May 8, 2023

Understanding the Sunday scaries: Causes, effects, and how to cope

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Ofosu and Leah talk with certified coach and clinician María-Victoria Albina about the causes, effects, and challenges of the Sunday scaries. They also share other practical tips for managing work-related stress and anxiety, establishing a healthy work-life balance, and cultivating greater mindfulness and well-being.

📲 Ready to start managing your work-related stress and anxiety? Unlock your FREE YEAR of Balance today by downloading it from the App Store or Play Store:

🎧 What's in this episode:

The psychology of the Sunday scaries: Understanding the causes | (04:29) 

Effects of the Sunday scaries on mental health: How meditation can help | (09:07) 

Coping strategies for dealing with the Sunday scaries: Tips and techniques | (11:39) 

The importance of self-compassion and self-care: Cultivating self-awareness and self-love | (12:44) 

Communicating with colleagues or supervisors about work-related stress: Setting healthy boundaries | (18:39) 

Starting your journey toward greater mindfulness with the Balance app | (22:49)

📚 More about María-Victoria: María-Victoria is a trained Nurse Practitioner and Master Certified Life Coach. Her mission is for her clients to stop feeling anxious, exhausted, and overwhelmed, so they can have better relationships with their partners, parents, and themselves. You can learn more about her work here:

🎤 Listen to María-Victoria’s podcast, Feminist Wellness, here:

📱 Follow María-Victoria on Instagram:

▶️ Follow along on YouTube to watch this episode and more exclusive content:

🧘 About Balance: Well Balanced is co-hosted by meditation experts Ofosu and Leah, Balance’s Co-Heads of Meditation. Balance is a highly personalized meditation and sleep app that's been named Google's App of the Year and Apple's App of the Day. Completely free for the entire first year, Balance is helping 5 million+ people around the world improve their stress, sleep, focus, and mood.


Ofosu: We are talking today about the Sunday Scaries. Now, if you don't know what that means, you're probably familiar with the feeling anyway. It's when you know, you've got to go to work the next day and you just feel that sense of dread and foreboding. I used to feel this especially strongly when I was deep in the trenches as an intellectual property paralegal in my previous existence.

Actually, actually, I'm going to put up a picture of me coming from work to my daughter's Thanksgiving Day assembly thingy. Uh, this is, I 

Leah: I mean you look older there than you do now. 

Ofosu: I look, and this is 15 years ago. 

Leah: How is it possible that you don't age? 

Ofosu: Well, I look older then because that job was like kryptonite.

Now, bless that job because we survived off that job, but lord, did that job not make me feel fulfilled. So I'm, what I'm, I'm wearing, I am wearing every color of vomit in this, uh, in this suit. There's brown, it's just brown and green. There's a brown and green tie. Oh gosh, this is really, really bad.

Anyway, um, just looking at that actually gives me the Sunday Scaries and uh, and I'm not even in that world. So Leah, I will ask you now, are you familiar with the Sunday Scaries? Did you ever feel this way? 

Leah: Yeah, I never called them that. It mostly happened pretty much my entire life after college, um, once I got like into like the real big girl jobs, I worked for some startups.

I worked at Microsoft and I, I loved the people that I worked with and I was so grateful for those jobs. I learned so much, uh, but just the work itself was like excruciating sometimes or boring at other times or just anxiety provoking because there was never, yeah, I don't even want to get into that, but I'm sure if you're listening, you can relate to times in your life when you had that job, or maybe it's a job you have right now.

But, um, yeah, I would feel that on Sunday. Like, I'd be like, oh no, I have to start all over again. It's like this never ending hamster wheel and I'm trapped. I actually have a picture from back when I worked on the Xbox team at Microsoft. I'll put that here in the video. I'm actually in a meeting room here.

I'm on like several devices at the same time. My whole life was like super, super connected to devices. And I'm like testing out an ad on the user interface of Xbox and doing coding and stuff and on my computer on my PC. 

Ofosu: That also doesn't, it's not screaming Leah to me when I see that photo. 

Leah: Yeah, it's like, it's a total past life, like you said, it just was not aligned with my soul.

