If Sunday evenings frequently lull you into a funk of anxiety and dread about the coming week, you're far from alone. According to a 2015 poll from Monster.com, 76% of Americans experience "really bad" Sunday night doldrums, compared with 45% of respondents worldwide.1
In the years since this polling data was released, more and more psychologists, therapists, and life coaches have looked at new ways to eliminate Sunday night blues and prevent individuals from sliding down a slope into chronic depression or anxiety.
It's relatively straightforward to understand why individuals, particularly Americans, may feel anxiety as they face a new workweek and its stresses. After all, most of us work 9-5 jobs, and many have children in school. These responsibilities require intense focus and attention — from packing school lunches and overseeing homework to overflowing email in-boxes and daily commutes.
Sundays don't have to be a day of dread, however. By following some or all of the tips below, you can restore your entire two-day weekend and enjoy anxiety-free Sunday nights that seamlessly lead into your workweek.
One of the reasons we experience the Sunday night blues relates to how we tend to schedule our weekend activities. Do you, like many people, make your most exciting plans on Saturdays? If so, one way to eliminate the Sunday blues is to try switching things up a bit.
If we spend Friday night and Saturday doing all of the "fun" stuff, we're automatically relegating Sunday as a day of chores and preparation for the week. By flipping this schedule around, you'll experience a completely different — and more balanced — weekend.
Consider doing most of your necessary weekend chores on Saturdays, or at least splitting them between Saturday and Sunday. By spreading around these responsibilities, you won't feel overwhelmed and anxious on Sunday evenings. Some of the typical Sunday tasks that you can move to Saturday include:
By allowing your children to put off homework until Sunday nights, you're reinforcing your own behaviors onto them and setting them up for a lifetime of Sunday blues. By instead slotting time on Saturday for the kids to hit the books, they can go into Sunday unencumbered and free of stress and worry. Doing so may even help them improve their grades because they feel less anxiety on Monday mornings. Students also tend to learn more when they distribute studying over time instead of cramming it in at the last minute.2
You can give yourself a nice break on Sundays by eliminating necessary household chores on Saturday or splitting them up over the weekend. When your needed tasks are behind you, that opens up Sundays as days where you can have fun, socialize, and feel no burdens looming over you.
If you typically do your grocery shopping for the week on Sundays, try doing it on Friday evenings or Saturdays instead. We often overlook needed tasks and errands and then realize we've got to finish them at the last minute on Sunday. By organizing our weekend a little better, we can avoid heaping on Sunday stress.
By "thinking ahead," we don't mean the anxious, swirling thoughts of what awaits you at your desk on Sunday night, but rather, thinking further ahead. Think ahead on Friday evenings before you leave your office for the weekend.
It may be tempting to rush out of the office at 5:00 on Friday, leaving those unanswered emails and job tasks looming, but it only sets you up for stress down the line. In reality, if you make a plan and prepare yourself for Monday before you leave your desk on Friday, you're going to have a lot less stress on Sunday night.
Before leaving work, ensure that your workspace is ready and set up for Monday morning. Have your Monday tasks already lined up and organized so that you don't feel you have to scramble to get back into the game. Some of the tasks you can do on Friday to ensure a peaceful return to work the following week include:
Organization can be challenging for many of us, but one ounce of organization equals a pound of stress relief. Organizing your time better — both at work and home — significantly impacts mental health and gives us room to breathe, knowing our exact action plan on Monday morning.
Having a regular social ritual on Sundays can significantly reduce stress and anxiety. Many of us tend to let Sunday turn into a day of Netflix binging in our pajamas. But recent studies have shown that social isolation can majorly impact mental health, leading to depression and anxiety.3 Many of us know this to be accurate based on the past few years of pandemic-based quarantines and shutdowns.
Below, we’ll look at a few options for incorporating socialization into your Sundays.
Socializing with friends online can be helpful if you don't have a lot of other options. Still, research has shown that social media may negatively impact mental health, leading to anxiety and depression.4 However, these researchers also concluded that whether the impacts on mental health are beneficial or detrimental depends on the social factors of the social networking environment.
If you live far from family or friends, enjoying a weekly live video chat session can be beneficial and reinforce feelings of connectivity with others. But if you have access to face-to-face communication, this will always be the most effective way to connect.
Many researchers have demonstrated a positive correlation between those attending religious services of some kind and better mental health.5 This correlation varies between social interaction, a sense of community, and the essence of faith. But you don't have to be religious or spiritual to find a community or socially interact.
If going to church is not your thing, there are many options for social gatherings among friends with similar interests. You might become involved in a local book club or sewing club. You might join a yoga class that meets on Sundays. Or you might make plans with your best friends to get together on Sundays for coffee to chat. These options will get you out of your head and help eradicate the Sunday blues.
Perhaps a group in your area gathers to clean up local parks or hiking trails on the weekends, or there's a local soup kitchen where you might volunteer. Volunteering not only provides social interaction and a greater sense of community, but it can also significantly impact your mental health. Volunteering gives you a feeling of accomplishment and contribution to society. A 2020 study in the U.K. showed that volunteers reported greater satisfaction with their lives and overall better health.6
As noted above, allowing Sunday nights to turn into Netflix binge sessions can be tempting, but active leisure activities are always healthier than passive ones. They engage your mind and enable you to live in the moment, where ruminating thoughts don't persist.
Having a family board game night on Sundays will provide you with far more social interaction and connection than zoning out in front of the television. Hosting a book club meeting at your house or gathering with friends at a local diner are other options if you don't have children. Even a Sunday evening walk in nature can help you focus on the natural beauty around you and remind you that you're far from the cubicle you once spent Sundays dreading.
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Red, white and mostly blue: Monster data shows that the US continues to suffer the most from Sunday night blues (2015, June 2). Monster. Retrieved on June 12, 2022, from https://www.monster.com/about/a/Red-White-and-Mostly-Blue-Monster-Data-Shows-that-the-US-Continues-to-Suffer-the-Most-from-Sunday-Night-Blues.
Winerman, L. (2011, November). Study Smart. gradPSYCH Magazine, American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2011/11/study-smart
Loades, M., Chatburn, E., Higson-Sweeney, N., Reynolds, S., Shafran, R., Brigden, A., Linney, C., McManus, M., Borwick, C., and Crawley, E. (2020, June 3). Rapid systematic review: the impact of social isolation and loneliness on the mental health of children and adolescents in the context of COVID-19. National Library of Medicine, PubMed Central. Retrieved on June 12, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7267797/.
Cha, M., Rice, S., and Gritton, J. (2016, November 23). Social networking sites, depression, and anxiety: a systematic review. JMR Mental Health. National Library of Medicine, PubMed Central. Retrieved on June 12, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5143470/.
Dein, S. (2018, June 4). Against the stream: religion and mental health – the case for the inclusion of religion and spirituality into psychiatric care. BJPsych Bulletin. National Library of Medicine, PubMed Central. Retrieved on June 12, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6048728/.
Lockard, T. (2022, February 2). How volunteering improves mental health. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Retrieved on June 12, 2022, from https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/February-2022/How-Volunteering-Improves-Mental-Health#.