What is “sunday depression”?

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia
Updated February 16, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

“Sunday depression,” sometimes referred to as the “Sunday blues," can refer to the feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and dissatisfaction that many experience on Sundays, particularly in the evenings, as the week ahead grows closer and closer. Sunday depression is generally not something you would be diagnosed with if you were to visit a doctor or therapist. Although the condition may not exist in the DSM-5, the phenomenon can be very real. You might improve your Sundays by bringing more balance to your week, doing something fun on Sunday nights, considering a change like a new job, prioritizing self-care, and working with a therapist. It can be easy to connect with a therapist through an online therapy platform, or you could seek out a local mental health professional to see in person.

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Overcome the Sunday blues

What does sunday depression feel like?

The following scene may be familiar to many. Sunday morning, you may rise out of bed, ready for another day of freedom from work or school. All may be well throughout the morning, but by afternoon, a sinking feeling of dread may begin to form in the pit of your stomach. Your mind might start racing, and you could feel overwhelmed. You may even feel physically ill. It’s possible you find yourself feeling distraught as you think about the next day or the week ahead. This cycle may repeat every Sunday.

While Sunday depression may be the term that describes this feeling for those who follow a traditional work week (Monday through Friday, with Saturday and Sunday off), those who follow an alternative schedule may not be immune to this experience. The feelings described above can creep up when any break from an ongoing schedule comes to an end. 

This can mean that someone who works Sunday to Thursday may experience these feelings on Saturday. A student who attends classes on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday may have these feelings on Monday.

Why do I have the Sunday blues?

Sunday depression can happen for many reasons. Each person's triggers may be unique to them. In most cases, the phenomenon can be tied to underlying thoughts or feelings about the week ahead. Below, you’ll find potential causes of the Sunday blues.

Dreading work

If you don't like your job, it may be very likely you will experience the Sunday blues. It can be hard to find the motivation or desire to show up someplace you don't want to be. While many people report dissatisfaction with work, a severe case of Sunday depression might signal it could be time to look for another job opportunity.

Stretched too thin

It may also be possible that your feelings could be tied to a lack of emotional resources to cope with the obligations you have ahead. Maybe you have overscheduled yourself, taken on a task that is becoming more troublesome than you anticipated, or believe there is no way you can meet your current demands.

Too much piling up

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For some people, Sunday can be a reminder that they haven't finished everything on their to-do list from the week before. It can subtly make them believe they are always running behind, they will never catch up, or worse, they are a failure for not being able to do all the things they wanted to do.

Tired of routine

Routine can be a challenge for many people. New adventures tend to stimulate our brains, while the day-to-day can quickly become tiresome. In many homes, Sunday evening can turn into a set routine to prepare for the week ahead. This routine may include potentially mundane activities like meal prep, laundry, organizing and packing things for the upcoming day, or planning on a calendar. It can be easy for this ritual to start going together with the feelings of Sunday depression.

Black-and-white thinking

Sometimes, Sunday depression can be exacerbated by polarized thinking. Polarized or dichotomous thinking can be another name for our tendency to see things in terms of polar opposites. You might think of it as "all or nothing" thinking. We often start by thinking of the weekend as a time for fun, and the week as a time for work. We can get too rigid with our beliefs that the week isn't meant to be used for fun, or that there is no time for relaxation until the weekend. With this view, Sunday evening may come to strictly represent the impending arrival of five days of unwanted activity.

Believing time was wasted

Some people who experience Sunday depression report that Sunday evenings make them reflect on the time they wasted throughout the weekend. Rather than getting to their long list of to-dos, they may have sat around and failed to use their time wisely. On the contrary, they may have been so busy they wasted the precious time they had for relaxation. Sunday depression can have a way of making us hyper-focus on all the things we didn't do with the time we had.

Anxiety

Sunday depression often comes with symptoms of anxiety. Anxiety can stem from a number of factors. It may be a reaction to fears about the unknown in the week ahead or a response to a perceived threat.

Tips to improve your sundays

For many of us, the Sunday blues may happen from time to time. However, there may be little improvements you can make to your week or weekend to soften its effects. Please keep in mind that if you are experiencing severe Sunday depression, it can be best to speak with your doctor or a licensed therapist to find solutions that are right for you.

