We look forward to these two days of recurring freedom more than just about anything else. We’ve worked a long week and earned two days to recover.
After some well-deserved R&R, Sunday evening rolls around and all of a sudden, we start to get a little anxious and acquire a recurring fear of a Monday return to work. The Monday Scaries attack!
Let’s face it: Monday’s blow. But we can learn to embrace the start of each week.
I love the popularized term to describe this affliction. How appropriate, considering Halloween is right around the corner. It’s easy to understand how this problem can blow up a peaceful, lazy Sunday.
If you hate your job, your brain signals impending conflict and stress. You’ve been conditioned to hate Mondays, and that’s the heart of the matter we’ve got to solve.
What Causes the Monday Scaries?
In my experience, the number one cause of this problem is the mental pattern we’ve formed. Ever since childhood, we’ve been on a schedule. Monday through Friday means school. Saturday and Sunday we get to sleep in, play, and watch cartoons. Heck, even mom and dad are happier!
So it’s no surprise that we enter our working lives pre-programmed to fear Sunday nights. What compounds the problem is two factors: One, we have no clue how to operate in Corporate America. Two, we still like to party!
In our 20s, the quickest trap to fall into is a spiral of hating work. It’s a spiral that starts with having to deal with difficult colleagues, bosses, and clients. We all have a few jerks to maneuver around. The solution is a regular dose of happy hours and maybe even weekend binge drinking. Our only hope is to settle down and raise a family (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…)
In my 20s, the “Scaries” was a constant companion. I already had the pattern formed in my monkey brain from childhood. School sucked and weekends rocked! With my corporate training wheels careening me from bad decision to bad decision, I spent Friday and Saturday night putting back 3 or 4 beers or even more rum and cokes. Not. Good.
To recover from Friday and Saturday night revelry, sleeping in until 9 AM was not uncommon. I might’ve gone until 10 AM some days… So is it a surprise at all that come Sunday night, I start freaking out about having to get up early and start the work week all over again?
The Scaries are at their peak when workplace relationships are poor. Then, add a dash of the COVID-19 pandemic with Zoom meeting fatigue and suddenly the mix is toxic.
When you don’t enjoy a healthy relationship with your boss (the single most important workplace relationship), all bets are off. I’ve had a few rotten egg bosses over the years. They contribute to the Sunday Night Blues.
If you manage people, one of the single worst things you can do for your team’s mental health is to keep them guessing. My most stressful Sunday evenings are filled with anxiety over not knowing how my boss feels about my job performance.
I’d rather my boss be frank and tell me I’m terrible than to get “radio silence”. If you find yourself in this situation, demand honest feedback immediately. Knowing exactly where you stand is crucial!
5 Contributors to Bad Weekends
1.) The pattern of “weekends good / school days bad” formed in childhood sticks in your brain throughout life
2.) Bad habits we pursue on weekends – Drinking, staying up late, eating late – all contribute to poor sleep habits
3.) Bad work relationships linger into the weekends – bad bosses, annoying colleagues, demanding clients
4.) And introduced in 2020: Covid-19 anxiety coupled with Zoom fatigue
5.) Finally, a lack of healthy, social routines on Sunday with family or friends.
6 Ways to Avoid the Monday Scaries
In a nutshell: Extend your weekday routine through Saturday and Sunday. Get honest, real, and frequent performance feedback from your boss. That’s all there is to it, folks.
1.) The most important tip of all is to apply a consistent sleep schedule throughout the week. Limit changes to your sleep schedule to no more than half an hour at most (i.e., go to bed a half-hour late at most, sleep in no more than 30 minutes). Take a mid-day nap as a weekend reward.
2.) Exercise a LOT on the weekend. Do not treat Saturday and Sunday as some kind of reward for surviving Monday through Friday. Remember, Monday through Friday constitute 71% of your entire life. Either hit the gym or hit the yard. Bottom line: Be your most active on weekends. Monday is a wonderful day to use for your exercise routine’s off day.
3.) Drop the boom on your liquor habit. Moderation is key and that means one to three drinks max, preferably not right before bedtime. I will grant you this: It’s a heck of a lot easier for me to preach about moderation now that I’m in my mid-40s (an age when drinking a lot of booze has zero appeal.
And honestly, you reach this age and drinking hampers your sleep a lot harder than it used to. That sucks, but it’s also a nice way for your body to tell you to stop poisoning yourself.
4.) Ditch social media. Avoid it like the plague. There’s nothing worse than dwelling over the ill-conceived belief of much better someone else’s life. We have more time on the weekend to get consumed by Facebook and Instagram. Shut that sh*t off and go take a walk or read a book instead.
