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(The Conversation) — Sunday is usually an opportunity to catch up with friends, to sleep, and to recover from a hangover from the night before. But for many of us, when Sunday afternoon arrives, a feeling of intense anxiety and dread sets in, often referred to as “Sunday dreads.”
No wonder Sunday fears are so common. After all, studies show that Sunday is the unhappiest day of the week, while Saturday is the most intense. There are a number of reasons Sunday jitters occur, and how you spend your weekend can play a role.
For example, spending the entire weekend locked up on the computer is probably not a good idea, even if it’s for leisure. Research indicates that people who spend a lot of time on the computer tend to feel more anxious usually. Heavy alcohol and drug use can also cause your mood to plummet and anxiety levels skyrocket the next day. So if you spent Saturday night partying, that could explain why you feel down or anxious on Sunday afternoon.
For many people, Sunday fears are also due to the work they left behind on Friday night. The anticipation of the next day, the work you have to do, and all the emails you have to catch up on can be anxiety-provoking. But working during the weekend is not the solution either, and in fact could worsen your mental health.
Sunday fears can also be caused by the social overload that occurs during the weekend. This can be especially true for people who work a lot during the week or for singles, who designate the weekend as their main time to socialize. But spending time with others, as enjoyable as it may be, can put extra pressure on us. For example, when we share concerns of our friends, we can get stressed too.
If you are someone who tends to suffer from Sunday fears, here are some things you can do to cope with them.
1. Finish your tasks
One of the most effective ways to get rid of Sunday fears is to prevent them from happening. This means trying to finish any tasks you have to do before the weekend, instead of leaving it until Monday morning.
When you know you have unfinished business for Monday, this can have a number of effects on you, how to ruin your night sleep and make you more anxious on sunday. It can even affect the following week, as you are more likely to experience burnout. That’s why it’s crucial to start the week with a clean slate.
Before you turn off your computer on Friday night, you may also want to take some time to reflect on negative things that may have happened during the week, consider what changes you could make for the week ahead, and try to tie up loose ends and as easy tasks as you can instead of leaving them for Monday.
If you’re in the middle of a long-term project, at least try to complete one milestone task that helps you feel like a chapter of your work closes on Friday, with a new one ready to start on Monday.
2. Positive anticipation
Probably the biggest reason for feeling anxious on Sunday night is because you dread the work you have to do next week, especially those tasks you hate doing.
But having events planned for the week that you can look forward to can help balance these negative emotions and make you feel more positive about the week ahead. Try creating a new routine on Sundays where you plan fun things to do the following week, like meeting friends for lunch or going to the movies after work.
3. Write it down
If you have your Sunday fears but have no idea what causes them, take 20 minutes of uninterrupted time to write your deepest thoughts and feelings. This simple exercise can help you figure out what’s causing your anxious thoughts, which will ultimately help you address them.
But if you are someone who has never tried the expressive writingHere are some things that can help you get started:
- Write about your problems from a different perspective (for example, how your parents or your best friend would see it).
- Try to write at different times of the day. You may be more focused at different times of the day, which can be important in helping you tune in to what you’re feeling.
If you find it difficult to talk or write about yourself, imagine that you are writing with a specific audience in mind, such as your friend. This can help you better express how you feel and understand why you feel the way you do.
If writing isn’t your thing, use a tape recorder or video to help you express yourself.
Of course, there are many reasons why people may experience Sunday fears. While some of these factors can be changed, others are a bit more difficult to address, such as if your feelings of anxiety are due to working with people who they treat you unfairly.
But regardless of the reasons why you may have Sunday fears, remember that we often tend to exaggerate our anxieties in our head, and often these fears turn out to be unfounded.
Jolanta Burke is a psychologist and Senior Lecturer at the Center for Positive Psychology and Health at the RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, Dublin, Ireland. Burke does not work for, consult with, own stock in, or receive funding from any company or organization that might benefit from this article, and she has not disclosed any relevant affiliation beyond an academic appointment. The Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (RCSI) provides funding as a member of The Conversation UK.
Reprinted under a Creative Commons license from The Conversation.