Make an Appointment: 905-337-3946 |

  • Sunday Anxiety and the Course of Your Life

    “I’m writing this blog post about Sunday anxiety on an actual Sunday. I’ve just come back from spending some time interacting with others in my community, and I’m struck by the subtle change in atmosphere on Sunday from the way things feel on Saturday.

    Photo by Michael Heise

    It’s subtle, but if you watch, you can see it. There’s a palpable change in many people’s speech and demeanour as the weekend draws to an end. Often their facial features become a little more pinched and less relaxed, and their speech reflects a level of increased tension. What exactly is going on for them —and for all of us— as the weekend draws to a close?

    Most psychotherapists, and certainly most depth psychotherapists recognize the prevalence of “Sunday anxiety”, sometimes known as “Sunday night anxiety”. Authorities such as the Cleveland Clinic have documented  the reality of “Sunday anxiety”, sometimes called “the Sunday scaries”. The term refers to a sense of anxiety or dread that seems to close in as the weekend comes to an end.

    Sunday Anxiety on a Granular Level

    What is it like when we experience Sunday anxiety? Well, as indicated above, it’s a form of anticipatory anxiety that is brought on by how an individual is feeling as they get ready for the week ahead. 

    Many of us feel at least some sense of freedom as a weekend begins, and the sense that our time is our own. We feel some relaxation, we lighten up. But then, as the weekend nears its end, the sense of the responsibilities, obligations and tasks that we will face in the coming week seem nearer and take up more mental space. We may feel a strong sense of anticipation around the busy week to come, or a sense of conflict or struggle as we try to balance work and our personal life, or the looming presence of upcoming deadlines.

    As both the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic stress, Sunday anxiety can often interfere with our sleep, which is a major problem. Our sleep is always important, and even more so when we’re confronting major stressors. As we look at Sunday anxiety on a very specific level, it’s important to realize that it can also manifest in a range of other physical symptoms:

    • Difficulty swallowing or breathing;
    • Profuse sweating;
    • Overly rapid heartbeat;
    • Stomach aches and pains;
    • Headaches; or,
    • Depression in a variety of forms.

    There are a range of very specific techniques that can be used to reduce the effects of Sunday anxiety. These include:

    • regularizing sleep times and sleep habits;
    • avoiding later evening phone use;
    • using acupressure and other forms of sleep inducing movement;
    • patterns of regular exercise; and a range of other useful, practical techniques.

    It’s essential to use these health-inducing techniques to reduce Sunday anxiety. Yet, in addition to such approaches, there may be an important  and different approach to dealing with this issue. 

    Sunday Anxiety: The Wider Perspective

    There is another perspective possible on this issue of Sunday anxiety, that looks at the issue from a broader perspective. There is great value at looking at the particular symptoms of Sunday anxiety and looking at concrete, specific ways to eliminate the symptoms. However, there is also potentially enormous value in looking at the issue of Sunday anxiety in greater depth.

    It makes great sense to identify the specific triggers of Sunday anxiety, that can be related to factors like anxiety about meeting the specific demands of a job, or the stress of trying to meet required deadlines, etc. Yet it may be vital to ask broader psychological questions about a particular individual’s working life, or even their life as a whole.

    Jungian depth psychotherapy is deeply concerned with issues of meaning in an individual’s life. It is also fundamentally concerned with individuation, the process by which an individual becomes more and more themselves by integrating fragmented, wounded, and hidden parts of the psyche. If we take a Jungian perspective to the question of Sunday anxiety, some new questions and insights emerge.

    Issues of meaning are of great importance in human life. We have a strong need to feel that our individual lives are meaningful, that our relationships, the things that we do and the things that we value are grounded in an underlying sense of value. We have a great need to feel that the work that we do has meaning for us. If work lacks meaning, its stresses and demands are can be a great deal more painful and exhausting. If our Sunday anxiety is very strong, we might need to face the issue of whether we find our work meaningful.

    Issues of individuation are often deeply connected to issues of meaning. It’s essential for individuals to feel that they are integrating the parts of themselves. There’s a strong need to feel that one’s life is becoming more and more of an expression of who one most fundamentally is. This leads us to ask: is this work I’m doing really compatible with who I most fundamentally am? If the answer to that question is a resounding “no”, we may have just discovered at least one source of strong Sunday anxiety.

    The Hidden Energy in Sunday Anxiety

    C.G. Jung often used the metaphor of psychic energy to explain the dynamics of the psyche. He viewed anxiety as a blockage in the natural flow of psychic energy toward the goals and the things for which we yearn. if we face a deep conflict in life our psychic energy gets dammed up, and can’t flow towards the things that offer meanng and fulfillment in our lives. If the conflict can be resolved, and a new direction found, then, as Jung puts it,

    The energy stored up for the solution of the task flows back into the old riverbeds 

    —if the individual can find a new attitude or stance toward his or her life that offers genuine possibility. In the context of career anxiety, including Sunday anxiety,this may involve finding creative new possibilities that enable us to find meaning and to express who we most fundamentally are in our lives.

    As an individual addresses their Sunday anxiety in depth, and perhaps explores underlying questions of work, meaning, and the direction of that individual’s life, the support of an empathic and insightful depth psychotherapist can be of immense help. The question of meaningful work, and our overall sense of vocation in life is a matter of immense.

    I wish you every good thing as you travel on your precious and unique personal journey,

    Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and 

    Certified Jungian Analyst (IAAP) 

    Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

    © Brian Collinson, 2023