Ofosu: No, it was not, and uh, well, are you ready to get into it, Leah? 

Leah: Yes. Let's do it.

Ofosu: What's up, y'all? I am Ofosu Jones Quartey. And I'm Leah Santa Cruz. And we are the meditation experts from The Balance App. 

Leah: And this is our podcast, Well Balanced, where we explore ways to live a healthier and more focused and relaxed life. 

Ofosu: Well, you know, we've got a friend of the show here to help us, uh, process Sunday Scaries.

Uh, she's very wise when it comes to handling the emotional aspects of being in the working world. So our guide through the Sunday Scaries is dun, dun, dun. 

Maria Victoria, a life coach with a background in medicine and public health. And she's also the host of an awesome podcast, feminist Wellness, where she talks about shaking off codependency, perfectionism and people pleasing. Maria Victoria. Welcome back. What's good? 

Maria-Victoria: Welcome. Hey, thank you so much for having me.

It's always such a delight to see the two of you. 

Leah: Yeah, we're so happy to have you back. I don't know if you've ever experienced the Sunday Scaries, but I'm certain that you have clients that you work with that experience it. Um, maybe you can share a little bit more about, like, what's behind that feeling?

I mean, I, I have my assumptions, like, dread of going to work. Is there a psychology behind it? Like, what, what? What causes that for us? 

Maria-Victoria: Yeah, so there's a neural pathway in our brain that links the ending of the weekend and a loss of autonomy, right? A loss of significance, a loss of belonging. And when we continue to drill down under it, if we don't have our autonomy, significance, and belonging, we're unsafe in the world. 

And of course, individual experiences may vary, but that's what I tend to see is on the weekend, I get to be me. I get to be authentic. I get to be with my people and do what I want to do and live how I want to live. And then Monday I step into what is often a false self, which is the thread through I felt and correct me if I'm wrong, which.

You know, I'm a human. Through both of your stories and looking at both of your pictures, it looked like two different humans than the ones I've come to adore. Right? 

Ofosu: Definitely.

Leah: I can't recognize myself, too. 

Maria-Victoria: Yeah. 

Ofosu: I am, uh, perplexed by this photo. 

Maria-Victoria: Multicolored vomit. Yeah, in fact. Yeah. And so it makes sense, right?

If, if the reality is on Monday, I have to be someone who's not fully me. Right? To toe this corporate line, to keep these people happy, to like, yes ma'am, no sir, at work, and I don't actually get to be me. Like, that is an existential threat, right? And so of course your nervous system responds, you are no fool.

Your inner children riots. They too are not idiots, right? And they want you to be very well aware that something dumb and dangerous is coming. Like, let's be really clear. 

Ofosu: Something dumb and dangerous is coming. I don't think... Come on now. That is exactly... Right? That's... That is exactly... 

Leah: I never heard it put that way.

Ofosu: Right? Oh, that's just perfect. That's exactly how it feels right. Something dumb and dangerous is coming just like, I've got to put on this stupid suit and go and just say the, I mean, I'm not, I'm not dissing work. Like for, so my uncle sat me down one time and just said, oh, so you are some, there's somebody who is working their whole life to be sitting in the seat that you're sitting in right now that you don't appreciate whatsoever and you're spending your all your time in that seat on the internet trying to be a musician, you're occupying somebody else's place and like, so there's so I'm just, I'm, I'm bringing it up to say that like, just cause I didn't like what I was doing doesn't mean that other people, somebody else that's not somebody else's dream.

It just wasn't my dream. And therefore, every Sunday, I did, something inside me said, something dumb and dangerous. 

Maria-Victoria: Right. And I think we need to be careful about the Suffering Olympics because it's so easy to be like, to step into that justification of like, well, my boss is a jerk. And this, you know, like, oh, the environment, oh, what I have to wear and try to like justify and explain why we feel existential dread.

And instead, I think we can do something much more useful there's many things. One, of course, mindfulness and meditation, which we can loop back to because obviously. And two is really looking at the stories you're telling. And I think maybe this is where your uncle was going. What are the stories that you're telling about your job, about that experience, about obligation, right?

