If you feel a sense of dread every Sunday evening because you have to go back to school or work the next morning, you’re certainly not alone. I felt like this for years, and from what I can tell, most people feel this way at least sometimes.
But spending 25% of your precious weekend feeling down because of what’s coming tomorrow is a pretty poor use of your time. Beating Sunday evening dread goes a long way toward being happier in general, and you can use most of these tactics whenever you’re feeling down or dreading what’s coming. So without further ado, here are some ideas for beating Sunday evening dread:
Kick Off Your Week With a Treat
I often say that the secret to becoming a morning person is to start your day off with something that you love. Mondays are basically the morning of the week, so why not start off with something exciting?
You could make some time to go to your favorite coffee shop before heading to work, wear those boots that make you feel like an absolute badass, or make a boppin’ playlist for your commute.
If you wanted to go even bigger, schedule something that you enjoy on Monday nights. Monday nights could be date nights with your SO or your night to stay in, order Chinese takeout, and do some guilt-free Netflix binging. Whatever floats your boat. Add something to your Mondays the counterbalances the negative aspects of the day so you’ve at least got something to look forward to.
Get Your Chores/Homework Done Early
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this, but procrastinating on your work is just making your Sunday evening worse. Remember how we talked about befriending your future self? Mhm, Saturday-afternoon-you is best friends with Sunday-evening-you, and so Saturday-you needs to step up and act like it.
In my experience, doing homework on Sunday evening compounds the sense of Sunday evening dread. If you’re struggling to befriend your future self, I’ve also written about how to finally stop procrastinating. Whatever you’re putting off isn’t going to get easier the longer you ignore it, and likely, it won’t be nearly as difficult or unpleasant as you’re expecting. Get it done.
Getting your work out of the way earlier in the weekend also leads me to my next point…
Do Something Fun
If you’ve finished your work earlier in the weekend, then Sunday evening is wide open and ready for you to fill with plans. You could even team up with your friends to make Sunday evening plans and encourage each other to get your work done early so no one has to miss out.
Spending your time doing something that you enjoy is the best way to beat any kind of dread or worry. Take your mind off of it. It’s hard to dread tomorrow when your thoughts are fully focused on what’s happening right now.
You could go out and do something, like turn Sundays into movie nights with friends or spend time exploring your town or city.
Finding something productive and fulfilling is also a great way to get your mind off of the fact that you’ve got to work tomorrow. Even though it’s work, working on a hobby or side project that you really love will not only get rid of the negative feelings you have about tomorrow, it’s also possibly the best way to create positive feelings today.
Though not everyone finds it fun, exercise is the most effective tool I’ve found for getting my mind off of whatever’s bothering me. I always leave the gym in a better mood than I arrived in. Cardio is especially good at making me feel better, but even a bit of stretching or a walk around the neighborhood will help.
My favorite way to treat myself on Sunday evenings is with some self care and pampering. After I take care of chores with my Sunday Reset, I like to light some candles, do a face mask, paint my nails, and stretch for a while with chill music in the background. I look forward to it every week.
Speaking of Sunday Resets, do a Sunday Reset! Clearing your to do list and making sure everything is ready to go for the week takes away some of the pressure that comes with Sunday evening, making it easier to relax.
This is a big one. Mindfulness changed my life. Let me break it down in case you’re new to mindfulness and meditation.
Being mindful means that you are remaining consciously aware of what’s going on both inside and outside your head. It’s basically the opposite of mindlessness.
Meditation teaches you how to be mindful. When you meditate, the aim is to remain focused and aware of your thoughts and acknowledge them, rather than letting them run away and control you. You don’t have to meditate in order to be mindful, but it helps to make mindfulness easier and more automatic.
So how can mindfulness help beat Sunday evening dread?
Pay attention to your thoughts. When you notice yourself feeling less-than-happy about the fact that it’s Sunday evening, acknowledge that thought. Then, dismiss it.
You can think of yourself as a mountain and your thoughts are the clouds floating past. You can see and acknowledge them, but they don’t control you. Let them float away.
If those thoughts come back, continue to patiently acknowledge and release them. Don’t dwell on them or run away with them, though this will happen occasionally. That’s okay. Catch yourself as soon as you can, and let the thoughts go. With practice, this becomes easier and the thoughts will return less and less often.
