It's a feeling that most of us will have experienced during our school days and many of us still feel on a regular basis; a looming sense of dread that usually begins sometime on Sunday morning and continues to creep up on us until we crawl into bed in the evening. If that sounds familiar, you may be reassured to know you’re not alone; a staggering 81% of adults experience what’s commonly known as the ‘Sunday Fear’, according to a recent survey by The Sleep Judge. The result of a combination of fun-filled weekends and the worry of a week ahead brimming with responsibilities, lengthy to-do lists and unanswered emails, the Sunday night blues mean that for many of us, we start the week with a sense of dread that we just can’t seem to shift. If your Sunday night fear is starting to feel overwhelming, help is at hand. Here are some of our tips on ways to overcome them…
If Monday’s to-do list won’t shift from your thoughts from the minute you shut your laptop on Friday night, address the situation by making sure you organise your thoughts before the beginning of the week. Make a mental note of what you find most stressful about Mondays and carve out half an hour on Sunday morning to get on top of it. It might be drafting emails or making a list of jobs to tackle first thing, but whatever it is, setting aside a dedicated time slot to deal with it (and then put it out of your head) will help you feel less panicked and more focused when your alarm goes off.
Reduce your alcohol intake
Although a couple of glasses of wine on Sunday evening might seem like a good idea to help settle your racing mind, alcohol is actually a bad idea if your anxiety levels are already on the edge. Although its mild sedative effects can temporarily make you feel more relaxed, alcohol affects the central nervous system, changing the levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, which can actually worsen anxiety. Alcohol-related worry can also make you feel worse hours after the alcohol has worn off, so it’s very possible that you might start to feel the blues kick in again just in time for Monday morning. Rather than reaching for the bottle on a Sunday night, start a new habit and opt for a calming herbal tea instead. While inhaling the scent of peppermint (in any form, including tea) is known to soothe frazzled nerves, chamomile is also a great choice for a calming pre-bed drink. According to a 2016 study, long-term use significantly reduced the effects of GAD (generalised anxiety disorder) in testers.
According to Sleep Judge, Sunday evening is when most of us experience peak blues, with 57% admitting to feeling anxious before bed. If that’s when your anxiety kicks up a notch, try to turn it into a time to be anticipated positively instead of a time you’re fighting that sense of impending doom. Whether it’s a weekly cinema trip, a regular call with someone you don’t speak to enough, or even scheduled time for your favourite box set, turning Sunday night into a time you look forward to will go a long way to helping banish the blues.
Prioritise your sleep
While a long lie-in on a Sunday morning might feel like the ultimate luxury that you deserve after a hard week, if you’re playing catch up on the ZZZs you’ve missed during the week, you may be adding to your Sunday night stress without even realising it. Why? Because lack of a regular sleep cycle can damage your innate circadian rhythm, your internal biological clock that affects several key systems in your body including brain wave activity, hormone production and cell regeneration. Disruption of this can lead to irritability, impaired cognitive skills, and yes, exacerbation of anxiety. To combat this, try and set regular bedtimes and wakeup times throughout the week and on the weekends, allowing your body to gradually fall into its own healthy sleep-wake cycle. Start by setting yourself a bedtime (ideally the time you should be in bed with your eyes closed) and make sure you’re prepared for the morning well ahead of this. Once you’re tucked up under the covers, set an alarm for a wakeup time ideally no less than seven hours later and no more than nine.
If you’re one of the 62% of people who dread Mondays the most, now’s the time to change your mindset. Instead of thinking of it as just a day to be endured before you get to the best part of the week, actively book in something enjoyable to do on a Monday. Whether it’s socialising with friends in the evening or booking in for your favourite yoga class at lunch, having something fun in the diary will give you something to look forward to on a Sunday night, will help boost your mood for the week ahead and reframe your brain in the long run.