Sunday Scaries are a term used within this blog to refer to the anticipatory anxiety that can creep in around noon on Sunday. An uncomfortable feeling, a sore belly, restlessness, worry are all signs that your child is worried about the unknown week that lies ahead.
Has your child ever felt anxious or uncomfortable on Sundays?
Have you noticed that they seem irritable, worried, or refuse to go to sleep?
It’s likely that your child has a case of the Sunday Scaries.
This blog aims to help alleviate the Sunday Scaries so you and your child can enjoy Sunday evenings and find calm within the unknown.
Why do we get the Sunday Scaries?
Sunday Scaries are often the worry that overwhelms us as we approach a new week. The weight of the unknown can cause racing thoughts, restlessness, insomnia, and irritability. This is a form of anxiety.
Anxiety is based in the anticipation of an unknown future. It is always thinking about what might happen next. These forward thinking thoughts elicit emotions and feelings of overwhelm and can cause the brain to feel present within our worry-scenario.
Some children experience Sunday Scaries as they think about all the possibilities the week ahead may bring – both good and unpleasant. The challenge with dealing with anxiety and anxious behaviours is they tend to be all-consuming and cyclical.
This initial thought:
“Will my teacher be ill this week?”
can trigger a rabbit hole of questions and assumptions about the week
- Will the supply teacher be kind?
- What if they call on me in the middle of class?
- Everyone will laugh at me if I don’t know the answer
- What if I get ill?
- What if I don’t understand but forget the teacher’s name and can’t ask for help
Are you an Over-Functioner or an Under-Functioner?
When dealing with anxiety and the Sunday Scaries, there are a few tactics to help alleviate its effects.
But first what kind of a ‘do-er’ are you when it comes to dealing with stress and big emotions?
Brene Brown talks about two types of individuals, the over-functioner who throws themselves into all the things to avoid what makes them anxious, and the under-functioner who retreats and becomes less confident in themselves.
Once this is identified, you and your family can then practise stepping into vulnerability or boosting self-confidence.
So what does your child typically do when anxiety takes over?
Do they start over-analysing? Talking quicker? Become more flighty and busy-bodied?
If so, it’s likely they are showing over-functioning tendencies.
On the other hand, if they become more withdrawn, quiet and clingy then they are likely showing signs of under-functioning.
Knowing these response patterns are important to supporting your child in building themselves up in times of big emotions (like on Sundays).
*Remember, while identifying these traits can be helpful to know how to support your family and friends, know that these are fluid and we can adopt different styles.
6 Ways to Reduce Sunday Scaries and Lessen Anxiety
Here are 6 empowering ways to reduce Sunday scaries and lessen anxiety at any age!
Have you Flipped your Lid?
While working with children through Bettering Youth’s Emotional Wellbeing coaching programs we spend time teaching about the brain.
One of our tactics is to use the ‘Flipping Your Lid’ activities. These activities teach children that when they are in a state of Fight, Flight or Freeze, their ‘guard dog’, aka the amygdala barks uncontrollably. As a result, this scares their ‘Wise Owl’, the prefrontal cortex, and no smart decisions can be made.
Teaching this strategy provides a vocabulary for children who find it difficult to communicate feelings.
In these moments of Fight, Flight or Freeze, children can identify that they have just ‘scared their owl away’. And if taught properly, they’ll be able to turn to some calming techniques that will allow their ‘Wise Owl’ to return.
Once these moments pass, having a conversation that normalises flipping the lid is important. The key point is to praise the actions the child did to coax their owl back and calm themselves.
We need to build trust with ourself prior to moments where big feelings are present. Encourage your child to have a strong inner voice by exposing them to affirmations, positive song lyrics, powerful quotes and power posing.
When you can feel them starting to wobble a little bit, suggest they remember the words they found helpful and repeat it to themselves while taking big deep breaths.
Not only will this strengthen their ability to self-soothe but it will also provide their brain something else to focus on.
Our body’s natural fight or flight was designed to keep us safe from predators. This is why when we’re anxious we feel the adrenaline causing our heart rate to increase, our breath to become shallow and our brain to quicken.
Therefore a great way to relieve that feeling is to release it.
Encourage your child to move every single day to help get the jitters out. Make a game about running up and down the stairs, time them to see how many laps around the yard they can do shuffling, put on a fun dance workout video and groove along together.
Not only will they now focus on something else, but their body will also release endorphins, the feel good hormone and soon then association of heart racing, shortened breath will no longer be with anxiety, but happiness while moving and playing.
What I can and can’t control
If your child has high-functioning tendencies, they may need something more for their brain. Looking at a Control Circle can help them identify what they have power over and is worth thinking about, and what they need to let go.
Head on over to our Fabulous Freebies to download our Control Circle Activity.
Journaling to let go
Another great tactic for the higher-functioning child is to help them ‘release’ thoughts from their brain. Discuss how when we write thoughts down our brain no longer feels the need to hold on to them. This will stop the thoughts that seem to be on repeat.
Mindfulness is an incredibly powerful and fun way to support your child in finding calm. This takes the pressure off needing to meditate, and simply highlights our ability to be present in the moment. Be sure to check out this mini-meditation from Headspace
Turn Sunday Scaries into Sunday Funday
Remember that anxiety is a state and like all states, they can change. Therefore being anxious is no defining. It’s a practise and a habit. And being grounded and more mindful is likewise a habit. It takes consistent effort.
Therefore, don’t wait until your child (or yourself) is experiencing big, anxious emotions to start learning about how to boost emotional wellbeing. Instead, start with a weekly activity that boosts emotional intelligence, encourages mindfulness, explores movement and reclaims the joy of a restful Sunday.