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Why Sunday Nights Are So Anxiety-Provoking, According to Science

Fathers may be the most at risk for symptoms of Sunday night anxiety, experts warn.

Mondays are the worst — which explains why you’re a messy knot of anxiety every Sunday night. But just because feeling crappy is common doesn’t mean it’s not concerning. Sunday night anxiety can easily spiral into regular, debilitating anxiety throughout the week, experts warn. And pressures put on new dads to get back to work while still bonding with their new babies makes them especially vulnerable.

“Newfound fatherhood is a phase of life where men experience a much greater drive and pressure to earn money to support their families,” Dr. Lanre Dokun, founder of Healthy Minds NYC, told Fatherly. And while that’s a healthy motivation to get off the couch, work-related anxiety can take a real toll. “Prolonged patterns of anxious thoughts and behaviors can be detrimental to our mental and emotional health, preventing fathers from enjoying parenthood or other relationships.”

Sunday anxiety seems to be worse in the U.S. — 76 percent of Americans report having “really bad” Sunday night anxiety, while only 47 percent of people around the world feel the same. There are several factors that may cause this anxiety. Dokun suspects that, for dads, it’s fear of being pulled away from home again. But even for non-parents, alcohol consumption over the weekend can deplete the brain’s serotonin supply, throwing off your mood, and sleeping in on the weekends can create “social jetlag” as you struggle to return to your normal sleep cycle in time for work. Indeed, studies suggest that Americans report have the hardest time falling asleep on Sunday nights.

Heidi McBain, a marriage and family therapist, suspects that Sunday night anxiety may also come from the need to control situations. “There may be a part of them that likes to be in control and is feeling stressed because they know parts of the day to come will be out of their control,” McBain told Fatherly. Still, McBain cautions that some people on the brink of clinical depression may dismiss their Sunday night anxiety. “It’s important to look at where these feelings are truly coming from and if they are a sign that something bigger is going on that needs to be addressed in their lives.”

Still, isolated episodes of Sunday night anxiety can almost always be traced back to a lack of work-life balance. So parents who turn off their cell phones and make the most of their weekends with their families are less vulnerable, Dokun says. “People who suffer most from Sunday night anxiety are those who have not learned to sufficiently use their weekends for replenishment and recuperation.”