If you’ve grown up in a standard school system and/or worked a Monday-Friday 9-5 job, you’ve probably heard of the Sunday Scaries.
I first heard this term in August, when I moved back to the U.S. My Dad mentioned how grateful he is – now that he’s retired – to be done with the Sunday Scaries: those feelings of anxiety, dread, worry, and non-specific stress that come in the waning daylight hours of every Sunday. They’re tied to anticipation of the work week and stresses to come, and I remember them well from my days of rigorous high school. Part of me is quite surprised that it took this long for someone to coin the ubiquitous sensation with a clever term!
I moved to New York City a month ago, and although my job isn’t the standard 9-5, I can feel the buzz of Sunday Scaries vibrating amongst my (over) 8 million close neighbors. There’s a collective consciousness that permeates every pocket of this city, and it certainly defaults to a state of Scaries starting around 3pm each Sunday.
Why do we feel this way? Anxiety is tricky business; it can be caused by past traumas, inflammation, lack of sleep, and a myriad of other things. From the yogic perspective, anxiety reflects imbalance at the deeper layers of the being. The imbalance is often rooted in muladhara chakra: the energetic center responsible for feelings of security, survival, and belonging. Anxiety can make us feel stagnant, emotionally paralyzed, and helpless.
The good (meaning great!) news is that the yogic system of thought, movement, and lifestyle offers tools that are both effective and easy to integrate. Here are 7 ways to tame those Sunday Scaries and actually enjoy your final evening before the work week starts:
1. MAKE a list. Meditation superstars can effectively detach from all the thoughts swirling around in their heads; if you haven’t yet gotten to this point, start by making a list. Map out your weekly calendar, set your reminders; I find that handwriting the list out for the next day and placing it somewhere specific helps the most. The key here is to acknowledge the thousand thoughts going on in your head, take the action step of writing them down, and then let them go. They’ll be there when you need them the next morning.
2. MOVE your body. Grounding into the body calms the mind. You may also notice that, in times of feeling extra-anxious, this is the last thing you feel like doing. The mind likes to cling to things. It doesn’t matter if the thought patterns to which the mind is clinging are healthy or not – it will hold on to what’s familiar.Getting into the body through gentle exercise, yoga, dance, or a good walk releases endorphins, helps to remove blocked energy, and loosens the grip of the mind on worry. Carve out even 30 minutes on Sunday afternoon or evening for an activity your body enjoys.
3. CONNECT with loved ones. A significant amount of research has come out recently on connection and affection serving as antidotes for addiction, anxiety, and other challenging states of being. When we’re caught up with worry, the effect is often a feeling of isolation. There’s contraction in the mind, in the body, and in subtler layers of the being. Connecting with a friend, family member, or partner reminds the subconscious that we’re not alone, and this goes a long way in rewiring what’s going on in the brain.
4. PLAY the name game. Have you ever seen the movie “Inside Out?” It’s a brilliant illustration on how our minds have all these different parts: anger, sadness, joy, disgust, and so on. We could even name one part “Sunday Scaries.” When you feel that buzz of worry coming on, give it a name. Notice it. When we can name things, it helps to prevent that part from completely consuming us – from tricking us into the false notion that we are that part. Acknowledging internally, “Oh hey there, Scaries…I see you, I know you’re there” in a non-judgmental way dissolves a substantial amount of tension. Give it a try. (And remember, you can name the part however you wish!)
5. SIT with awareness. If it’s available to you, set a timer for 10 minutes and simply sit. Practice mindfulness. This is especially potent when we feel that time is moving too fast. Have you ever had a dozen thoughts dancing around in your head – tasks to complete – and yet nothing seems to be getting done? Sunday evenings can have that resonance. Sitting and watching with mindfulness the wild dance of the thoughts grants us awareness into what’s going on inside. The stillness of those 10 minutes shows us that, in fact, time isn’t slipping away: when our thoughts slow down, so does time.
6. NOURISH yourself. Cozy up with a book, cook a delicious meal, kick back and listen to an old record, or journal about your dreams. When the Sunday Scaries come, it’s tempting to take action by running away from the present moment: plugging into reruns on TV, turning to stress-eating or –drinking, scrolling through social media. Taking a different action – nourishing yourself with an activity that both brings you delight and nurtures your creativity helps to break this habit. It also signals something in the mind that says, yes, we’re being very good to ourselves in times of challenge. This is a crucial step on the path to healing.
7. INHALE relaxation, EXHALE…let go. You may have heard in yoga classes before that the breath has direct effects on the mind and the nervous system. In Dr. Alan Watkins’ TED Talk, Being Brilliant Every Single Day, we see proof that changing our breathing changes the quality of our minds and emotions. Treat yourself to deep, rhythmic breathing before going to sleep. Allow the belly to relax, ballooning out on the inhale. Let it deflate, slowly and completely, on the exhale. Enjoy the sweetness of this ebb and flow, the inhaling relaxation, the exhaling letting go. It will activate the parasympathetic nervous system, allowing for calmed nerves, and also help to relieve physiological and mental tension.