Like, oh I'm stuck here. I have to be here. Right? What are the stories that you're telling that continue to create those feelings that feel like garbage and make going to work on Monday feel like a dumpster fire would? Maybe it doesn't actually have to. 

Ofosu: Okay, so this is interesting. Maybe it's not dumb and dangerous.

Maybe we're, maybe we're believing stories that, um, that are not completely accurate.

Leah: I always thought of like those jobs that even though I wasn't aligned with it, my soul, I always thought of it as like, okay, this is a stepping stone. Whatever skills I'm learning here are going to be beneficial for me in the future.

I know this is not where I belong and this is not right for me, but it is right for right now to take care of my needs until I can like, figure out what the next step is. 

Ofosu: I, I mean, I certainly am not baffled by legalese. I mean, I can, I know how to read a contract, you know, as an artist, that's really important.

So yeah, I know how to look out for the words in perpetuity. You brought up mindfulness and meditation and I'm, I'm curious how you think, uh, these practices can help us examine. what the Sunday Scaries really are and move through this feeling or understand it more, et cetera. 

Maria-Victoria: Yeah, something just sparked in my mind when when you were talking about how meditation can help us sort of in the short term was thinking about the part of us that's scared and bringing Tonglen practice into that.

Leah: Some of our listeners might not know what Tonglen is. 

Maria-Victoria: Yeah. Yeah, we'll get there We'll get there. We'll get there. So compassion practice. Yeah, there is a part of you so if we we take a page out of internal family systems work the work of Dick Schwartz PhD we can look at the self as an accumulation of parts Right?

The little kid parts of you in all their many ages. This is also referred to as the inner child. We got parts, right? We got parts. And there's a part of you that is not the whole of you that's like, yo, I'm scared. I don't want to go to the meet. I don't want to go to the place. This is the part that's the, it is dumb and bad.

Right? Like I don't want to go to there. So what would it feel like to sit down with that part? And bring love and care and compassion and sweetness and tenderness to that part. Right, to really, really soak it in that, really, um, let it marinate in that tender love in your heart, the way you would. So when, when I do Tonglen, um, I, I have folks start with, um, picturing a very, very teeny, tiny little baby animal.

And so, if you can bring love and care and compassion to a puppy, then can you bring it to your baby self, right? And so we start sort of inching closer to the part of us that maybe we are not so pleased with because this part makes us wicked friggin anxious and Sunday could be a beautiful day for a barbecue and chilling out and being with our people and enjoying life, but instead we're frickin anxious.

Come on. So here you are annoyed with it. What could it feel like to have a seat with the thing that bothers you, pour it a cup of tea and bring it some compassion. What do you think of that? It just came to me.

Ofosu: I mean, it's the work that I'm doing right now with my own internal work right now. 

Maria-Victoria: Oh, right on.

Leah: Yeah. Learning about internal family systems actually was like a big turning point for me on my self love journey.

Maria-Victoria: I love that. 

Ofosu: It really does underpin this feeling, um, that that's woven into the Sunday Scaries. 

Leah: Yeah. I mean, I guess at the end of the day, if we're really like not aligned with what it is that we're doing, what does it take to overcome that, to move through that, to get to the other side? 

Maria-Victoria: To the other side of the scaries or leaving the job that doesn't serve you?

Leah: Yes. Leaving the job that doesn't serve you because I just don't think that there's an end to that feeling if you're staying in the same thing. Or maybe there is, maybe you can completely shift your mindset and learn how to love a thing that you just dreaded before, but I got a feeling that that means like you're not aligned with what you're doing.

Maria-Victoria: Right. And sometimes like you called out really smartly and it bears repeating, we're not aligned with what we're doing and it's a means to an end. I mean, the word have to is really complicated, right? Sociopolitically, right? But let's, maybe for today's purposes, we can just leave that right there. Like we have to stay in a job for now, right?

It's what we have to do to put food on the table, to make ends meet. What do we do to, to start to find our way out of it? Um, first step is safety with self, because if you don't feel safe with yourself and you don't trust yourself to make the wisest decision you possibly can with the skills and tools you have in this present moment, how will you trust yourself to leave the job that is the job you have?

