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Making plans you look forward to can help relieve stress about the week ahead.Maskot/Getty Images
  • The "Sunday scaries," or nervousness and worry that develop on Sunday, are pretty common.
  • Sunday scaries often relate to stress and anxiety about the coming week.
  • You can do a lot to ease the Sunday scaries and tracking down the source is a good place to start.
  • Visit Insider's Health Reference library for more advice.

"Sunday scaries" might be fairly modern lingo — the first Urban Dictionary entry for the term Sunday scaries dates to 2009. But the anxious, jittery feeling that comes up on Sundays before the week begins isn't anything new or unusual. 

What are the Sunday scaries?

It's fairly common to feel stressed on the precipice of a new school or work week, in fact. And people of any age can get the Sunday scaries, though the source of anxiety can vary, says Anisha Patel-Dunn, psychiatrist and chief medical officer at LifeStance Health.  

Worry about the upcoming week might stem from a serious issue, like abuse from bullies at school, or something less severe, like presenting in a team meeting. Whatever the source, the feeling is universal. 

But because there's no clinical term for the colloquial "Sunday scaries," there isn't much data on the phenomenon, says Alfiee Breland-Noble, psychologist and founder of the AAKOMA Project, a mental health nonprofit for youth of color. 

Breland-Noble compares the symptoms to those of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Though, it's important to note that feeling anxious on Sundays doesn't necessarily mean you have GAD

That said, if Sunday night sparks a creeping sense of dread, we've got eight coping strategies to help you prepare for the week ahead, worry-free.

1. Nail down the source

Finding the source of your Sunday scaries is one of the first steps toward tackling the anxiety you're feeling. "Start eliminating things a little at a time until you find your stress level come down," says Breland-Noble. 

For example, you might try identifying stressful people or situations throughout the week and then limit your engagement with those people and situations as much as possible. When Sunday rolls around again, you can explore whether that made any difference.

Some people also find it helpful to write notes to themselves and use that data as a guide to help find the reason for Sunday anxiety, says Breland-Noble.

2. Name it

Whether you call them the Sunday scaries, Sunday jitters, or something else entirely, putting a name to these feelings can help. 

"For so many people, they carry those feelings every Sunday night or every Monday morning, and they have no idea what it is," says Breland-Noble. 

Just know naming the feeling doesn't mean you have to embrace it, or resign yourself to feeling that way forever. It simply means acknowledging the phenomenon, which marks an important step in the process of actually doing something to minimize those "scaries."

3. Try journaling

Journaling may also help, whether you do it during the week or on a Sunday when you find yourself deep in an anxiety spiral. Getting your feelings down on paper could help shed some light on what's bothering you. 

One 2018 study exploring the effects of journaling for medical patients with high levels of anxiety found that short journaling sessions three days a week over a 12-week period improved well-being and helped ease mental distress. 

If you're trying to calm Sunday nerves, journaling about things you're excited for during the upcoming week could even help relieve some of the dread you're feeling. 

4. Make time for physical activity 

Getting some exercise, if you're able, might also help ease anxiety as your weekend winds down. 

Aim for about 20 to 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise such as running or cycling, though any amount of exercise can still offer benefits.

Low-intensity physical activity can have value, too. Evidence suggests that low-impact mind-body workouts like yoga can also help reduce stress levels.  

If you already have a routine that incorporates heart-healthy physical activity, you may be able to pinpoint when trouble is on the horizon. 

For example, if your blood pressure readings are high despite engaging in healthy lifestyle habits, it may be a clue that something is awry—either physically or mentally. High blood pressure readings could suggest your anxiety relates to stress at home, school, or work, if your doctor has already ruled out underlying health conditions. This can give you a starting place to explore potential sources and triggers of anxiety. 

5. Consider your alcohol intake

While unwinding with an alcoholic drink might seem helpful for kicking the scaries, it may actually increase your anxiety

The effects of alcohol differ from person to person, but evidence suggests that heavy drinkers have higher anxiety levels in response to stressful events or situations. 

Plus, a hangover from the night before can prompt a spike in anxiety, too. So be mindful of alcohol, especially on Sundays, Patel-Dunn says.

6. Create a sleep ritual

People who have trouble falling asleep on a Sunday may be more prone to the Sunday scaries, says Patel-Dunn. Lying awake, knowing you have to be up in the morning can create a vicious cycle of worrying and sleeplessness. 

To combat this worried tossing and turning, she recommends creating a sleep ritual

You can create a more sleep-friendly environment by:  

  • Turning off electronic devices about an hour before bedtime and keeping them out of the bedroom.
  • Dimming the lights before bedtime and keeping your room as dark as possible while you sleep.
  • Taking a warm bath about 90 minutes before bedtime.
  • Meditating in the evening or right before heading to bed.
  • Going to bed at the same time every night.

7. Limit news watching and social media

Marathoning the news or social media streams can also fuel anxiety and dread on Sunday nights, or any night, really, says Patel-Dunn. 

It's OK to stay informed using reliable sources, of course. Just know that overdoing it can increase stress levels

The same goes for social media, says Patel-Dunn. It can make people feel insecure or as if  they have something to prove during the upcoming week, exacerbating anxiety that may manifest as the Sunday scaries. 

8. Make plans you look forward to

Stress about the week ahead isn't always preventable. Life is full of stressors, after all. 

But scheduling pleasant experiences or outings on a Sunday or Monday, like a nice dinner or going for a run with a good friend, can go a long way toward relieving that stress, says Patel-Dunn. 

Plus, it's also worth considering that your Sunday scaries might stem from fear of the unknown, or the sense that you lack control over your week. Making plans, then, creates an opportunity to take back some control. 

When to see a therapist

It never hurts to reach out to a therapist if the Sunday scaries consistently keep you from enjoying your weekends.  

They can help you understand you don't have to live with this feeling and help you explore tools to better manage the Sunday scaries.  

"That's the most important thing, giving people permission to honor and value their feelings," says Breland-Noble.

You may want to consider reaching out to a therapist sooner than later if you notice: 

  • You have anxiety on most days, for at least 6 months.
  • Your anxiety makes it difficult to function as usual.
  • You feel consistently restless or on edge.
  • You're irritable and have trouble concentrating.
  • Your anxious thoughts are intrusive and difficult to control.
  • You're experiencing sleep issues.

Insider's takeaway

Sunday scaries cutting your weekend short? Finding the source, naming the feeling, and reaching for positive coping skills can help the week ahead seem less daunting. 

If you regularly feel worried on weekends, talking to a professional can help. "As soon as you identify that there's a problem, that something isn't right, that's the time to just reach out, at least put your feelers out for help," says Breland-Noble.

Read the original article on Insider