nature, and play. If a 24-hour period seems daunting, start with a “mini-Sabbath” for a few hours on a Sunday.

As you learn to delight in God, Sabbath will become a welcome alternative to the Sunday Scaries.

(Check out John Mark Comer’s comprehensive guide on how to Sabbath for more.)

2. Plan your upcoming week on Friday. 

Before closing your laptop on Friday, review and reflect on your past week. Then make a list of your to-do list for the next week, so that you can disconnect and fully enjoy the weekend. Help your brain ease into Monday by not having to compile an overwhelming to-do list on Sunday night.

Finally, pray and give the unfinished items over to God before you finish for the day.

3. Maximize your time off. 

The Sunday Scaries can result from the feeling that the weekend was too short. Finish loose ends or a major project on Friday to give yourself a clean slate on Monday. 

Then disconnect from work as much as possible to maximize your time off. Shut down your e-mail and disconnect from your phone.

If you must work overtime, stay late on Friday evening, rather than work over the weekend.

4. Stop living for only the weekend. 

Don’t live at an unsustainable pace from Monday to Friday in anticipation of blowing off all your steam on the weekend. It puts too much expectation and pressure on two days, leaving you vulnerable to feelings of disappointment.

Tear down the black-and-white division between weekdays and weekends in your mind. Plan something relaxing for mid-week, too.

But ultimately, the weekends don’t guarantee to provide the relief you’re seeking. Learn to put your hope in God—not the weekend—to give you true rest.

5. Don’t check out spiritually on the weekends.

Another reason not to compartmentalize weekdays from weekends is its impact on our spiritual lives. It’s easy to be thrown off by the lack of the weekday routine and check out spiritually until Mondays (or vice versa).

We’re to honor God with our heart, soul, and mind all the days of the week, not just Mondays through Fridays. The more that we learn to walk closely with God whether in work or rest, the less fazed we’ll be by the arrival of Monday morning.

6. Structure your days off.

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to waste downtime if you don’t plan anything? Without a loose plan, it’s easy to fritter away the weekend, leaving a sense of regret on Sunday night.

Arrange for some relaxing activities in advance. If you want to binge-watch Cobra Kai or sprawl on the couch staring at the ceiling, that’s fine, too.

Planning to do so beforehand helps you enjoy the time more—without the guilt. It helps you be more intentional about your time. And it decreases the chances that you’ll accidentally spend the whole weekend scrolling through cute cat memes.

7. Engage in a hobby that promotes flow.

One of the healthiest ways to cope with workweek stress is engaging in an activity that puts you in a state of flow. The flow state occurs when you “get in the zone” during a pleasurable hobby, losing your sense of time and yourself.

Flow is most frequently associated with creative endeavors or athletic pursuits but isn’t limited to these activities. 

Flow-state activities bring feelings of enjoyment and satisfaction when completed. They’re one of the most rewarding ways to spend your days off, giving you the sense of a weekend well spent.

8. Don’t pile up chores for Sunday evenings. 

Sundays can also easily become the catch-up-on-chores day. After getting out of church, we shop for groceries, scramble to fold the laundry, and clean the bathroom before that orange toilet bowl ring takes on a life of its own. Then when Sunday night hits, we wonder where the weekend went.

If this sounds like you, spread chores out during the week or on Saturday instead. Instead, set aside time for something relaxing on Sunday evening.

9. Ease into Mondays.

Don’t schedule daunting projects and drab meetings for Monday mornings if possible. (That’s what Tuesdays are for!) Ease into the week by going from zero to 80, rather than zero to 100.

Also, schedule something enjoyable or allow yourself a small perk/treat that gives you something to look forward to on Mondays. 

10. Clarify your meaning and purpose in life. 

If a sense of emptiness hits you like a ton of bricks on the weekends, now might be the time to seek God and pray through the situation. Perhaps you lack fulfillment in your work, need more meaningful friendships, or are burned out.

Ask Him to show you your meaning and purpose in life. Write what He shows you down on an index card and review it on Sunday evenings.

11. Examine your thoughts—and change your mindset.

Perhaps the mere mention of work brings on a barrage of negative thoughts. You find yourself cringing about upcoming projects, rehashing past conversations, or fantasizing about being financially independent as a means of escape. Chances are that underlying negative thoughts start the spiral of unpleasant feelings. 

Examine the negative thoughts that pop up. Take the time to list these thoughts on paper. How accurate are they? Can you reframe them to be more truthful?

In what ways can you glorify God, even in a difficult work environment? In what ways that you can serve instead of complaining? Who can you pray for?

Write these reminders on an index card and review the card on Sunday evenings. Or reflect on this card daily by adding it to your morning quiet time routine. With God’s help, we can change our feelings by changing the way we think.

12. Reevaluate your job or life situation. 

If your Sunday depression or anxiety is severe, it might be time to make a change to your job or life situation. For many people, the Sunday Scaries result from working a job they hate or experiencing overwhelming stress during the week. They may also be experiencing burnout and need to take steps to recover. 

Sometimes God speaks through the Sunday Scaries to show us a new direction that He wants us to take. Be open in prayer to this.

And don’t be afraid to enlist the outside help of a Christian friend, pastor, or therapist. God brings healing, wisdom, and comfort through others that we can’t get on our own.

The Key to Better Mondays

So let’s stop allowing Monday mornings to rob us of our Sunday evenings. Together let’s create rhythms that will change our Sunday Scaries into a time for rest and joy. Because the better our Sundays, the better our Mondays will be. 

Now, if we could just get over the Post-Vacation Scaries.

Recap: How to Get Rid of the Sunday Scaries as a Christian

1.     Reclaim the Sabbath as a life rhythm.

2.     Plan your upcoming week on Friday. 

3.     Maximize your time off. 

4.     Stop living for only the weekend. 

5.     Don’t check out spiritually on the weekends.

6.     Structure your days off.

7.     Engage in a hobby that promotes flow. 

8.     Don’t pile up chores for Sunday evenings. 

9.     Ease into Mondays.

10.  Clarify your meaning and purpose in life. 

11.  Examine your thoughts—and change your mindset. 

12.  Reevaluate your job or life situation. 

Why do you get the Sunday Scaries? What can you do about it?

For more on this topic:

How to find more fulfillment in your work

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Photo by Julian Hochgesang on Unsplash

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About the Author

Helen Rees

I am a Christian, wife, stepmom, psychiatric nurse, and writer. I write about research-backed ways to navigate the challenges of fast-paced modern life while growing in your Christian faith.

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