Forget the Sunday Scaries, I’ve Got the Semester Scaries

Earlier this week Good Morning America did a feature story on something I had never heard of, the “Sunday Scaries”.

As the story notes, the Sunday Scaries, Sunday Night Blues, or Sunday Depression are all terms used to describe the anticipatory anxiety, the feeling of dread, for the week ahead.

It’s a phenomenon that has become commonplace, experienced by 81% of Americans, according to a survey by The Sleep Judge, a mattress review website. It’s also become an extremely popular hashtag, with more than 160,000 #sundayscaries posts on Instagram.

A story on Marketwatch last year also talked about the Sunday Scaries. It shared the results of a survey by LinkedIn that also found that 80% of workplace professionals experience stress and anxiety that builds up on Sunday nights before the return of the workweek.

The survey found Sundays can be especially stressful for a number of reasons: 60% of professionals blame worrying about their workload; 44% say it’s because of balancing professional and personal to-do’s; and 39% dwell on tasks they didn’t finish the week before that pile up as the top causes of anxiety. And it’s a reoccurring sense of dread — more than 1 in 3 professionals said they feel the Sunday Scaries every week.

The data also showed that the condition affects Generation Z by 94% and millennials by 91% compared to 72 percent of Generation X professionals, and 69 percent of baby boomers.

Interestingly, the Scaries are apparently much more prevalent in the U.S. A separate global poll conducted by career site Monster.com found that 76% of people in the U.S. report having “really bad” Sunday night blues compared to only 47% of people in other parts of the globe.

There are many suggestions on how to handle the Sunday Scaries, including the following:

  • eat well
  • mix up your routine
  • detox from social media and other technologies
  • get enough rest
  • have a game plan for Monday, including scheduling no meetings
  • practice deep breathing

And in a sign of the times, there are even Gummy Bears made with CBD to help combat the Sunday Scaries.

I found it surprising that I had never heard of something that affects over 80% of U.S. workers, but then as I read more about it, I realized I’ve experienced the Sunday Scaries, but in a slightly different way.

I’d call it the Semester Scaries.

The nature of my job offers significant time away from teaching between semesters, particularly between the Spring and Fall semesters. It’s a wonderful time to get caught up on projects and readings that got sidelined during the semester, to work on new course development, or to work on redesigning existing courses.

But then one day I look at the calendar, and I realize the new semester is right around the corner, and I start to get the Semester Scaries.

  • I start worrying if I’ll be up to the task of getting my students excited about the material I will be teaching.
  • I start worrying that I’ll forget the names of my former students when I see them in the hallway.
  • I start worrying about how the students will evaluate me at the end of the semester.
  • I start worrying if I’ll be able to cover everything that’s on the syllabus.
  • I start worrying about how many mistakes I’ll make while teaching (I’ll never forget one class during my first year of teaching where I reversed the meaning of debits and credits. I realized my mistake right after class was over, and I had to go into our next class meeting and tell them everything I had taught them last class was completely wrong. I don’t think those students ever recovered, they were scarred for life.)
  • I start worrying about what my students will think of my lack of fashion sense.
  • I start worrying that a student will ask a question I should know the answer to, but I won’t know the answer.

So as you can see, this is a lot more than just your basic Sunday Scaries; these fears are potentially spread over an entire semester.

However, once a semester starts, most, if not all of these worries start to fade away, and I realize that I have one of the greatest jobs possible.

Every day I get to work with highly motivated, enthused, optimistic, and kind young men and women who have their whole life ahead of them, and that I get to play a small role in that life.

But then the semester is over before you know it, and soon after, it will be time for those Semester Scaries once again.

Maybe I should look into those Gummy Bears…

34 thoughts on “Forget the Sunday Scaries, I’ve Got the Semester Scaries

  1. I’d always thought that students worry about semesters. Now, I realize that teachers worry even more. It is scary to stand in front of big class where some nudge each other, some laugh and very few actually listen.

  2. I start classes tomorrow and I’ve had butterflies all day. I never considered the fact that teachers get anxiety too. I feel more at ease now. 😄 And yes I took summer off for the first time since I started college and now I feel as though that long gap threw me off. Anyway, wonderful post!

