There’s nothing quite like going about your Sunday and suddenly being hit with a feeling of dread. It has a name: the Sunday Scaries. It happens less often for me these days, but I remember the headaches and feeling of impending doom that would emerge on a Sunday afternoon when I knew that tomorrow I had to head into the office.
As months passed, my Sunday Scaries turned into Saturday Scaries — and that’s when I knew I had to make a big career change. Yes, I quit my job — and yes, it was because the mere thought of Monday was so bad it became a chronic stress that weighed on my health.
Despite its lighthearted name, the Sunday Scaries shouldn’t be brushed off lightly. In fact, it represents a type of anxiety, says Sanam Hafeez, Psy.D., a psychologist and faculty member at Columbia University in New York City. “This is known as ‘anticipatory anxiety,’” she says. “It’s when a person thinks things like, ‘What if I don’t meet my deadlines? What if a prospective client doesn’t sign? What if I get fired? What if I mess up my presentation?’” It’s a perfect trifecta for an emotional storm: dreading tasks looming over your head, endless what ifs, and a lack of coping skills to settle down stress, Hafeez explains.
It’s something that affects adults and kids alike — even little ones who you’d think have no cares in the world. My preschooler loves Friday evenings, but the mere mention of “Sunday” in general can send him into a tailspin. He stresses about friends at school and even naptime. (Naptime!) I’m not alone. Mom friends tell me that the question, “How many sleeps until I have to go back to school?” is common in their households, too.
“There is a loss of the freedom and fun of the weekend that affects kids, too,” says Jamie Howard, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to childhood mental health in New York City. Just like with adults, though, it can run deeper than simply feeling bummed out about losing movie nights and pancake breakfasts. In some situations, the Sunday Scaries are a manifestation of problems at school, whether it’s struggling with academics, a learning disability, or bullying, Howard says. While teens might be able to articulate their complaints, “Younger kids often speak through their behavior,” she says. Tip-offs include a drastic change in their behavior or, at an extreme, a refusal to go to school. Little kids might also express anxiety through physical complaints, like talking about stomachach