Mindfulness is a form of “taking your mind off of it” as I mentioned earlier, except instead of finding something to distract yourself, you are the one in control of your mind and your thoughts. You use mindfulness to patiently release the negative thoughts over and over until they leave you alone.
Learning to be mindful isn’t easy. It takes quite a lot of practice, but it’s worth it. Mindfulness is helpful in way more situations than just beating Sunday evening dread.
Journal It Out
If you’ve spent much time around here recently, you know that I’ve been really into journaling lately. It’s something that I do daily as part of my morning routine, and it’s noticeably improved my life.
Grab a pen and paper—or a computer, although the pen and paper are more effective, in my experience—and write down how you’re feeling. Write about why you’re feeling that way. Write about today. Write about tomorrow. Write whatever comes to mind.
At the very least, journaling will get those thoughts out of your head and into the world. This exercise helps you to process how you’re feeling and you may even come up with some new ways to deal with the dread.
Tackle the Problem
Sometimes that Sunday evening dread stems in part from a specific thing that we know we have to do on Monday morning, like a presentation or an important conversation. If this is the case, ask yourself if there’s anything that you could do right now that would make that event go more smoothly.
If spending some time preparing for your presentation would make you feel less anxious, go practice presenting! However, if you feel you’re ready for whatever’s happening on Monday or you know there’s no way you’ll feel prepared no matter how much you rehearse, it’s time to go back to that mindfulness thing we talked about and let those thoughts go.
One of the key things to consider here is whether or not you have control over the thing you’re nervous about. If you do, making sure you’ve done what you can to prepare for it can help to decrease the feeling of dread.
If it’s out of your hands, no amount of worrying is going to make it better or easier, but it will ruin your Sunday unnecessarily. Dread can act as a prompt to take action, or as a reminder that it’s time to let it go because it’s out of your control.
Set a Time Limit
Phone calls make me anxious. Like, sweat dripping down my stomach, dry mouth, clammy hands, hard to breath or focus on the world around me type anxious. I’ve gotten better at making them over the last few years, but no matter how confident I feel about it, unless I’m calling a close friend, I end up anxious.
When I have to make a phone call, I don't allow myself to dread it until ten minutes before the call. If at any moment leading up to the call, I start to worry or dread it, I tell myself, “nope, it’s not time yet,” and dismiss the dread.
It works surprisingly well. Because I know there’s a designated time for me to experience and deal with those feelings, I feel comfortable ignoring them for now. This helps me to focus on the task at hand instead of wasting time and energy worrying.
The same idea could be applied to Sunday evening dread. Designate a time for dread. Maybe it’s for five minutes shortly after dinner. Maybe it’s on the walk from your car to your office. Decide on a time, and if you find yourself worrying outside of that time, remind yourself that you’ve set aside time for this, and that time is not now.
Setting aside time to process specific emotions may sound a bit much, but it works. If it sounds stupid, but it works, it’s not stupid.
Make a Change
I’m fully aware that this last, long term solution isn’t an option for everyone, but it’s an option for more people than you’d think. You may be one of those people.
If you truly dread going to work every day, it might be time to consider a change. (If you’re in school, stay in school. Get that degree.) Life is too short to spend a third—or more—of your time hating it.
There’s a reason so many people are picking up side hustles, and it isn’t always about making extra (or enough) money. Picking up a side hustle that eventually becomes a career, or seriously considering a change in jobs or industries may be the answer to beating that dread.
This isn’t to say that sometimes a job you love won’t be stressful or boring, but you’re so much less likely to find yourself hating your life and dreading going to work on Monday morning when you generally enjoy your work.
Start playing with the idea. Ask yourself what you’re good at and what you enjoy doing. What kind of things can you get lost in for hours? What skills do you have that other people don’t?
I definitely recommend listening to Gary Vaynerchuk's The GaryVee Audio Experience podcast if all of this sounds tempting. He often talks about the whys and hows of leaving a terrible job for something that you’re passionate about.
Don’t waste your time and give up your happiness because of a job you truly despise. Sometimes it’s necessary to work not-so-great jobs to pay the bills, and that’s okay, but long term, find a place in the world that you love. You’ll no longer need to worry about Sunday night dread because you’re excited to get up on Monday morning.