This Sunday night, just like almost every Sunday night, I couldn’t sleep. It was 1 a.m. and I found myself running through the play-by-play for the next day. If it rained, how would I keep my kids busy inside while I tried to make progress on my to-do list? How was I going to manage to meet all of my deadlines?
This is pretty typical. I have a lot of anxiety about the start of the week. When Monday rolls around, my husband heads back to work, which means I’ll be the only parent on duty from breakfast to bedtime for the next five days. And it really stresses me out.
For a long time, I kind of assumed this was just me. That I was the only one noticing my anxiety rising on Sunday afternoons. To be perfectly honest, it’s been a long time since Sundays were anything but completely miserable.
Recently, however, I was talking with a few other moms and confessed that I was in a panic virtually every Sunday. As it turns out, this is totally a thing. One mom I asked said she has come to dread Sunday nights, that she’s only able to wind down if she makes an extensive to-do list for the week. Another mom said it was the idea of being alone at home with her kids without help from her partner that caused her the most anxiety.
“I am less anxious on Sunday evenings these days,” confessed Erin Heger, who now works outside of the home. “ But, when I was home with my son full-time, it was awful. I also had postpartum depression and felt really overwhelmed all the time, so obviously that was part of it.”
According to Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Amy Ort, this experience is so common among moms that she has given it an unofficial nickname—”SNED,” or Sunday Night Existential Dread.
“This term sums up how many moms feel when trying to prepare for the coming week,” she says. “Squeeze in just a few last items on their to-do lists, or ‘steal’ time for themselves in a packed and busy life that doesn’t afford much opportunity for down time.”
She pointed out that, for most moms, the to-do list never ends, no matter how late you might stay up trying to make that happen.
I asked Ort for ideas on how to make Sunday nights a little more bearable, to avoid spending my Sunday nights awake in bed, dreading the next day. Her first piece of advice to moms like me was to try to get some sleep (whoops!), saying that staying up late trying to make the unattainable happen isn’t beneficial. She pointed out that, for most moms, the to-do list never ends, no matter how late you might stay up trying to make that happen.
“Getting enough sleep, especially on the weekend, is one form of self-care that can carry you through the week and help you be more efficient with your time and patient with the people in your life who matter most, like your children and your partner,” she said.
Of course getting enough sleep is a good goal, but sometimes the anxiety gets in the way of that task. This is why Ort suggested a mindfulness practice as a means of bringing yourself back to the moment, when your head is swirling with anxiety and thoughts of the next week. To do this, you first want to find something to focus on, such as your breathing, to bring you to the present moment.
“While doing so, you observe and acknowledge without judgment any thoughts and emotions that enter your consciousness,” she explained. “Gradually, you shift your focus back to the present moment in a calm and relaxed way.”
To be perfectly honest, Ort’s advice, although kind and gentle, was kind of a kick in the pants for me. I know that mindfulness meditation is helpful for me. I’ve used in the past to deal with insomnia and to keep myself from freaking out on my kids when my patience is running thin. Lately, however, I’ve let myself become consumed with anxiety, dropping my meditation practice altogether.
So, this coming month, and after the New Year, I’ll be getting back into the habit again. I’ll be using meditation in the evenings to prepare myself for starting the week with confidence and patience. And, maybe—just maybe—Sundays can become relaxing again.