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The Sunday Scaries

Updated: Aug 2, 2022

Feeling the “Sunday Scaries” is a common experience for many people. As you notice Monday approaching, you may also perceive a change in your emotional experience. Also called anticipatory anxiety or the “Sunday Blues,” feeling impending dread for the days to come is unnerving. If you’re looking to change your emotional experience as the weekend expires, you’ll be required to do more than simply “improve your mindset.” In fact, it is important for us to become quite familiar with this emotional experience in order to better understand it and ultimately change it.

One of the introductory skills of cognitive-behavioral therapy involves first identifying your specific emotion(s). Are we actually feeling scared or is the emotion more specifically worry? And how intense is the emotion? Does it wax and wane depending on our behaviors (i.e., decrease with exercise/increase when inactive)? Does the intensity vary following changes in our typical routine? Research has shown that simply labeling a distressing emotion can lead to a reduction in its intensity. Per Dr. Dan Siegel, this practice is called “name it to tame it.”

Psychologist Dr. Susan Albers has detailed some of the more effective methods for reducing anticipatory anxiety. One such method enlists cognitive restructuring, in which we identify pertinent thoughts/cognitions and challenge their accuracy. For example, we may perceive Monday as a day filled with events we “can’t handle.” Repetitive thoughts such as “I can’t do it” focus the mind on a perceived threat. By examining objective evidence of weeks and months (if not years) of repeated successful management of work-related tasks, we can begin to challenge such unhelpful statements and learn to engage in healthier self-talk (e.g., “I’ve done this before; I can handle whatever is awaiting me this week”).

If you’re interested in better understanding how to manage distressing emotions, employing some of the previously mentioned techniques may be helpful for you. However, if you're experiencing anxiety symptoms that persist as the week progresses, it may be time to pursue treatment for an anxiety disorder. Please contact Roswell Psychology if you’re interested in learning how to better manage your own distressing emotions.

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