“Sunday sadness happens for myriad reasons,” says Dr. Dara Schwartz, a clinical psychologist affiliated with Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital. “Whether you’re anxious about the meetings on your calendar in the coming week, a project that is due or your kids’ multiple extracurricular activities, your mind is leaving Sunday and focusing on Monday, Tuesday and all the other days ahead.”
Feelings of melancholy can also arise when you’re focused on the immediate past. Whether you enjoyed a great weekend, connecting with loved ones or successfully getting through a mountain of laundry, you might feel wistful about what just was. Alternatively, you could find yourself feeling disappointed about all you had hoped, but failed, to accomplish over the weekend.
“Instead of being focused on right now, the brain has either taken you to a place where you are focused on what was, what could have been or what’s to come,” Dr. Schwartz says. “Sunday sadness happens because our minds have gone to the past or to the future — or, for many, it becomes a Ping-Pong match between both destinations.”
According to Dr. Schwartz, Sunday sadness is also seen in people who don’t hold typical work schedules. Even if your break from work may span Thursdays and Fridays, rather than Saturdays and Sundays, there is often still a spike in sadness or anticipatory anxiety on Sundays.
“Sunday was generally seen as the end of the week, because school started on Monday,” Dr. Schwartz says. “For years and years as children, Sunday nights were when we had to get ready to go back to school and start the week again, which may be why people with a variety of schedules experience the same feelings of sadness on Sundays.”
How to sidestep Sunday sadness
Thankfully, there are ways to avoid ruining a Sunday with anxiety of what’s to come on Monday. Dr. Schwartz shares the following five tips:
- Notice your thoughts. What are you saying to yourself about the week ahead? Are you predicting the future — that something won’t get done or be done right? Remind yourself that anxious thoughts are normal and can help motivate and prepare you. But also remind yourself that our inner critic is often too loud and thinks it has the ability to predict the future, which would make us all lottery winners, if that were true.
- Engage in present-centering exercises. All too often, our minds take us to the past and the future, and we miss out on what we have at this very moment. Use mindfulness practices or engage your five senses to reconnect with what is happening around you now — not tomorrow morning, not yesterday, but right now.
- Reverse your Saturday and Sunday. If you notice a pattern where the fun or relaxing elements of your weekend are on Saturday, and Sunday is the day you are doing errands and cleaning, try and flip it to see if you notice a difference. The mind likes patterns, and if you teach your mind that the dreaded stuff is on Sunday, it will come to expect it. The same is true with homework — encourage your kids to get it out of the way on Friday night or Saturday, so that Sunday can be a true day of rest or recreation before the school week begins.
- Take time on Friday to reflect on all you accomplished. Think about all you achieved over the workweek and set reasonable expectations for the week that follows. Try to not schedule too many meetings for the following Monday morning, if possible. When you leave on Friday, say your goodbyes and thank people for their accomplishments and the ways they may have helped you. It’s not only polite, but also sends yourself an internal message that you’re closing this chapter for the weekend.
- Give yourself something to look forward to. Plan some fun for Sunday and give yourself something to look forward to on Monday. Have friends over for dinner or catch a movie — something that reminds you that Sunday is a day of the week where you have the time to do something a little different. On Monday, pack a yummy snack for yourself, set up a lunch date with a co-worker or show off the new shoes you’ve been looking forward to wearing.