How will you not live in regret? How will you not second guess yourself? How will you do anything other than feel stuck? Right? So we get unstuck by stepping into the somatic or body based practice of self trust and self love. Not in the like hashtag bubble bath BS kind of way, but in the deep real trusting of self, which is not unlike the piece that meditation brings you, a process.

And, and for me and in my world, it starts with making very teeny, teeny, teeny, tiny decisions each and every day with the goal of showing yourself that you will do the thing for your benefit. Let me English that. So what I teach my clients to do is to make a tiny promise to themselves to do something like drink one glass of water a day, not to drink the water, though, please.

Drink water, but rather because you promised yourself you would, so you're friggin gonna. And that's just that, right? Come hell or high water, you are going to have that glass of water because you're building self trust. And so when we have a history of stress, distress, or trauma, and like, who doesn't, right?

We need to rebuild trust with ourselves to know we'll have our own back so we can build trust in the universe and the world. And so we can take bold steps like leave the job like me, right? Like I trained in medicine, I went to UCSF, I trained for years and years and years and years and did not feel like I was truly in my calling at the end of it.

With a thriving private practice in Manhattan with a six month wait list. I was unhappy. I was burnt out. So I learned to love the job I was in. I learned to have faith and trust in me so I could leave without second guessing and without regret because I learned to love it as much as I could versus how I've always left a job, a relationship, a friendship, right?

Like a real New Yorker. Right? Like flippin the bird, throwin the F bomb, slammin the cab door on my way out. Right? And so I did it really differently. I did it with intentionality. And I trust myself that I made the absolute right choice for me. 

Ofosu: I feel like there's a through line, um, in this that, um, I kind of want to highlight because it's not easy to make a dramatic life change. And changing a job I mean, for me, my work as an artist and my work in the paralegal world, they always came to a head, and it was just, I was just fortunate enough that I was working in such a specialized field, intellectual property, that I would lose a job and be able to get one immediately, but I eventually, after moving through like 10 different firms in the city.

You know, I got very close to exhausting that and I got, it went to a head where I just could not go back in my heart and in my mind, but then came some really, really difficult years of financial instability. So, um, I think about what you're saying in terms of developing self trust and having what I'm hearing is like having a healthy, caring relationship with yourself that, um, where you're on your own team.

So even if you're in, even if you're in a difficult situation, you can like walk with yourself to, to where you ultimately want to go. Like, right. Do you feel that this creating that sense of self trust and, um, and self love applies? I just want to touch on things like work life balance, imposter syndrome.

How does what we're talking about here factor into all of that?

Maria-Victoria: Yeah, well, we know what we want when we are embodied, right? When we're present in our bodies and when we have trust in ourselves. It's so much easier to be present in our bodies, right, to not just live from the neck up spinning and ruminating in our thoughts, right?

We create some space to allow ourselves to come into our bodies in a way that, um, that creates that trust. Does that make sense? 

Ofosu: Yeah. Yeah. How does somebody make that a practice of embodiment? Yeah. I mean, in, in, in one minute or less. 

Maria-Victoria: Oh, okay, cool. No pressure. Um, a simple thing to do is to put an alarm on your phone and three times a day ask yourself what you're feeling. What emotion you're feeling and download an emotion wheel. That's not cheating. It's perfect. Use your tools. Download an emotion wheel, find the emotion you're feeling, and then start to locate it in your body. And if you're like, what in the what? All emotions have a physical resonance.

It's, it's science. Pick the emotion that's easiest for you to feel that you can feel no problem. Anger? Cool. Sad? Great. The happy? Fabulous. And feel it in your body. So happiness for me is this upswelling of blue energy through my chest that radiates like, like water flowing. It's bright and light and cool.

It's and warm at the same time. That's joy in this moment. And I only know about it because I asked about it, right? You don't know how to get from the Q train to the R train if you don't ask about it. So New York. Right? So you got to ask about it. So ask your body and trust your wisdom. The answers are always there.