Bring balance to your week

Instead of trying to pile all your work into your week and all your fun into your weekend, try to rearrange your schedule a bit. You might find time during the week to go out with friends, take a trip to the movies, or partake in any other fun activity you enjoy. Dedicate time for fun on your calendar just as you would work-related obligations. Honor that time and try not to let other duties come first if they suddenly pop up mid-week.

Change how you prep for the week

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Overcome the Sunday blues

It may be helpful to avoid doing all your weekly "chores" on Sunday evening. Rather, you might break them up over the course of the week. This can help you break the slump of routine. For example, if you usually spend Sunday evening doing meal prep and laundry, consider moving these activities to another time during the week when you are usually free. You might have to sacrifice a little evening time during the week to get these things done, but you will likely extend your free time on Sundays.

Make use of your morning

Many people use Sunday evenings to get ready for the week ahead. This can inevitably contribute to Sunday depression as the hours dwindle down, and we may be faced with a mountain of tasks to do. Consider prepping for the week first thing in the morning. Try to have all your tasks done in the first few hours of the day to free up your evening for relaxation.

Do something fun on sunday night

You might choose to do something you enjoy with the remaining hours of the weekend. If possible, stick to an activity you can look forward to week after week. This could be an art class, movie night, or long meditation session. The choice is yours.

Make a change

Some cases of severe Sunday blues may signal a change is in order. It might be time to seriously consider changing jobs or cutting ties with a certain obligation. Change can be scary, and it is often filled with unknowns, but if you can link your Sunday depression to a specific trigger, it might be worth investigating the benefit of removing that trigger to improve your mood.

Set yourself up for success

Sunday can be a great day to stock up on the resources you need to make it through the week. For many people, this can take the form of self-care. Instead of diving into more obligations on the weekend or completely checking out, you might dedicate Sunday to prioritizing yourself. 

Self-care can look different for everybody, but try to stick with activities that help you feel recharged and ready to tackle the week.

While your emotional and mental needs can be important, it can be best not to neglect your physical health, either. You can use Sunday to practice healthy eating and exercise habits, renew prescriptions, and get a good night’s sleep. Starting your week prepared and healthy can give you the extra boost you may need to power through.

Work with a therapist

If you’ve noticed that your experience of the Sunday blues is negatively impacting your life or mental health, or if symptoms of depression have begun to arise throughout the week as well, you may benefit from working with a therapist.

Benefits of online therapy

We mentioned that self-care can be a way to alleviate symptoms of the Sunday blues, and part of your weekly self-care ritual may be talking to a therapist. Online therapy can make it simple to fit sessions into your existing schedule, and because you may attend therapy from the convenience of your home, you may not need to spend extra time commuting or sitting in a waiting room. An online therapist can help you pinpoint the reasons you may be experiencing Sunday depression and guide you toward effective strategies to fully enjoy each day.

Effectiveness of online therapy

Although experiencing Sunday depression may not be the same thing as living with a diagnosable depressive disorder, online therapy may prove to be effective as a form of treatment. A 2023 study investigated the efficacy of virtual care for depressive disorders and found that it was generally as effective as in-person treatment.

For reviews of BetterHelp counselors from those experiencing similar challenges, read below.

Counselor reviews

“Dianne has helped me deal with my depression, trauma and anxiety in a natural way. She really listens and helps you see the other side you might not consider. She’s helped me bring back aspects of my confidence and make me realize the choices I have made are down to me nonetheless. The therapy sessions have really given me strength that I’ve needed to cope and become better as a person.” 

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“I’ve spent many years in frustration and sadness, not equipped with the tools to manage those emotions and situations. That all slowly faded away in my 3 months together with Courtney. She is patient, she speaks so kindly, she is always emotionally available and helpful whenever.” 

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Takeaway

Sunday depression can be the result of dreading the week ahead, being stretched too thin with responsibilities, feeling tired of routine, believing you wasted your time over the weekend, or experiencing anxiety regarding the week to come. It can be possible to alleviate the Sunday blues by rearranging your schedule, making use of Sunday mornings, spending Sunday evenings doing fun activities, prioritizing self-care, and making changes when it comes to demanding obligations. Seeking professional help from an online or in-person therapist can also be helpful.

Depression is treatable, and you're not alone

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