The Genius Way Successful Women Deal With Sunday Scaries

When we explored the psychology of Sunday Scaries in our series #SaveOurSundays last month, I found the science behind the late-weekend blues to be totally intriguing: Knowing that so much of it comes down to a chemical, fight-or-flight response in our brains offered so much insight into that palpable anxiety I tend to face leading up to almost every Monday.

At the same time, understanding that it's a nearly universal phenomenon, I began to ponder how the badass women in my life—several of whom are leading the charge at the very media company for which I work—manage to make the most of their own weekend and hit the ground running come Monday. So I sent out an email with this very question to three of those colleagues: Hillary Kerr, the co-founder of Clique BrandsKat Collings, the editor in chief of Who What Wear; and Sacha Strebe, the editorial director of MyDomaine.

I expected their answers to be immensely helpful, but I didn't necessarily predict that they'd all share a single through line, a clear-cut piece of universal advice. After consulting Heather Silvestri, a New York City–based psychologist, I learned that there's science to back up their approach, to boot.

Keep reading to learn exactly how three successful women combat their Sunday Scaries.

Their #1 shared tip: Schedule the heck out of your Sunday

"I pack it with good-for-me things," says Kerr. The idea is to keep busy in a fully relaxing, self-care-centric kind of way: Schedule a workout class, log time with your friends and family, meal-prep, hit the dog park.

"One of my Sunday rituals is reading The New York Times, and my husband gave me a subscription for my birthday a few years ago, so sitting down to read that while eating brunch with my family is a ritual I love, too," she adds. "Later in the day, we always make a plan to meet up with friends at the park so that we get out of the house. And then I start my wind-down process pretty early in the evening, with the goal to be in bed by 9:30 p.m. so I can read for a while. This routine doesn't leave a ton of room for improvising (we do more of that on Saturday), but that structure makes me feel calm and safe."

Unplugging is an important factor

Strebe notes that she used to take advantage of her free time on Sunday to get ahead of the workweek, but it only left her feeling more anxious. "It's not always easy to do, but I definitely need to avoid my inbox," she says. "I spend the least amount of time on my phone or any kind of screen as possible."

Being more present, she says, allows for her to engage in the activities she knows she won't necessarily have the time or energy for during the week. "I love to cook a family meal," she says. "I take real pleasure in trying a new recipe or making an old one that requires more time, as I don't have that luxury during the week. And I always have a glass of wine in my hand while doing it. If I'm busy, then I think less about work and more about the present moment, enjoying time with my family and having fun."

Silvestri fully endorses this approach from a psychological standpoint. "Research shows that idle people report more unhappiness than people who keep reasonably busy," she says. "A main benefit of peppering your Sunday with some action and motion is that it occupies your mind and prevents you from ruminating about the week to come. In fact, injecting some liveliness into your Sunday gives you some really good momentum to carry your Monday morning into productivity."

Keep it light

There's a fine line between scheduling all kinds of fun on Sunday and feeling totally exhausted by your agenda, so the trick is to prioritize activities that emphasize relaxation and relationships. "Limping into Monday never set anyone up for success," says Silvestri. "So keep the activities fun, light, and productive, but be mindful that you don't hide from feelings by overstructuring your day."

This especially rings true for the particularly vulnerable hours of Sunday evening, during which Collings likes to bank time with friends. "I find that scheduling an early dinner out with friends on Sunday nights helps me put my mind in the present, rather than being at home with my laptop staring at me," she says.

And if duty does call, simply getting your tasks for the week in order can be enough to allay any anxieties. "I've come to realize that there will always be work to do no matter how much you prep in advance, so instead I list out the priorities and tick them off as I go," says Strebe.

Bonus tip: Try the "Three-Day Weekend Mindset"

"On a three-day weekend, think about how you feel on Sunday night," says Collings. "Great, right? Because you still have Monday night to have your Sunday Scaries. In theory, you could feel that great every Sunday night, whether you have Monday off or not. A Sunday night can be the same wonderful, calm Sunday night no matter what is coming tomorrow. For me, it points out that Sunday Scaries are a product of too much future thinking and makes me feel like I have control over it." 

Changing your mindset is always easier said than done, of course, but scheduling out your day is a solid step toward Sunday nirvana. "Planning leads to calming—at least for me," says Kerr. "There are so many unknowns (both good and bad!) during the week, so the fact that I have some stuff that's pre-planned for Sunday just makes everything a little easier."

Next up: six herbs that can turn a bad mood around.