Play some cards with friends or have a movie night with the kids. Social Media is 20% connecting to family and friends, and 80% getting depressed over things you can’t control and shouldn’t care about in the first place.
5.) Get social (in person!). Sunday night is perfect for getting out of the house. I used to think it was required that you just hunker down on Sunday nights. Time to face the Monday Reaper. I’d look forward to watching a little football, maybe 60 Minutes, reading the Sunday paper (another contributor to Scaries), and cashing in.
When Mrs. Cubert asked me to join her in a bowling league I put up quite a fuss, “Sunday night is for sitting at home, dammit!”
But alas, joining that league was a lot of fun. I even enjoyed a couple of beers in the process. If bowling isn’t your thing, consider a date night. Either way, don’t let the Monday blues keep you from enjoying Sunday night.
Get out of the house and socialize. If you’re raising kids, make Sunday night your weekly at-home movie night. Trust me, these tactics WORK.
6.) Change Jobs. Or, Retire Early.
Does Retirement Make Sunday Night Less Stressful?
I’ve explored this before and there are arguments on both sides. If you align with a never retire philosophy, you’re ironically stressed about not working. You want to feel useful. Work helps you feel in control of life. That’s especially true if you’re an entrepreneur running the show.
Blue Zones concepts reveal over and over again how the healthiest and longest-living people on the planet never fully retire. Examples from less industrialized Blue Zones like Sardinia and Costa Rica shouldn’t surprise us. The more agrarian societies often have aged people continuing to work the land and mind the flock.
Consider the Blue Zone of Loma Linda California, where many Seventh Day Adventists continue to work in their professional fields well into their 90s… You could be a doctor, a farmer, or a caregiver, it does not matter.
I simply cannot believe that Blue Zone elders suffer from Sunday stress. Instead, they embrace every day as a chance to make a difference and live a full life.
The point is, don’t assume that retirement solves the problem. It may remove a massive chunk of stress in your life, but you will begin to pine for your time at bat once you’ve hung up your corporate cleats.
Conclusion: Fear Not, Sunday!
If you find yourself suffering from Sunday Night Syndrome you may want to read up on the Blue Zones. Finding your purpose and struggle in life will equip you with the armor you need to deal with crummy bosses and a job market that keeps us on edge.
Getting over the conditioning from earlier in life takes time. If you stick to a routine throughout all seven days of the week, you’ll be amazed at how much easier the entire week feels. Get some decent sleep. Drink less. And Don’t eat crappy food, especially a few hours before bedtime!
We don’t bowl in the league anymore, but we enjoy Sunday family movie night. I don’t have the Monday Scaries anymore (I now have every night scaries, thanks to sour relationships with my boss and a couple of peers).
Take control of your career and your life, and this stuff does fall into place. If you’ve got a toxic boss and suffer under a terrible workplace culture, and you’re positive it’s not because of YOU, take action. Network, apply, interview, and get out of dodge.
In the meantime, make sure you’re saving as much as you can to get the leverage and confidence you need to survive every night, not just Sunday.
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We miss that bowling league, it really was a blast.
Hey man! I hope Denver is treating you guys well. We need to get out there to visit sometime. See if the kids still recognize you! 😉 Is your bowling ball as dusty and cobweb-covered as mine??
freddy smidlap says
well said, cubert. while i still drink a fair amount of wine on sundays getting up in the morning makes a big difference in being able to do it on monday morning. i can’t sleep past about 7 or 8 on most weekend mornings even if a wanted to. the body wants to be up near 6ish like the weekdays. i’ve also noticed, at age 51, that an interesting book near the bedside makes my life much better. i’ve been reading some john le carre spy novels from the 60’s lately.
the struggle against being lazy on the weekends is real. even with all the time in the world and nothing scheduled my sweat output suffers. it’s a work in progress, isn’t it?
Thanks, Freddy! John le Carre – good stuff. I’ve read one of his a few years back – Spy Who Came in From the Cold I think?
Nothing wrong with being lazy on weekends my friend. At least you’ve got the bedtime routine figured out. Maybe just work on getting your step goal Sat and Sun?
Money Sonata says
First time I heard about the Sunday Scaries I thought it was something purely for kids but nope! We all tend to get it, even some stay-at-home moms that I’ve talked to because their kids start the week and the weekend is over. Your tips are great, especially the one about getting plenty of exercise. Spending a productive weekend would help minimize one’s fear for Mondays. Another little idea that may work is to do something on Monday that you really enjoy, like make it your special day when you get that delicious coffee, so you actually look forward to it.
Hi Money Sonata! Thanks for your comment! It’s funny how sticking to a routine throughout all 7 days can almost make Monday feel like a relief – who’d have ever thought that??
Great tip on putting something special on the books for Mondays. Date nights!