Do you have any of the following symptoms? Sense of dread during brunch. Cold sweats at kids’ birthday parties and soccer games? Feeling that the weekend wasn’t long enough? Temptation to call in sick?
What causes the Smondays*? We all love our jobs, of course. Still, you’ve probably felt anxiety creep up out of nowhere during the waning hours of the weekend. That all-consuming Sunday fog—unavoidably and forevermore known as the Smondays—is actual fear, says neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, author of The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload. “We love the freedom of the weekend,” he says. “What’s happening in your brain is that a structure called the amygdala, the seat of fear, gets fired up and releases stress hormones” in anticipation of that freedom disappearing. Clinical psychologist Kevin Chapman, who specializes in treating phobias and panic, says the physical symptoms of this anxiety can include everything from restlessness, sweating, muscle tension, and headaches to sleep disturbances, a racing heartbeat, and stomach distress.
This is the opposite of what happens on Friday afternoon, when feel-good mood-regulating neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin flood our brains as we anticipate the weekend. Call it the “Fri-yays,” if you must.
Take Back Your Sunday
A comprehensive plan for finishing the weekend strong
5 p.m.: Organize yourself
Before leaving work, create a Monday-specific task list, put necessary files front and center, and set up meeting reminders, says professional organizer Peggy Duncan. “When you’ve planned your time for the next week,” she says, “you can start out fresh.”
Night: Get to bed
While you may never have known life without weekends, they’re pretty new on the evolutionary scale. “Your body and brain want a fixed schedule,” Levitin says. “It keeps your biological rhythms in sync.” Tempting as it may be to stay up until 4 a.m.—or sleep until noon—it’s healthiest to maintain about the same sleeping-waking hours as you do during the week.
Before 11 a.m.: Do your chores
Leaving hated tasks until Sunday will only reinforce your depression, says Cassie Mogilner Holmes, a happiness researcher and associate professor of marketing at UCLA.
Afternoon: Happy thoughts
If you have to show up at something you aren’t thrilled about, whether it’s a never-ending neighborhood association meeting or your kid’s 600th Little League game, Chapman suggests trying one (or all) of these tactics:
1. “Recognize that the event isn’t causing your dread—your interpretation of the event as dreadful is.”
2. “Repeat a short, somewhat positive statement about the event, such as, ‘It wasn’t that bad in the past.’ ”
3. “Realize the event is transient. It won’t last forever.”
Dinner: Keep it small
The weekend’s midpoint also tends to be its high point—which means it’s all downhill from here. Still, there are advantages to throwing your weekend dinner party on Saturday night, including the ability to prep during the day and leave cleanup until tomorrow. What’s a would-be host or hostess to do?
1. Keep the party size from four to eight people, which will feel boisterous but not huge.
2. Your cranky neighbors might have had you over last week, but don’t feel the need to return the favor right away. Concentrate on inviting people who’ll help fill the air if the conversation runs dry—you can always see Mr. and Mrs. Whiner during the week.
3. Conventional hosting wisdom would tell you a dinner party isn’t the time to try out a new recipe. We say that’s silly! Give everyone something to talk about with your attempt at cooking a pork butt.
4. Don’t be afraid to kick everyone out when you’re ready. If you’re too polite to ask people to leave, turn off the music—they’ll get the hint.
Before noon: Brunch right
The midmorning meal can easily devour your Sunday, so a brunch at 10:30 a.m. is better than one two hours later, says Leah Smith, co-founder of LA Brunchers, an online guide. Registered dietitian Stephanie Clarke, co-owner of consulting service C&J Nutrition, says to go easy on the booze and be sure to include a protein such as eggs or yogurt. That’ll help you avoid the sharp spikes and drops in blood sugar that give you that “I just want to sleep all afternoon” feeling.
If you’re making brunch at home, try this flexible frittata recipe from Everything I Want to Eat, by Jessica Koslow, founder of Los Angeles’s famed breakfast hot spot Sqirl:
Vegetally Versatile Frittata (for two)
1 large carrot, cleaned and sliced into ¼-inch coins
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt
¼ tsp. ground cumin
3 large eggs
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
Fleur de sel
Preheat the oven to 350F. Add 1 tbsp. of the oil to a small pan set over medium heat, then add the carrots. Add a pinch of salt, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring often, until the carrots are tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and add the cumin, another pinch of salt, and the remaining olive oil. Mash with a fork.
Crack the eggs into a bowl and add 2 pinches of salt, then whisk in the carrot purée. Melt the butter in a 6-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the egg-carrot mixture, stir for 15 seconds, then move the skillet to the oven. Exactly 8 minutes later, check on the frittata. It should look slightly puffed and firm around the edges. Finish with a pinch of fleur de sel and a squeeze of lemon. Not in a carrot mood? Try greens with nutmeg or squash with herbs.
Afternoon: Get out
“People cut their weekends short psychologically,” says UCLA’s Mogilner Holmes. “Sunday evening should be when you have really fun things to do.” Try a few of the following activities to extend your weekend mindset:
1. Plan a group outing. “People report that they’re the happiest when they’re engaging in activities that involve others,” Mogilner Holmes says. Even a phone date with a friend helps, as long as you frame it as a special occasion.
2. Giving your time to others makes you feel like you have more of it, according to a 2015 study in Psychological Science. “When you do things for others, you feel very effective,” Mogilner Holmes says. Get out and volunteer—it will give you a confidence boost when you’re tempted to sink down in the dumps.
3. Your idea of relaxing may be watching Netflix, but feelings of depression are most common when people aren’t particularly active. Exercise, go for a drive, visit a museum, or just go to a movie—anything to help you forget about the looming workweek.
6 p.m.: Reach out
Before you start settling into your evening, text your close co-workers. Even if you’re just sending pictures of your kids from the weekend, “it makes it easier to jump into conversation with them on Monday,” says Ben Waber, chief executive officer of Humanyze, a behavioral analytics company.
Wee hours: Start a journal
If you keep thinking about what you have to do on Monday, write it down. “You always want to get out of your head when you can,” Duncan says. If you’re thinking generally about the horrors next weekend brings, it’s better not to record that. “If you’re drawing attention to the bad stuff, it’s going to make you focus on it,” Mogilner Holmes says.
Should you (voluntarily) work on Sunday?
Sometimes it seems like a good idea to crush an hour of work on Sunday, so you’re not so slammed on Monday. If it’s just catching up on e-mail, don’t do it. “Even if you get your in-box to zero, in a few hours more e-mails will pop up,” Mogilner Holmes says. But if you’re trying to make time for creative work, like writing or a side project, go for it. When you’re not rushed, “you can make it a positive, pleasurable indulgence,” she says.
Try a stretching class to help ease back into work:
Stretch at New York Pilates in SoHo
Move through a sequence of lengthening exercises on the Reformer, the pulley-and-spring system unique to Pilates.
Stretch Therapy at Equinox in Aventura, Fla.
A class in active isolated stretching, which uses such tools as ropes and bands to lengthen major muscle groups repeatedly for short periods of time.
StretchLab in Santa Monica and Venice, Calif.
Trainers called “flexologists” push, prod, and pull clients into deeper bends and wider splits.
*Smondays isn’t an actual disease. We aren’t actual doctors. Don’t ever take medical advice from us.