Taming the Sunday Scaries: A Personal Encounter

As the weekend winds down and the sun sets on Sunday evening, an all too familiar feeling begins to creep in – the Sunday Scaries! It’s that sinking sensation in the pit of your stomach, the dread of another work week looming ahead. But what exactly are the Sunday Scaries, and why do they haunt many of us so persistently? The term “Sunday Scaries” refers to the anxiety and unease that many people experience as the weekend draws to a close and the prospect of returning to work or school on Monday approaches. It’s a phenomenon that transcends age, occupation and social status, affecting people from all walks of life. I can vividly recall the suffocating weight of dread that settled over me every Sunday during the late 80s and throughout the 90s, casting a shadow over what should have been a carefree period of my life. I was 7 years old, a child, your biggest worry at that age should be how you’re going to beat Dr. Robotnik (later known as Dr. Eggman – I still don’t know why they changed it?!) at the end of the “Green Hill Zone.” For me, the anticipation of returning to school on Monday was like a looming spectre, haunting every moment of my Sunday. The closing theme music to Heartbeat and then London’s Burning was like the starting gun for my trepidation to go up a notch! It was as though my weekends were reduced to a single precious day – Saturday – the only respite before the storm of Sunday! The arrival of Sunday brought with it a tidal wave of anxiety, crashing against the shores of my mind, drowning out any semblance of joy or relaxation. It felt like I was trapped in a perpetual cycle of apprehension, unable to escape the relentless march of time towards Monday morning. The mere thought of school on the horizon filled me with a sense of unease so palpable, it was as if the air itself grew thick like a jungle of anticipation. It consumed me! My weekends became a battleground, a delicate balancing act between savouring the fleeting moments of freedom on Saturday and steeling myself for the inevitable return to the rigors of school. Sundays, they became a battlefield where my anxieties waged war against my sanity, leaving me drained and defeated before the week even began. It was a relentless onslaught, a never-ending cycle of dread and despair that lasted ten years. But despite the darkness that threatened to consume me, there were glimmers of hope, moments of solace and comfort amidst the chaos. Whether it was a reassuring word from a loved one, a fleeting distraction or a pending sporting match that I was competing in that I had totally forgotten about. These offered temporary relief, guiding me through the storm. And though the memory of those dreaded Sundays still lingers, it serves as a reminder of the resilience of the human spirit, the ability to endure even the darkest of days and emerge stronger on the other side. For even in the depths of despair there is always hope. Why do the Sunday Scaries happen? According to the experts, the answer lies in the complex interplay of psychological, societal and physiological factors. From a psychological standpoint, the anticipation of upcoming responsibilities and obligations can trigger feelings of stress and apprehension. Societal pressures to be productive and successful only exacerbate these feelings, creating a sense of inadequacy or failure if one doesn’t measure up to certain standards. Furthermore, our bodies have a natural stress response that kicks in when faced with perceived threats or challenges. This response, often referred to as the “fight or flight” response, can be activated by the mere thought of returning to work or school as in my case, after a relaxing weekend. As a result, cortisol levels rise, heart rates increase and feelings of anxiety intensify. It’s our inner Neanderthals coming out, a reaction critical to life when we came across a predator, but somewhat out of context when coming across Mr Stewart in PE on a cold and wet Monday morning in Surrey! Statistical data and scientific research sheds light on the prevalence and impact of the Sunday Scaries. According to a survey conducted by the Psychological Association, 52% of employed adults experience significant stress on Sunday nights, with work-related issues being a major contributing factor. Additionally, studies have shown that chronic stress, such as that experienced during the Sunday Scaries, can have detrimental effects on both physical and mental health, increasing the risk of conditions such as anxiety disorders, depression and cardiovascular disease. Not to mention the impact we have on those around us. By now you may be wondering “do I suffer with this?”. The signs and symptoms of the Sunday Scaries can vary from person to person, but common signs can include: difficulty sleeping or insomnia, feelings of irritability or restlessness, fatigue or lack of energy, racing thoughts or difficulty concentrating and muscle tension or headaches. All symptoms that could sound very familiar in yourself or that you recognise in people around you. Throughout my career, I’ve had my fair share of encounters with the Sunday Scaries, and I’ve seen first-hand how it can affect those around me too. I’ve had situations where members of my team felt comfortable enough to confide in me about their struggles with Sunday night anxiety. Recognising the importance of empathy and support, I made it a priority to create a safe and understanding environment for them to express their concerns. “Be the leader that you’ve needed in these situations” my inner voice would scream! We sat down together, in person, over a cup of coffee, in a private space free from distractions. Phones and laptops were switched off to ensure that our focus remained on active listening and genuine connection. Through open and honest conversation, we explored strategies for managing stress and overcoming the Sunday Scaries. From setting realistic goals and boundaries to