The thing about Mondays is that they are all, for the most part, exactly the same. And yet for many of us, this does not stop our determined little brains from conjuring a type of anxiety so distinctly unique that we have now added it to the millennial lexicon: the "Sunday Scaries," or the feeling of anxiety you get as the weekend draws to a close. But giving the phenomenon a cheeky name is one thing; learning how to deal with the Sunday Scaries is another one entirely.
But first, understanding where it comes from is key to understanding how to handle handle it. "There are a wide variety of reasons individuals experience anxiety or distress on Sundays. One of the most common reasons individuals experience an increase in anxiety on Sundays is anxiety associated with beginning the work week. It may be that work demands are overwhelming or perhaps other weekday obligations are stressful to juggle, for example," Dr. Marla W. Deibler, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist and executive director of The Center for Emotional Health of greater Philadelphia, tells Bustle over email. "Individuals with Sunday anxiety may notice intrusive thoughts or worries about the coming week, feelings of distress, anxiety, or irritability, and/or signs of physiological activation, such as muscle tension, gastrointestinal distress, or headache, to name a few."
If you're dealing with the Sunday Scaries, odds are you've tried a number of tactics to combat it — but like most things in life, managing anxiety is not a one-size-fits-all situation. It might be the case that you have to try a number of things before you settle on any that make a difference.
"Developing a mindfulness practice is helpful to ground individuals in the present moment," Dr. Deibler tells Bustle. "For example, paying attention to one's five senses in a quiet moment or even as engaged in an activity, such as cooking or taking a walk, can help bring one's attention back to 'the now,' rather than caught up in thoughts or feelings about the week ahead. Engaging in activities and staying interpersonally connected can be helpful as well."
Personally, I've tried a lot of these tactics and more, with varying degrees of success. I'm an aggressive planner, and I've usually prepped my breakfast, lunch, outfit, and work bag for the next morning before most people have had Sunday brunch. And yes, there's plenty of other work I can do to distract myself from Sunday anxiety, since write young adult fiction in addition to my day job. But seeing as I'm catching up on that work most of the weekend anyway, it always seemed like I was putting myself in a trap where I was setting goals to get that work done so I could have some fun, but was too overcome by the Sunday Scaries to actually let myself have fun once the work was done.
Enter my newest flex, which would not have been a financial possibility last year, but has been made a lot more affordable since thanks to a hack I'll mention in a bit: every Sunday, I pick one movie showing in a theater that starts between 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., and force myself to go. I know that "force myself" is probably an aggressive phrase to use for seeing a movie, but for a lot of us compulsively productive people (read: most of the millennial generation), being trapped in a room where you are bound by social convention not to do anything but sit and stare at a screen that isn't your phone can seem like its own circle of hell.
And to be honest, the first few times I did it, it was hellish. It is the only two hours each week when I am glued to a seat, unable to multitask, unable to dart all over the place and think myself into the ground — something I'd never be able to do if I watched a movie in my own home, where I'd no doubt have 14 tabs open on my computer for work, or be worried about unfinished errands — and it probably took a full month of doing this every Sunday to unlearn every knee jerk reaction to physically remove myself from the theater. But as it turns out, this unlearning process may have been key to managing my specific version of the Sunday Scaries.
"Activities, such as watching a movie, can serve as a welcome distraction from one's anxiety, and redirect one's attention to an enjoyable present moment," Dr. Deibler tells Bustle.
At the risk of accidentally sounding like AMC spon con (which, to be clear, I am not), the reason I've been able to afford this is the AMC A-List membership — for $20 a month, I can see unlimited AMC films and reserve a seat in advance, which for me has been both a money and anxiety saver. I'm able to plan the movie I'm going to see well in advance, mentally plan my day around it, and put myself in a situation where I feel better letting go of the outside world for a little bit.
Of course, this isn't some magical Sunday Scaries cure-all that poofed all the inconvenient weekend anxiety away — but it has given structure and order to my day and established a weekly routine that is both something I can look forward to and something that usually manages to take me out of my own head.
That said, not all versions of the Sunday Scaries are so navigable — and some might not even be the Sunday Scaries at all, but indicative of other forms of anxiety. In some cases, people experiencing extreme anxiety on Sundays may want to seek professional help.
"If anxiety is seen as difficult to control and is negatively impacting one's mood, appetite, sleep, or daily functioning, seeking professional help is warranted," Dr. Deibler tells Bustle. "Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is evidence-based treatment for anxiety that can help individuals regain their quality of life."
For those with Sunday Scaries that don't interfere with the rest of your week, though, I invite you to try my movie method — best case scenario, it works, and worst case, you'll end up open-mouthed weeping with a bunch of kids during Toy Story 4. Either way, it might be worth a shot.
If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.