  3. I definitely have Sunday Scaries, I scheduled a training on a Monday, I promised myself never again. They were so out of it..Semester Scaries…I thought it was funny about your fashion sense…Happy New Semester Jim

  4. The unknown is scary, and our brain likes thinking of scary things – hopefully so we could prepare for the worst. Unfortunately, it is a stressful experience, indeed.

    Those gummy bears looks good.

  5. You got this, you know. You’re witty and uber intelligent, so, yanno…. 😎

    I used to manage the Monday scaries by going into the office over the weekend and preparing, organizing, etc. You’re correct in that preparation is so key.

    It’s neat to see the human side of teachers! May I ask, do you teach college? You don’t have to say!

    At any rate, good luck! You really do have this. Before you know it, you’ll be in flow in a few weeks and all settled in. 🍎

    1. I teach college, and it is a wonderful job. But like most jobs, it does have its stress points, and for me, that happens at both the beginning and end of each semester. I also like to use weekends to get ready for the upcoming week, it feels like bonus time when you can do that. Thanks for your best wishes!

  6. I trained as a teacher before returning to work when my children were all at school, although in the end I went back to librarianship, albeit in educational libraries. I felt as if I were an actor on a stage all day – clearly not a natural schoolteacher. I’m amazed it needed research to inform people about the Sunday terrors – it may not have been given a name but surely everyone’s experienced the Sunday evening blues, increasing as the day passes.
    Strangely, I didn’t experience this when I returned to full-time work after a ten-year break (I had four children). After spending my days arguing with a four-year-old (and losing) to spend my day among adults was wonderful.

    1. sounds like a great job, surrounded by books all day. And funny, yes, I’m sure some people actually look forward to getting out of the house for a while and going to work, and can’t wait for Sunday to be over!

  7. I so get this and I’ve been trying to take the Buddhist approach to it all. They have said that if you’re worried about Monday coming on Sunday, then you are missing Sunday, and it’s already gone for you. Enjoy every moment of Sunday.

    1. that’s a great perspective to take, Beth. Why ruin one of just two of your days off worrying about the future. And I’m sure that the future is never as bad as we imagine.

  8. Great post Jim! I had the Sunday Blues very bad in my previous job. It related most to being undervalued and poorly treated by my boss. I had never experienced it before then, but when I did get them, I got them bad. It was what lead me to change jobs eventually. Thanks for a insightful and honest post!

    1. as you noted in your latest post, it sounds like you took control of the situation and left where you weren’t treated properly. Many people would have just stayed, and remained miserable.

  9. I’ve always called it the Sunday Blues both as a college student and now as a teacher. “Scary” is new to me, although it does seem to fit the anxiety I feel on many Sunday nights while I’m frantically trying to get my lesson plans turned in for the week. Your profile picture emits “COOL CUSTOMER” to me…I hope you learn to bury the Semester Scaries :). And, a “credit” is an amount owed, right? Kidding! (Those poor scarred students!)

    1. thanks, Amanda. Fortunately, I don’t have to turn in lesson plans, that would just add to my stress. And yes, if cool customer = nerd, then yes, that’s me. And don’t try to confuse with terms like “credit”! 🙂

  10. I’ve definitely been a victim of the Sunday scary’s. Missed work a few times because I get so anxious I don’t sleep a wink. I bet you make for a great teacher Jim. I’d say try the gummies 😉

    P.s. I don’t ever remember judging my teacher’s fashion sense hahah.

    1. I know a few people who swear by CBD, so who knows… and I’m sure that most, if not all, students pay zero attention to how I am dressed, it’s hard to think otherwise when they are staring at you for an hour!

  11. I think we all have had Scaries from school onwards. I can still remember Monday nights 8 years old worrying about knitting lesson with Old Cannon Ball – Miss Cannon the teacher. I could not get the hang of knitting. Seems ridiculous now as I have knitted all my life! I actually taught for one year and that was SCARY – hence my short lived career!

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