Ofosu: All right. So if, let's say the source of our dread, the dumb and dangerous feeling is something that is actually workable, right? Like if, like, it's just a matter of us setting a boundary or, or, or letting a boss know what is true for us in our, in our lives or about our mental health or whatever. Do you, do you have any suggestions for how to use communication to maybe mitigate the feeling of the Sunday Scaries?

Maria-Victoria: Yeah, it starts with communication with self, right? So when I was deep in my own emotional outsourcing, when I was knee deep in codependent perfectionist and people pleasing thinking, I had no idea what I wanted, no idea what I needed because everyone else's wants and needs were way more important than mine.

I'm fine. Thank you very much. No, no, no, I'm good. I'm good. I'm good. You all go ahead. I'll stay here. I'm fine. Don't worry about it. It's fine. I'm going to see the anger and resentment and annoyance, but y'all go ahead. I'm cool. I'm cool. Don't worry about me. So step one for so many of us. is to come back home to ourselves.

What do I want? What do I need? What is that boundary? What is that limit? Am I willing to get texts from my boss on my personal cell phone on a Sunday evening? What is it I'm dreading here, right? What lack of boundaries? have been historically okay for me and what's actually okay for me today. So let's start asking, let's start asking those questions of ourselves.

What is okay at this job and what is not right? What are my firm boundaries? What are my limits? What, what honors my nervous system and my mental health and my physical health and what doesn't and start to voice that internally first to someone you trust second so your nervous system can have a relaxed experience if you say it out loud.

Ofosu: Maybe say it to yourself, say it to a friend or family member, right?

Maria-Victoria: Say it to the dog. And I'm not kidding. . Right. Say it to your teddy bear. And from there. Say it to your boss, and if you're scared about pushback or retaliation, get it in writing, like, say it in writing, right? Be thoughtful, be smart, be strategic, and say what you want and need to, so that on a Sunday when your brain goes, are they gonna text at any point?

You can say, we said no to that. We set the boundary, we're not gonna do that. Let those inner children, those parts know, no, no, no, there is a firm, hard no here around these things that used to make us anxious. So we don't need to hold on to it. 

Ofosu: Well, Maria Victoria, it's been so wonderful having you. Um, the one thing that this actually, the one surprising, beautiful takeaway from this was that it, it, so much of how we are feeling when it, especially when we have a sense of foreboding about anything this, this could be applied to, um, a family gathering.

This could be applied to so many things. It's just to show yourself compassion and listen to what your needs are and to be in a trusting, loving relationship with yourself, or at least like get it off the ground. And I just love hearing how it shows up in this type of scenario. 

Leah: And I love the point that you shared about you know, if you do really don't feel aligned with that work that you're doing to first start with trusting yourself and creating that trust with yourself so that you can have the faith to let the, you know, to go into the uncertainty, trusting that you will be able to use your resources and abilities to serve you well.

Ofosu: Yeah. Yeah. Thank you so much for joining us, Maria Victoria, and can't wait to chat with you again. Appreciate you. 

Maria-Victoria: Thank you so much. It was, it was an absolute pleasure to be here as always. 

Ofosu: All right, y'all. If you like what Maria Victoria had to say here, there's plenty more where that came from. So please go check out her podcast, Feminist Wellness, and we've got a link to that and her website in the show notes.

Leah: And If you're feeling ready to start your journey towards more mindfulness, greater well being, it's worth it to try out the Balance app. It has a bunch of guided meditations by Ofosu and I. We have personalized programs in there. We've got lots of expert advice. It's going to help you manage your stress, your anxiety, um, to create more self awareness for yourself.

And to get a better sense of, of balance, no pun intended and calm in your life. And we built it to help you take control of. You're mental and your emotional well being and to start living a more compassionate and fulfilling life. So go download the app now. You can find it balance meditation and sleep and start your meditation journey today with us.

Ofosu: All right, y'all. Don't forget to be kind to yourself. Take care. And peace. 

Leah: Have a beautiful week. 

And if you don't know how to write that email, you just ask chat GBT to help you, right? Please help me write an email to my boss to set some boundaries.

Ofosu: My emotional support, artificial intelligence. 

Maria-Victoria: Right? We all need one. Come on now.